The Advent of Decimalisation in Britain: 1971

Article

Michael Lee, last updated: 28th October 2010

Decimal Day in Britain was Monday 15 February 1971. New coins and notes were circulated. There was no special issue postage stamp to commemorate the occasion, only a new series with some unfamiliar values, such as 7½p instead of 1s 6d. The fortieth anniversary of the arrival of decimal currency prompts an obvious basic question. To what extent was the drive towards the adoption of decimal money and metric measurements part of the manoeuvres promoting a British entry into the European Common Market?

There was no Metrication Day to mark British entry, although there had been hopes that such moment could be arranged. The actions taken to introduce metric weights and measures ran on a rather different course from those followed to bring decimal money. The former were generally considered as ‘a voluntary movement',  because they required collaboration between central government, specific retailers and manufacturers, trade associations, and the organisations involved in setting national and then international...

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