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Title: The metal-working machine tool industry in England, 1850-1914, with special reference to Greenwood and Batley Ltd
Author: Floud, Roderick
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1970
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The machine tool industry is one of several branches of the engineering industry which developed as a manufacturing industry during the second half of the nineteenth century. It is perhaps the most important of all the capital goods industries, since its products are used by, and are indispensable to, all other industries processing metals. The production of industrial machine tools thus made possible the considerable advances in the use of metals which took place during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, on which much of modern industrial society is based. This thesis is the first attempt to write a comprehensive economic history of the English machine tool industry during the period of its transition from a craft, or handicraft, industry to a full manufacturing industry. Professor [?] Saul has discussed the industry, largely from the standpoint of individual firms, in several articles, but there has been no other extended treatment of the industry. Two separate lines of approach to the history of the machine tool industry are used, firstly, the growth and performance of the industry is analysed in aggregate terms, principally through two major statistical sources, which have not previously been used in such a way, the trade directories of the period and the statistics of the imports of machine tools into France, a major customer for the machine tools of Britain and her competitors. It is argued that the machine tool industry can only be understood within the context of the engineering industry as a whole, and the relationships between the manufacture of machine tools and other metal goods is investigated. The size of the machine tool industry, in terms of the number of firms making machine tools at any one time, is shown to be directly related to the fluctuations in the demand for machinery within the domestic economy. The success of the industry is considered in relation to American and other foreign competition, and it is argued that simplified explanations of English decline and American growth as producers of machine tools do not accord with the chronology of competition which is established. Possible explanations are then explored for the changes in the competitive position of English exporters and producers of machine tools. Secondly an analysis is made of the experience of one machine tool producer, Greenwood and Batley, to provide information on characteristics of the industry which could not easily be approached through aggregate analysis. The very extensive cost and sales records of the firm, covering all its production between 1856 and 1900, are used in this study. The market for one of the principal products of the firm, machine tools for the production of small-arms, is described in detail, and the sales made by the firm are analysed and its pricing policies investigated. The production of machine tools by the firm is considered through an analysis of chances in productivity; it is argued that the productivity of labour employed by the firm was increasing at a substantial rate throughout the period of analysis, and that this can largely be explained by the effects of technical change in the industry. The implications of this rise in labour productivity for the machine tool and engineering industries as a whole are also briefly considered. Throughout the thesis, the major emphasis is placed upon the use of statistical sources and techniques in writing the history of the industry. This emphasis, together with considerations of space and time, prevented more than incidental reference to some aspects of the industry, principally the experience of its labour force. Because of the imperfections of the evidence, it was impossible also to discuss trends in output or prices for the industry as a whole. As a counterweight to this, three major sources of statistical evidence on the industry, trade directories, trade statistics, and the records of Greenwood and Batley, have been analysed in detail. Computer data processing and analysis methods were used to enable those records to be utilised, and the value of this type of approach to the writing of economic history is discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Machine-tools ; Trade and manufacture ; History ; Great Britain