Geo-politics versus market structure interventions in Europe's infrastructure industries c.1830-1939

Robert Millward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the natural monopoly features of infrastructure industries, together with their strategic roles, have been important elements in state intervention. The aim of this paper is to evaluate what relative weight was attached to market failure problems on the one hand and geo-political factors on the other. For the period 1830–1939, how far were geo-political factors stronger than natural monopoly problems in accounting for the scale of intervention in the various countries of the Western World? How far did the policy instruments for security and market failure overlap? Whilst most of the infrastructure sectors are covered – including internal telecommunications, coal, gas, shipping, electricity and water – special attention is devoted to international submarine telegraph tables and railways. The paper concludes by demonstrating strong differences between Britain and USA on the one hand and Continental Europe plus Japan on the other.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)673-687
Number of pages15
JournalBusiness History
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011


  • Market failure
  • Regulation
  • Natural monopoly
  • Geopolitics
  • Security
  • Strategic factors
  • Ideologies


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