Post WW II rationing: information bleg

A request from an academic who often helps me in my searches for bits and bobs.

Anyone know of a decent treatment of the economics of post WWII rationing in the UK?

OK, we now regard it all as pretty much foolish nonsense (or at least, I do) but is there anyone who has written about what they were trying to do, how they did it and what the effects of their doing so were?

Obviously, not a hagiography of how they controlled the commanding heights of the economy, but a real analysis of what was going on?

11 thoughts on “Post WW II rationing: information bleg”

  1. Tim, the book that comes to mind is not economics per se but might give you some insight. It’s called “Austerity Britain”. Available on Amazon. Fascinating, heartbreaking and superb history.

  2. Tim’s bleg was for me – Bruce Charlton. Thanks to Tim and to the responders. However, it does look as if the book I _want_ may not exist. Apparently, someone needs to write it.

    My interest was stimulated by reading CS Lewis’s collected letters from the post-war years. I am up to 1952 – seven years after the war – and he was still short of basic foods such as meat and sugar and essentials such as envelopes.

    Hunger is a topic that comes up in most of the letters. Rationed foods were cheap but (and consequently) always in a state of shortage (as happens with price controls); and the non-rationed food items were expensive.

    I have a notion that food was, by 1950, more abundant even in Germany than in Britain.

    So – a world famous upper middle class author (an Oxford Don who was also able to get fed in his college), in a country which had won a war, was constantly hungry for years on end. In fact he was getting food parcels from the USA – rather like a prisoner of war.

    And (perhaps) no other developed countries suffered this.

    Endemic and prolonged hunger. Sounds like an economic b*lls-up of the first order. So why haven’t we been told how and why? Oh I remember – it was caused by a socialist government. That’s why we haven’t been told.

  3. Bruce, a small anecdote.

    I am about two inches taller than my relatives born around 1950. My sister, born about two years laer, is similar.

    The relatives all lived in the cities. My Dad was a farm worker, on farms mostly on high Scottish ground and not too fertile.

    However we had a a decent bit of ground for a vegetable garden, and Dad had a fishing rod, a .22 rifle, and a collection of snares.

    Except for sugar, food rationing was irrelevant, and the the table could groan.

    When I went to school, in 1955, I and my fellow country children were all taller than our town contemporaries.

    Hunger may be too strong a word for most of the townies at the time, but later in Glasgow and Paisley I was struck by the numeber of almost dwarfish youngsters my age.

  4. Bruce, I don’t know if this will help as it is purely anecdotal. My father was a pilot in the US Army Air Corp stationed at an airbase near Chelmsford. He arrived in 1942, came home just after D-day. When I could get him to talk, the first thing out of his mouth was how the Brits were malnourished. He told me that the lack of sunlight made the ladies’ skin transluscent – unlike American women who worked in the yard – but everyone was very small. He remembered canvassing his family to send oranges that he could give to his Brit friends.

    But this is the point that may be important to you – according to Dad, this malnourishment was not solely attributable to WWII – but went back to The Great War – WW I.

    You may have to expand your inquiry by a few years.

    And Martin, thank you for the references – I shall try to find them.

  5. Ah, well, Martin – anything by Barnett appears to be out-of-print/unavailable according to Amazon. If you have any other source, please advise.

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