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Title:Industrial culture and the challenge of English capitalism: Perceptions of economic change in the British engineering press, 1885-1925
Author(s):Botticelli, Peter Kevin
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Arnstein, Walter L.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, European
History, Modern
Abstract:This dissertation examines the British response to the rise of mass production industries beginning in the late 19th century. It challenges the frequent complaint that British entrepreneurs in this period were not alive to the possibilities of monopolistic capitalism until after American and German industrialists had acquired a dominant position in world markets.
The most common explanation for this failure, then as now, was that British businessmen were either ignorant of, or culturally hostile to, the idea of large corporations run by professional managerial hierarchies. This bias prevented British companies from making, in Alfred Chandler's words, the necessary "three pronged investment in production, distribution, and management," which led to a gradual erosion of Britain's ability to compete.
In an effort to evaluate these arguments, this work asks three main questions about Britain's industrial culture. First, was there a general anti-industrial prejudice which sapped morale and discouraged effective entrepreneurship? Second, were British businessmen responsive to change, especially innovations from abroad? Lastly, how well informed was the business public about the three pronged investment, as a crucial innovation in industrial strategy?
To address these questions, a large sampling of British engineering journals was examined. These offer a rich source of commentary on the sweeping change in business methods associated with the second industrial revolution. In some cases they represent the actual views of industrialists and managers, but their main function was to provide news about the latest methods and practices of industrial firms from around the world. Thus, they offer important clues about what British managers and engineers knew and understood at the time.
The conclusion drawn is that British entrepreneurs almost certainly understood the full extent of the changes brought on by mass production and corporate capitalism. The sources make it clear that by the late Victorian years at least, British industry had become part of a highly cosmopolitan business culture which vigorously defended itself against anyone who questioned the value or national importance of modern industry. Hence, it is unlikely that purely cultural factors were responsible for Britain losing its dominant share of world markets in this era.
Issue Date:1994
Rights Information:Copyright 1994 Botticelli, Peter Kevin
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9512305
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9512305

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