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Title: Consuming science : science, technology and food in Britain, 1870-1939.
Author: Horrocks, Sally Margaret
ISNI:       0000 0001 3581 8468
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 1993
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Drawing on material from economic, business and social history as well as history of science and technology, this study considers the relationship between science, technology and daily life by looking at food in Britain between 1870 and 1939. Food offers an interesting case study for a variety of reasons, not least its centrality to daily life. Neither the food industry itself, nor the scientific investigation of food has been studied in much detail, ensuring that this study covers new ground in both economic history and the history of science and technology. It stresses the need to draw on a variety of approaches which have been developed by historians working on a diverse range of problems in order to establish a more comprehensive understanding of the ways in which science and technology have changed daily life. This includes incorporating the insights gained from studies of British industrial research, and research in industrial laboratories more generally, with work on the relationships between science, technology and society, and with discussions of the activities of scientists and engineers themselves. While each of these different bodies of literature offers important insights which can be used in the study of science, technology and daily life, none of them seeks to address this area directly. The literature on British food history, which concentrates on dietary change is discussed and explanations for these changes analysed. Such explanations, it emerges, are rarely comprehensive, and several possible agents of change seem to have received little attention in the literature. Among these are the development of the food manufacturing industry, which produced many of the convenience foods which became a standard part of the British diet after 1870, and the role of science and scientists. This is surprising given the rapid growth of the food manufacturing industry from the mid-19th century, and the tendency of firms to employ scientists to assist in production operations. The examination of the growth and development of the food industry and the large firms which came to dominate it reveals the striking degree of similarity in their business strategies as they grew from small family owned operations to businesses employing thousands of people. The increasing use of scientists by these firms can be attributed to their need to gain control over as many aspects of their operations as possible, and the prompting of legislation, which meant that lack of attention could lead to prosecution. In the years up to 1939 most of the large food firms began to employ their own scientists, and their activities within the firm, as well as the services offered by outside consultants are given detail consideration. The foundation, growth and development of the Chemists' department at the firm of Cadburys is examined closely in an effort to explore the full range of functions of industrial scientists and their role within the firm. This includes consideration not just of research and development, but of routine work as well, and attention to the effects of the activities of scientists on other workers within the firm, and on its advertising strategy. Scientific research on food which eventually had an impact on the national diet was also funded by the government, and here the focus is on those organisations which undertook research which was aimed at that part of the food chain between primary producer and consumer. This is placed in the context of government funded food research in general, which also included agricultural and medical research. The main focus is on the Food Investigation Board of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and the food research associations which were also under the auspices of the same body. Government funded food research of this type was much smaller in scale than that undertaken by industry itself, and involved a very different scientific approach. This study ends by considering the scientists themselves and explores the nature of the different groups which made up the British food science community, and how they interacted. It reveals the very divided nature of the British science community, and the importance of including industrial scientists in any examination of the social structure of British science during this period. At the same time it shows how these different groups were able to meet and share information, a process which benefitted industrial scientists in particular, and ensured that new scientific findings were incorporated into commercial practice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available