Black Market Britain 1939-1955

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2013-05-19
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Thanks to rationing and price control, Britain's underground economy flourished during the 1940s and early 1950s as producers, traders, and professional criminals helped consumers to get a little extra "on the side," "from under the counter," or "off the back of a lorry." Yet widespread evasion of regulations designed to ensure "fair shares for all" did not undermine the austerity policies that characterised these years.

In Black Market Britain, Mark Roodhouse argues that Britons showed self-restraint in their illegal dealings. The means, motives, and opportunities for evasion were not lacking. The shortages were real, regulations were not watertight, and enforcement was haphazard. Fairness, not patriotism and respect for the law, is the key to understanding this self-restraint. By invoking popular notions of a fair price, a fair profit, and a fair share, government rhetoric limited black marketeering as would-be evaders had to justify their offences both to themselves and others.

Black Market Britain underlines the importance of fairness to those seeking a richer understanding of economic life in modern Britain.

Author Biography

Mark Roodhouse is a Lecturer in History at the University of York. His research focuses on the economic and social history of modern Britain.

Table of Contents

Introduction: the 'unethical' consumer
Part I 'Under the counter': evading economic control
1. 'Large enough to cause concern': gauging the extent of noncompliance
2. 'A matter of friendship': the grey market
3. Beating the ration: the black market
Part II 'A stiff rod in pickle': attacking black markets
4. War and order: securing compliance
5. On the street: enforcing the law
6. Sitting on the bench: the legal lottery
Part III 'Black sheep - black markets': making moral choices
7. 'We all fiddle': legitimating evasion
8. Thieves' kitchens: local markets for local people
9. 'No basic, more spivs': public endorsement
Conclusion: a fair trade
Select Bibliography

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