Examine how Britain’s railways were operated in the Second World War and how this considerably influenced politicians’ views on how the industry should be organised after it.
Highlight the run-down state of the railway companies after the Second World War.
Explore long-running discussion, which stretches back to the 1870s, amongst politicians and the public regarding whether Britain’s railways should be nationalised.
Place the nationalisation of the railways in the context of the post-war Labour government’s aim of nationalising other industries.
Examine the organisation of British Railways after 1948 and demonstrate how, initially, the Railway. Executive, who ran the railways, clashed with the British Transport Commission, oversaw all of the nationalised transport industries.
Examine how competition from road transport was highly damaging to BR’s profit margins in the 1950s and 1960s.
Discuss the technological and managerial facets of British Railways’ modernisation plan of 1955, and how and why it failed.
Look the reason Richard Beeching was appointed as chairman of the British Railways Board.
Discuss the background and formulation of Beeching’s report, and the driving rationale behind it.
Examine the effects of the report, objections to it, and how communities were affected by the withdrawal of railway services.
Explore the public perception of the legacy of the Beeching cuts, the extent to which this reflected reality, and what this says about British culture and identity.
Present, again, the on-going debates in political circles and in public about what the railways’ role in society and the economy should be.
Impress on the students the importance of discussing the Beeching report, which is an emotive subject, in an objective and analytical manner.
Offer opportunities for students to respond and comment on the arguments of previous scholars, as well as critique the opinions of their peers.
Module learning outcomes
By the conclusion of the module students should be able to:
Demonstrate an understanding of the background to the British railway industry’s nationalisation, particularly the importance of the state’s control of the railways in World War Two.
Demonstrate understanding of the challenges that British Railways faced and how the organisation attempted to respond to them technologically and managerially.
Understand the importance of studying emotive historical events analytically.
Show deeper understanding of the ideas discussed in the previous module regarding the role of the railways in Britain’s society and economy.
Demonstrate research skills by engaging with both primary and secondary source material.
Select and organise appropriate information effectively so as to develop coherent opinions and arguments.
Consider and solve problems, including complex problems to which there is no single solution.
Write work that is sustained offering a measured, convincing and scholarly argument.
% of module mark
Special assessment rules
% of module mark
The tutor will give regular individual feedback throughout the module on work submitted.
The assessment feedback is as per the university’s guidelines with regard to timings.
Reading lists, and the availability of texts/journals electronically, are subject to change: please check with Lifelong Learning/teaching staff before making any purchases prior to the start of the module.
Crompton, Gerald, “Good business for the nation: The railway nationalisation issue, 1921-47”, Journal of transport History, 20 (1999) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
Gourvish, T.R., British Railways 1948-1973: A Business History, (Cambridge, 1986)
Loft, C., Reappraisal and reshaping: government and the railway problem 1951-64, Contemporary British History, 15 (2001) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
Loft, Charles, Government, the Railways and the Modernization of Britain: Beeching’s Last Trains, (Abingdon, 2006) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
O’Hara, G, “What the electorate can be expected to swallow: Nationalisation, transnationalism and the shifting boundaries of the state in post-war Britain”, Business History, 51 (2009) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
Buttle, Geoffrey William, “A signal failure? The organisation and management of British railways 1948-1964”, Unpublished doctoral thesis, (Durham University, 2008) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
Dudley, Geoffrey and Jeremy Richardson, Why does policy change? : lessons from British transport policy 1945-99, London, 2015 – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
Merriman, Pete, “Britain and "the Motorway Club The Effect of European and North American Motorway Construction on Attitudes in Britain, 1930-1960”, Transfers 2, 1 (2012). – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY
Quail, John, “Accountings Motive Power - the Vision and Reality for Management Accounting on the Nationalised Railways to 1959”, Accounting, Business & Financial History, 16 (2006) – SUPPLIED DIGITALLY