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Government control and operation of industry in Great Britain and the United States during the World War

New Industries[edit]

While Britain remained overly dependent on ‘staple’ heavy industries, the First World War had the advantage of stimulating production in new industries where the UK had lagged behind before 1914. The interwar years saw new technologies develop at a breakneck pace, creating lucrative new industries including automobile, airplane, and motorbike manufacture. Before the First World War, automobile manufacture in Britain had been a boutique industry limited to producing expensive luxury cars. The industry produced 34,000 vehicles for the year 1913; by 1937 over half a million were being produced.[184] Most of these were affordable models like the Austin 7 (introduced 1921), the Morris Minor (1928), as well as Model A and Model Y cars produced by Ford of Britain. The adoption of streamlined automation processes and the strong competition between manufacturers was responsible for a 50% drop in motorcar prices between the mid 20s and mid 30s, making cars more affordable (over 1 million were owned by 1930).[185][186]

The chemicals industry, once dominated by Germany and the United States, also thrived in the UK during the interwar years. By 1939 it employed 100,000 people and produced fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, and synthetic materials.[187] Electrical engineering also mushroomed: the establishment of the Central Electricity Board in 1926 enabled a nationwide high-voltage electrical grid to be developed. By 1939 two thirds of homes had electricity supply, which in turn opened up a new consumer market for electrically powered appliances like vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, radios and stoves.[188]

Between 1923 and 1938, the most successful new industries were: automobile production, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, metal goods, and printing. These created a net total of 557,920 new jobs between 1923 and 1938, some 96% of all new industrial jobs created in the interwar period.[189] These industries were overwhelmingly concentrated in the communities surrounding London and cities in the West Midlands, particularly Coventry and Birmingham, where there was an established workforce skilled in the production of high quality metal goods.