This paper, written in 1977, analyses historical differences in the social aspects of industrialization in Britain and Germany. These are seen as relevant to an understanding of industrial relations in these countries and as to why the particular forms taken by developments of ‘industrial democracy’ in the two countries will continue to differ in significant ways. Deep-rooted institutions, values, traditions, and dispositions to act in certain ways rather than others, affect the wish and capacity to alter direction. This is relevant to the discussion within the European Community about legislation in employee participation. The European Community Commission argues that industrial and commercial growth; cross-frontier movements of companies, capital, and employees; and economic and monetary union require organized convergence towards ‘a common structural foundation’ throughout the Community. A structure of employee participation is seen as one important element of this convergence. But given the divergent historical legacies of the member-states, how far the Commission’s thrust towards uniform economic and social structures is likely to succeed is problematical.