Key moments in economic change: Unemployment, EEC/EU, Strikes, Inflation, Consumerism, Industry.

Britain’s economy in the 20th century went through some big changes. One of these changes came when Britain became part of the European Economic Community (later known as the European UnionEuropean Union>) in 1973.

  • Strikes - in 1926 the General Strike saw working class people try to defend their jobs against wage cuts during an economic depression. By 1927 the Trades Disputes Act made General strikes illegal. In the 1970s and 1980s there were strikes by miners, steelworkers, teachers and other groups that led to huge tension in some parts of the UK. Striking remains a method for workers to try to improve their conditions.
  • Consumerism - in 1994 the law changed to allow shops to open seven days a week and the idea of shopping as a leisure activity for everyone became even more popular.
  • Unemployment - the rate of unemployment was at its highest in 1932 during the Depression, but it continued to be a serious issue throughout the century.
  • Inflation - whilst prices were 66 times greater in 2000 than 1900, the average wage rose 250 times between 1900 and 2000. People were able to afford much more.
  • Industry - at the beginning of the 20th century Britain’s main industries were coal, iron/steel, engineering and textiles. These declined and Britain moved into more specialised manufacturing, such as aerospace, as well as service industries such as finance and tourism. This changed the kinds of jobs available and the types of skills needed to do them.