Breaking Up (a Stockpile) Is Hard To Do: The Political Economy of the Liquidation of the British Strategic Stockpile Program in the 1950s

Espen Storli

This paper examines the British Government programme to dispose of its stockpile of strategic materials in the second half of the 1950s and the ways that this disposal programme affected business interests. The disposal programme stirred up a host of diplomatic and industrial complications, and the main aim of the paper is to analyse how the British Government tried to handle these complications, in the process interacting with private business interests and foreign governments. The British Government followed two main strategies: first of all, operations that could upset Commonwealth countries were avoided as far as it was possible. Second, great care was taken not to harm the interests of domestic industry. In addition, other foreign governments, acting in the interests of their own domestic producers, were able to influence the way the sales process was handled. Thus, the history of the liquidation of the British stockpile of strategic materials is first and foremost a study of the international political economy of raw materials in the post-WWII world.