My books on manufacturing

My books on manufacturing
My books on manufacturing history

Friday, May 31, 2024

Manufacturing - the Second World War

For a chunk of British manufacturing, the Second World War began in about 1935 and lasted for ten years. The government’s decision to start to re-arm kicked into play an infrastructure aimed at armaments, initially with aircraft. The chapter begins by exploring census data to locate the places that were growing in population, it then matches these with the growing ‘new industries’ of radio, aircraft and motor vehicles. From the motor industry and armament companies came developments of the tank, and from radio and early television, radar. The shipyards began building again, and a network of Royal Ordnance Factories were set up to supply the forces. ICI produced tons of chemicals. As in the first world war, a huge range of companies turned their hand to war production. I wrote about the mechanisation of the army in WW2 in my book War on Wheels. 

This is a link to some extracts from my chapter on Manufacturing for the Second World War.

Manufacturing for the postwar export drive

 The Britain to emerge from the Second World War was broke, deeply in debt to the USA and desperately short of the foreign currency it needed to pay for the imports its citizens were demanding after six years of deprivation. 

The answer was an export drive, and the motor, radio and chemical industries led the way. The shipyards initially benefitted from post war demand, and the new Labour government embarked on a programme of nationalisation, but also of intervention in terms of directing new investment to areas of high unemployment. Former Royal Ordnance and shadow factories were put to peacetime uses. 

Once post war shortages started to become a thing of the past, British manufacturing set about meeting the wants of an increasingly prosperous nation. As well as the motor car, there was television, an ever increasing range of processed foods and affordable fashion wear from the growing number of High Street chain stores. Better off people could fly on holiday on a Vickers Viscount aircraft or sail on a P&O or Cunard Liner.

You can read more by following this link

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Manufacturing the new industries interwar years

 The new country of the motor car, aeroplane and electricity enjoyed prosperity which, later on, impacted positively on that other old staple of steel as it found new uses. The country became more connected, with the National Grid and telephone, but suffered from a lack of coordination in railways and roads. The chemical industry began to show its paces. High Streets began to fill up with chain stores selling all manner of delight, matching those on view in American films at the growing number of cinemas. 

You can read extracts from my chapter in How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World by following this link

Manufacturing the old staples in the interwar years

Thousands of soldiers had come back from the horror of the trenches to a country fit for heroes. Hopes were high. Hopes too for those women who, for the first time, had discovered their own identity in the work place. They were both met by the Spanish flu which, worldwide, killed more than the trenches had managed. The country they returned to was much as before, or was it?

The old country of the staple industries of textiles and shipping suffered as the countries it used to supply now made their own.

I explore this in this chapter extracts of which can be found by following this link.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Manufacturing for war - The First World War

Competition in manufacturing perhaps led to more marked and destructive competition in war. Whether we like it or not, war was a catalyst to accelerate manufacturing progress. The aeroplane offers the example of incremental progress during the first war to the great leap-frog to jet power in the second. All this carried with it development in electronics and in communication as telephone and telegraph made way for wireless and radar. Chemistry took a major boost from the exploitation of the by-product of oil refining as oil consumption grew exponentially. Between the wars in Britain the old industries struggled as other nations, which had come later into the field, took advantage of new ideas. In a sense, war left the victor weaker and the vanquished strong and this underlies the course of British manufacturing ever since. British manufacturing rose to the challenge of exporting to balance the nation’s books. In 1951, a brave nation put on a brave and confident face in presenting the Festival of Britain to a nation in need of cheer.

Looking first at WW1,

Essentially the whole country put its shoulder to the war effort. Women worked in factories which had been strictly male preserves. Shipbuilding was busy. The big armament companies Armstrong, Vickers, Cammell Laird and John Brown honed their skills at truly heavy engineering of guns. Smaller engineering companies made tanks. On the lighter side, aircraft manufacturers leapfrogged each other as one technical improvement succeeded another. Motor companies grew, as they manufactured military trucks and cars, indeed anything from metal. Pharmaceutical companies shook off the country’s dependence on German manufacturers. Electrical companies developed further telephone and wireless. The other side of the coin was that the country’s coffers emptied, as it paid for all it had been supplied by the USA. The USA took over as world manufacturing’s top dog. I wrote about army supply in WW1 in my book Ordnance.

You can read extracts from the chapter on WW1 from my book How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World but following this link.

The Chilwell shell filling factory after the disastrous explosion

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Manufacturing - Electricity

Telegraph expanded under the sea until the farther reaches of Empire were linked. Telephone followed a little later. The invention of the dynamo enabled far greater use of electricity. Cities began to be lit by electricity. Electric motors began to appear in factories and to power vehicles on and off rails. Telegraph needed wire; radio was wireless. The first steps of using wireless, particularly with ships, were taken before the first shots were fired from the trenches.

Follow this link to read more of what I have to say about the early days of the British electrical industry.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Manufacturing: Internal Combustion

 Oil had been discovered in coal mines as a source of combustible fluid and hence power. It could be burnt to heat water and so make steam. It could also be made to combust in an enclosed cylinder, driving a piston. 

The bicycle had sewn the seed, and, particularly, the French began to explore adding power, from internal combustion, to bicycles. Once the famous Red Flag had ceased to control speed on British roads, engineers and entrepreneurs began to build an industry that would dwarf textiles, iron and steel and coal.

Why stay on the ground? Thinking, that had been around since the time of the Great Exhibition, could be given its wings, and man flew. Ships were powered by diesel.

You can read more by following this link 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Manufacturing: the sewing machine and bicycle

 “No useful sewing machine was ever invented by one man; and all first attempts to do work by machinery, previously done by hand, had been failures. It was only after several able inventors had failed in their attempts, that someone with the mental powers to combine the efforts of others, with his own, at last produced a practical sewing machine.’

It is the story of this book: the way one idea builds on another, until finally an answer is found. The sewing machine was ultimately an American invention, vital to the textile industry but also to many homes across the land. It brings in another aspect, how more and more inventions were crossing borders, with people of different nations building on the work of others. It is also the story of how one invention leads to another: first the sewing machine, next the bicycle. You can read more by following this link

Monday, May 13, 2024

Manufacturing and the nineteenth century home

 The seventy years between the Great Exhibition and the start of the Great War had seen great changes in the way many people worked and travelled. Yet, the way food and homewares were produced hadn’t changed a great deal. The local butcher, baker, grocer and green grocer supplied daily needs. A carpenter might make furniture, a seamstress a dress, a cobbler boots, a tailor a suit of clothes. Change thought was afoot, and I seek to tell it through the prism of my father who was born in 1891.

You can read more by following this link

The house in Dulwich where my father was born. You can read about his remarkable life in Dunkirk to D Day

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Manufacturing and Armaments

 Instruments of war have been manufactured for centuries: swords by cutlers, pistols and muskets by gunsmiths and cannon by iron foundries. It would be logical to suggest that these manufacturers simply grew and developed over time. To a small extent this is true, and the Arsenal at Woolwich was, for many years, clear evidence of this. The story of British armament manufacturing is more complex and grew out of the industrial revolution, but particularly the rivalry which it inspired. From the time of the Crimea, shipbuilders became gun makers.

Read more by following this link 

Weeding  barracks 

Manufacturing and Communication

 The growth, that steam enabled, demanded an administrative infrastructure: clerks who could keep records, newspaper men who could disseminate news. People, receiving ever better education, were hungry for ideas and entertainment. Printing and paper making were key. London was the epicentre, and was becoming revolutionised by railway connections. Electricity too dates from decades before the Great Exhibition and first found use in the telegraph, initially using cables laid alongside railway lines, linking the nation.

Read more by following this link 

Manufacturing and Steam and Steel

 No-one visiting the Great Exhibition could have been in any doubt of the fundamental importance of steam; indeed many would have travelled to the exhibition in a carriage pulled by a steam railway engine (though not by the Flying Scotsman!) Some may well have come on a Cook’s Tour. In the early nineteenth century, the production of coal and iron and indeed textiles had been held back by the power then available, that of running water and horses. Something more was needed and steam was to be the answer. Newcomen and others invented the steam engine, developed further by Watt, Stephenson and others. It transformed the world of work, in some ways making it more dangerous. But, it enabled dry and ventilated mines, it carried the coal from the face to the shaft and up to over ground railways and thence to steam ships. Railways extended from the mines across the country and beyond. Iron works grew. Steel was invented. Britain now exported coal and iron and steel as well as cotton, and more ships were built.

Follow this link to read more 

Friday, May 10, 2024

The stuff of manufacturing: textiles

 At the Great Exhibition, the number of exhibits relating to the textile industry was not great, but the Census of 1851 had pointed to the huge number of people the industry employed. It was highly significant, but where had it come from, not least those dark satanic cotton mills? Many families set up in Lancashire as a cottage industry supplementing the living they earned from their small holdings. They mirrored their sister families in Yorkshire and elsewhere who had spun and woven wool for centuries. The Napoleonic wars changed everything. The European market disappeared for British goods, demand tumbled and prices crashed. For the small holders this was disaster; for the merchants it was a crisis from which opportunity came. They began to mechanise the cotton industry in mills with machines powered by water. What was needed was more power.

Follow the link to read more 

The building blocks of manufacturing: coal and metals

 Coal had ‘tentacles in every part of this changing society’. Landowners loved it, for it lay under their land; farmers benefitted from its use in burning lime for fertiliser; textile manufacturers used its heat in bleaching and dyeing; houses were built from brick and glass both made by the heat of coal; many small workshops across the land, as we shall see, used it to enhance their productivity. Metal was not only needed for large machines, but also for small machines, clocks, guns, instruments and ‘toys’  - small decorative items to delight the growing middle class. Shipbuilders began to explore the use of metal for ships. 

Read more by following the link.

Key to the effective use of coal and metals were the canals.

Saturday, May 4, 2024

The beginning of manufacturing

I am planning to post extracts from my books on British Manufacturing history 

As a process the Industrial Revolution really only became visible after it had been running for some years; there was no big bang. A number of interrelated factors contributed to it. I start by recognising features of the island nation.

Seafaring was a way of life for a sizeable minority, and this involved exploration of foreign lands as well as the more obviously fishing and coastal transport. The British were an adventurous people. They were also a trading people, and foreign lands offered opportunities for buying and selling. The British had been building ships in hundreds of places around our coastline for centuries. Ships were made of wood and powered by sail. As trade increased, so did the need for size and speed. A shipping industry began to grow. It was driven all the time by the magnetism of trade as adventurers discovered countries and their exotic produce, and merchants imported raw materials and exported goods in ever growing quantities and people in ever growing numbers.

Read more by following this link 

How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World is now available to pre-order

Phil Hamlyn Williams has completed his sixth book beginning an exploration of British manufacturing. His great-grandfather exhibited at the ...