Networks of Corporate Influence on the Interwar British State

Ian Kumekawa, Harvard University

In the wake of World War I, the British state undertook to rehabilitate its export trade. Seeking to build upon the close connections forged between British industry and the wartime state, government departments brought industry leaders and trade groups into the administration of new programs and divisions. Though industry representatives were in theory meant to be neutral spokespeople for British business, the firms that they represented often were key beneficiaries of new state programs. By using network visualization, this paper investigates the connection between representation on state committees and councils and material benefit for British businesses. It explores the way in which individuals were able to leverage their influence both in and outside the state. In so doing, it interrogates the existence of a meaningful bright line between the state and private industry in the interwar, a question with profound historical and historiographical implications for the nature and size of the state itself. Methodologically, the paper treats participation on committees as measurable and standardizable data. Such data are limited, both in quantity and in quality. The paper will therefore interrogate the limitations of network data in historical investigation and the decisions taken to identify particular relationships as comparable. Finally, the paper speaks to the multiple uses of data visualization; as illustrations of an argument, such visualizations function differently than as research tools meant to provoke new questions and interpretations.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 202. States and Their Elites, or Elites and Their States