Abstract: Enterprising Albion: Ideology, History, and Enterprise in 1980s Britain

Andrew Popp


This paper takes as its starting point the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, launched by the first government of Margaret Thatcher in 1981, and uses oral history to explore competing cultures of enterprise, each informed by a particular vision of British history and society. For the government a renewal of Britain's "enterprise culture" was a badly needed antidote to economic and social crisis. For some participants, their aims in joining the scheme were almost diametrically opposed to the purposes of the government. Specifically the paper will focus on the ideological and cultural complexion of participants' experience of the scheme and the way in which participants incorporated that experience into subsequent entrepreneurial experiences, identities, and narratives. The paper examines the historical conditions under which specific ideologies and cultures of enterprise emerged, the way they drew on particular visions of history, the entrepreneurial legacy they left, and their interaction with government attempts to foster a dominant, competing culture of enterprise. At a very preliminary stage, the wider project will unfold through a series of interwoven personal narratives, two of which are presented here.