This is the first book to explore the causes of the decline of British manufacturing in the 20th century by focusing on the troubled relationship between banks and small firms in a comparative historical perspective. By comparing the rise of small firms in France, Germany and Italy and their decline in Britain this book analyses how the structure of these countries' banking systems has affected small firms' growth. This analysis is placed in the historical context of the political economy of these four countries, to show how banking and industrial structures developed over the century as a consequence of the state's need to mediate between different social and economic groups. This approach allows the author to show why British banking came to be so concentrated and the negative impact that this had on the supply of finance to small firms. The experiences of France, Germany and Italy show alternative structures and policy responses towards small firms.

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