At the beginning of the twentieth century Britain was amongst the world leaders in the production of machine tools, yet by the 1980s the industry was in terminal decline. Focusing on the example of Britain's largest machine tool maker, Alfred Herbert Ltd of Coventry, this study charts the wider fortunes of this vital part of the manufacturing sector. Taking a chronological approach, the book explores how during the late nineteenth century the industry developed a reputation for excellence throughout the world, before the challenges of two world wars necessitated drastic changes and reorganisations. Despite meeting these challenges and emerging with confidence into the post-war market place, the British machine tool industry never regained its pre-eminent position, and increasingly lost ground to foreign competition. By using the example of Alfred Herbert Ltd to illuminate the broader economic and business history of the British machine tool industry, this study not only provides a valuable insight into British manufacturing, but also contributes to the ongoing debates surrounding Britain's alleged decline as a manufacturing nation.
Roger Lloyd-Jones is Professor of Economic History at Sheffield Hallam University, UK. M.J. Lewis is Senior Lecturer in Business History at Sheffield Hallam University, UK.
Contents: Introduction; Technological and business development: British machine tools and the American challenge, 1890-1914; 'A war of machinery': the British machine tool industry, 1914-18; Meeting the challenge: Alfred Herbert and the British machine tool industry, 1918-34; A call to arms: the British machine tool industry, 1935-40; The Second World War and the British machine tool industry; The changing 'game': the British machine tool industry, 1945-60; Responding to the 'game': modernisation and the British machine tool industry in the 1960s; Business strategy and business structure: Alfred Herbert 1950-70; The 'end game': the British machine tool industry in the 1970s, and the fall of Alfred Herbert; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.