By W. D. Rubinstein

This unique and arguable contribution to the topical debate on Britain's financial decline provides a critique of the thesis made favourite lately through Martin J. Wiener, Anthony Sampson, Correlli Barnett and others.

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This debatable contribution to the topical debate on Britain's monetary decline offers a critique of the thesis made ordinary lately through Martin J. Wiener, Anthony Sampson, Correlli Read more...

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Britain in general and Lancashire in particular were far back in the pack, although perhaps not so far back as some have suggested. In direct contrast to this progressive decline, while in 1860 the City of London was the pre-eminent financial centre of the world, and while in 1910 New York and, conceivably but not certainly, Berlin were second-running rivals to London’s continuing pre-eminence, in 1990 London was still unarguably one of the three great financial centres of the world, along with New York and Tokyo.

While these points raised against the accuracy of the ‘cultural critique’ may each have considerable merit, they form no part of the contention made here. The argument which is made here, and which is the central argument of the book, is fundamentally very different. Our argument is that the most fundamental assumption made by advocates of the ‘cultural critique’ is wrong, namely that Britain’s was centrally an industrial economy whose industrial and manufacturing lead vanished through qualitative decline after 1870.

50 Another related area in finance in which many would probably judge Britain’s structure and performance to be historically superior to that of the United States is in the respective branch banking networks in each country. From the late nineteenth century onward, of course, British 37 CAPITALISM, CULTURE, AND DECLINE IN BRITAIN discount banking has been overwhelmingly dominated by the Big Five (Big Eight prior to 1919; now the Big Four) high street banks, each with hundreds of branches throughout the country, and traditionally including some mortgage (especially commercial) finance and the accounts of local small- and medium-sized businesses as the backbone of their trade.

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