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The anatomy of Britain’s inter-war super-rich: reconstructing the 1928/9 'millionaire' population

Scott, P. ORCID: (2021) The anatomy of Britain’s inter-war super-rich: reconstructing the 1928/9 'millionaire' population. Economic History Review, 74 (3). pp. 639-665. ISSN 1468-0289

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/ehr.13025


This article examines the composition of Britain’s `millionaire’ population during the late 1920s – early 1930s, based on data for living millionaires (in contrast to previous studies, which have focused on wealth at death). Using tabulated data compiled by the Inland Revenue for all persons on incomes over £50,000 per annum, it explores the factor incomes of Britain’s millionaire population and their main sources of income, by sector. It then analyses a unique individual-level data set of British millionaires, compiled by the Inland Revenue for the 1928/9 tax year, to show their sectoral and geographical composition. Most millionaires are shown to be `businesspeople’ rather than rentiers, while landed millionaires represented only a small proportion of the total. Businesspeople millionaires are shown to be disproportionately active in a relatively narrow range of sectors, the common characteristic of which was the potential to generate abnormal profits, mainly through cartelisation or amalgamation. Thus, rather than revealing the sectors most important to national wealth, or competitive advantage, the clustering of millionaires primarily reflects rising barriers to competition in inter-war Britain and the abnormal profits they generated.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Henley Business School > International Business and Strategy
ID Code:91339


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