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, although 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.
The book traces back from the exhibits in Hyde Park’s crystal palace to identify the factors that gave rise to this pre-eminence. It 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.
Phil Hamlyn Williams’s great grandfather exhibited at the Great Exhibition; his grandfather was an inventor and his father spearheaded the mechanisation of the British Army in WW2 and then was a leader in the motor industry. Phil has most recently written Dunkirk to D-Day about The Men of the RAOC and Re-arming the British Army. This followed War on Wheels and Ordnance in which he explored the role of British Manufacturing in the two world wars. Building on these, and his studies of the Industrial Revolution and the Interwar period as part of his BA as a mature student in 2008, he now brings this and extensive further research to tell this story.
The book is to be published by Pen&Sword in 2022