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Title: William Baird and Company, coal and iron masters, 1830-1914
Author: Corrins, R. D.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3388 7603
Awarding Body: University of Strathclyde
Current Institution: University of Strathclyde
Date of Award: 1974
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This study deals with the history of the largest firm in the Scottish pig iron industry in the nineteenth century. William Baird and Company and the Eglinton Iron Company have been treated throughout as one firm; a course entirely justified by the policy of the partners themselves, but in any case rendered inevitable by the surviving manuscript material. Indeed the nature of the surviving sources has been a major influence on both the form and the content of the entire study. There are no records of any meetings of partners or directors, and only a handful of head office papers have survived, of which few are later than 1855. Most of the manuscript sources are drawn from Gartsherrie Ironworks, though even these have important gaps, and the first twenty years of the works are almost undocumented. Nevertheless these records form the main part of the existing papers and account for the marked bias in favour of the Gartsherrie portion of the company. Apart from a small number of Muirkirk Ironworks papers and a set of Leasebooks no Ayrshire records survive - they were apparently used some twenty years ago in an experiment to demonstrate the efficiency of a document shredding machine! Despite the serious gaps which this has given rise to it was deemed important to attempt the study in view of the central role of the firm in Scottish industrial growth in the nineteenth century. The text traces the background, family and economic, of the Baird brothers before examining the growth of their industrial empire; its products and their marketing; the acquisition and exploitation of raw materials; the entrepreneurial history of the firm; and the experience, both industrial and social, of the labour force employed. While the firm is in important respects atypical, detailed knowledge of its history sheds light on many areas of Scottish and British economic and social history. Study of the development of the Ironworks, and the pattern of productivity underlines the importance of continuous minor technological advance as against major innovation. The central role of the firm in the establishment and operation of the Scottish pig iron market and the degree to which the partners appreciated their position is illustrated. The evidence presented concerning the managerial skills and innovating policies of the partners calls into question the traditional view of the phases of entrepreneurial ability exhibited in the history of the British Iron Industry. The latter part of the study also demonstrates how influential the firm was on the evolution of trade unionism and on the entire social fabric of the West of Scotland.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral