Pen & Sword Books

Friday, August 12, 2022

How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World

How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World written by

Phillip Hamlyn Williams published by Pen & Sword Books - £25 - Hardback -

Pages 256

The peoples of the British Isles gave to the world the foundations on which modern

manufacturing economies are built. This is quite an assertion, but history shows

that, in the late eighteenth century, a remarkable combination of factors and

circumstances combined to give birth to Britain as the first manufacturing nation.

Further factors allowed it to remain top manufacturing dog well into the twentieth

century whilst other countries were busy playing catch up. Through two world

wars and the surrounding years, British manufacturing remained strong, albeit

whilst ceding the lead to the United States.

This book seeks to tell the remarkable story of British manufacturing, using the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a prism. Prince Albert and Sir Henry Cole had conceived an idea of bringing together exhibits from manufacturers across the world to show to its many millions of visitors the pre-eminence of the British. 1851 was not the start, but rather a pause for a bask in glory.

This book traces back from the exhibits in Hyde Park’s Crystal Palace to identify the factors that gave rise to this pre-eminence, then follows developments up until the Festival of Britain exactly one century later. Steam power and communication by electric telegraph, both British inventions, predated the Exhibition. After it came the sewing machine and bicycle, motor car and aeroplane, but also electrical power, radio and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries where Britain played a leading part.

What a really fascinating book that looks at the manufacturing world from the 1850’s through to the 1950’s. Piggybacking on the industrial revolution that saw Britain expand and grow greatly, saw the expansion of the manufacturing industries such as Coal, Metals, Textiles, Glass, Electrical and so on. It was really interesting and reading about some big companies and industries and how they started, some are now long gone but some are still around today. 

This book begins from the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace and continues for the next 100 years and covers the inter-war years too. There were some nice photographs to accompany the text which I probably would have liked to have seen more of. But overall, this has been an interesting read and I would recommend it to others if you enjoy this period of history.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for the positive feedback. It makes it all worthwhile


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