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Series one: Papers of the Economic Section, 1941-1961 (Public Record Office Class T 230)

Part 1: T 230/1-36

The Papers of the Economic Section (Public Record Office Class T 230) provide scholars with an opportunity to see the first instance of Keynesian economic principles being applied to a real economy.

This is a wonderful source for undergraduate and graduate research, which can readily be used in conjunction with printed sources such as: A K Cairncross and
N Watts, The Economic Section 1939-1961 (Routledge, 1989), A K Cairncross (ed), The Robert Hall Diaries 1947-1953 (Unwin Hyman, 1989) and S Howson (ed),
The Collected Papers of James Meade, vols I to IV
(Unwin Hyman, 1988-1989).

Starting in 1941, the British Government employed professional economists to advise on economic policy in a group known as the Economic Section. The first four directors were:

  • John Jewkes (January-September 1941)
  • Lionel Robbins (September 1941-Autumn 1945)
  • James Meade (Autumn 1945-April 1947)
  • Robert Hall (September 1947-1961)

They feature heavily in these papers and were ably supported by a range of economists including Marcus Fleming, Bryan Hopkin, Russell Bretherton, A Pigou, Christopher Dow, Fred Atkinson and Jack Downie. John Maynard Keynes was an important direct and indirect influence on the Economic Section. He commented regularly on Discussion Papers and proposals, helping to clarify the correct application of his ideas to the real economic issues.

Part 1 of this project provides files on:

  • Post-war agricultural policy.
  • Post-war civil aviation policy.
  • UK post-war balance of payments.
  • Discussion Papers.
  • the Reorganisation of the Coal Industry.
  • Commodity Policy.
  • the regulation of output.
  • Prices.
  • labour absorption during the transitional period from war to peace.
  • Economic controls.
  • Long-term problems with the international cotton trade.

The Discussion Papers form by far the largest section of Part 1 and are of the greatest importance. These are long detailed analyses of particular problems, drawing upon the best available data at the time. Examples include:

  • Maintenance of full employment, by Lionel Robbins.
  • Bilateral trading and British interests, by J M Fleming.
  • The iron and steel industry, by SR Dennison.
  • Employment and income prospects in the USA, J E Meade covering A J Brown.
  • Nationalization of the coal-mining industry, JE Meade covering the
    Economic Section.
  • International employment policy, by J M Fleming.
  • The possible magnitude of a future depression, J E Meade covering JCR Dow.
  • The Monnet Plan, J E Meade covering D Butt.
  • Estimation du Revenue National Français, J E Meade covering GLS Shackle.
  • Devaluation plus export taxes question, RL Hall covering JM Fleming and
    E Rowe-Dutton.
  • A customs union between all countries of the Commonwealth, by JM Forsyth.
  • The balance of payments problem of Western Europe, RL Hall covering
    T Swan.

"The papers of the Economic Section are one of the most compact and important set of records of
post-war British Government."
Rodney Lowe,
Department of Historical Studies,
University of Bristol.

Editorial introduction
Digital Guide
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