The optical munitions industry in Great Britain 1888-1923
This study examines in detail for the first time the emergence and development of a highly specialised sector of British manufacturing industry, charting its evolution and explaining its growth predominantly through scrutiny of original source material relating to the key actors in the story. It proposes that after 1888 Britain produced an optical munitions manufacturing structure which succeeded in dominating production of the most militarily important and commercially valuable instrument in the field, and which by 1914 had achieved an hegemonical position in the international marketplace. The study also overturns the conclusions of the previous brief scholarship on the topic, asserting that the industry responded well to the challenges of the Great War and going on to show that there was a difficult, but ultimately successful translation back to peace. This largely ignored branch of British technological manufacturing performed effectively and ran counter to notions of the relative decline or comparative failure of industries in the sector, and the narrative puts forward reasons to explain that success. To do this, the account employs a methodology embracing a combination of theories and models of historical explanation to demonstrate reasons for the industry’s path and to test the interpretations put forward.