The crisis of economic confidence which began in Britain with the Great Price Fall of the last quarter of the nineteenth century had, indirectly and in conjunction with the resulting social difficulties, set in train a process of events that shifted the terms of reference of politics by 1918. Important as economics became in politics, however, there had been no long-lived evidence of a changed perspective on the role of the state in the economy. The debate, rather, had been on the role of the state in offsetting the social consequences of the inexorable and natural laws of supply and demand. Economic policy was to dominate politics much more thoroughly after 1918, on the other hand, as the Great Depression ground into the social fabric year after year. The extension of the franchise in 1918 had brought the problems of poverty even more directly into the public arena than had been the case after 1867 and 1884. Moreover, abroad, communists and fascists were proposing radical solutions to economic problems which demanded in Britain a thorough appraisal of liberal methods, simply in order to defend liberal values. In recent years, the traditional image of the interwar years in Britain as a period of unrelieved economic depression and mass unemployment has undergone a substantial moderation.
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