Britain led the way for much of the world with industrial privatization during the 1980s. Yet, the historical origins of the process that was being reversed have rarely been examined. This volume is a coherent and thorough history of network industries such as railways, gas, water, and electricity, and telecommunications, which offers a valuable historical approach to the contentious issue of privatization. Industries such as these rely upon a substantial physical distribution network that "channels" their service from source to destination. They thus raise distinctive problems for government policy, as their requirement for some sort of unified system is incompatible with the co-existence of a number of competing service suppliers. Yet, competition has been the traditional guarantee of "fair" and minimum prices in British industrial policy. This tension between experience and ideology provoked a variety of government policies over the last two centuries. The book provides an economic history of the network industries, which continue to play an important role in the British economy.
The authors trace the development of various institutional arrangements from the early-19th century until the end of the 1980s, and provide quantitative estimates of their performance. Their book offers a useful historical approach to the contentious issue of privatization. James Foreman-Peck is the author of "A History of the World Economy" and editor of "New Perspectives on the Late Victorian Economy". Robert Millward is the author of "Public Expenditure Economics" and "Public Sector Economics".
This is in many ways a model book. Problems are clearly stated, the necessary information (and no more) supplied, detailed and sometimes sophisticated calculations carried out with whatever data are available, and conclusion presented that closely reflect the numerical results. * Journal of Economic History * This is in many ways a model book. Problems are clearly stated, the necessary information ... supplied, detailed and sometimes sophisticated calculations carried out with whatever data are available, and conclusions presented that closely reflect the numerical results. * Journal of Economic History * The impressive spectrum of contrasted examples indicate the complexities with which Foreman-Peck and Millward have chosen to grapple. Their interdisciplinary range of interests must inspire admiration ... an important, pioneering book. * Theo Barker, History Today * The core of this book is formed from work previously published by Foreman-Peck and Millward, but it is particularly valuable to have it brought together...a valuable study which should encourage others to investigate further this important field. * Business History * The statistical data are new and important, and raise major issues of interpretation both of the expansion of public ownership and of the performance of network industries. * Times Higher Education Supplement * 'This volume is the product of fruitful collaboration between two economic historians who have made a significant contribution to the study of public ownership in British industry from the early nineteenth century onwards. Foreman-Peck and Millward have produced a book which can be read with intellectual profit both by economic historians and economists interested in the evolution of government-industry relations where natural monopoly prevails.'
Maurice Kirby, Lancaster University, Labour History Review, Vol. 59, No. 3, Winter 1994