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The First World War and the International Economy

Edited by Chris Wrigley

This book provides a fresh assessment of the impact of the First World War on the international economy. Leading academics offer new perspectives on the effects of the War on the long-term growth rates of the belligerent countries and examine its impact on individual sectors within these economies.
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Chapter 1: The War and the International Economy

Chris Wrigley


Chris Wrigley Jane Austen began Pride and Prejudice (1813) with words which were to become famous: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ The certainty of this comment is brought to mind by statements made in the best textbooks when dealing with the impact of the First World War on the international economy. William Ashworth commented, ‘After 1914, there still was an international economy, but it was somewhat different from what had been built before, and in a real sense the First World War divided one economic era from another’. A.G. Kenwood and A.L. Lougheed in their well-received introductory textbook observed, ‘The international economy which had grown up during the nineteenth century came to an end with the outbreak of war in 1914’ and ‘World War I affected the whole structure of the international economy’. James Foreman-Peck gave the verdict, ‘International economic relations were thoroughly disrupted by the war because of the central importance of Europe in trade before 1914’.1 While some writers are less emphatic about the sharpness of the 1914 divide, no-one is likely seriously to question the view that the First World War changed the international economy substantially. The First World War was a massive man-made catastrophe. It was like a severe earthquake, its epicentre in Europe, with massive deaths and destruction, its disturbance reverberating far. The loss of life was well over 20 million when the deaths due to abnormal...

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