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By W. D. Rubinstein

This unique and debatable contribution to the topical debate on Britain's fiscal decline provides a critique of the thesis made primary in recent times via Martin J. Wiener, Anthony Sampson, Correlli Barnett and others.

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This debatable contribution to the topical debate on Britain's financial decline offers a critique of the thesis made regular in recent times by means of Martin J. Wiener, Anthony Sampson, Correlli Read more...

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The results here are extremely interesting, they strongly suggest a continuous ‘levelling up’ throughout this century from manual ‘blue collar’ to non-manual ‘white collar’ employment, highly consistent with Britain’s evolution toward an increasingly service-based economy, one whose ever-growing non-manual sector is hallmarked by comparatively larger incomes, more generous fringe benefits, and far less physically taxing work than in industry and manufacturing. 6. Prior to the period surveyed here, where the evidence, largely derived from the Census returns, is less precise, it also seems clear that, certainly from the later nineteenth century onwards, the middle-class professions and other non-manual male occupations were growing in number more rapidly than the general population.

57 There is, in addition, another very important consideration, not normally adduced by those for whom Britain’s long-term decline is assumed, which is of great relevance here, namely the initially high and continuously rising standard of living throughout modern history. 60 These travellers’ tales probably conceal two underlying important facets of Britain’s standard of living: first, down to after the Second World War, the average standard of living in Britain, even for its working class, was higher than anywhere else in Europe, higher than in countries like Germany which were making rapid economic progress.

Both geographical shorthands—it goes without saying—are extremely crude descriptions: London contained significant manufacturing industries (although not the factory capitalism of the industrial north), while one must never forget that many cities in Lancashire and Yorkshire, like Liverpool, Hull, and Leeds were essentially commercial entrepôts, containing few factories. 37 It is also worth bearing closely in mind that these figures refer exclusively to middle-class incomes, the incomes of persons earning (generally) £100 or £150 or more, and exclude working-class incomes.

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