• Welcome to this forum Guest. We are a worldwide group with a common interest in Birmingham and its history. While here, please follow a few simple rules. We ask that you respect other members, thank those who have helped you and please keep your contributions on-topic with the thread.

    We do hope you enjoy your visit. BHF Admin Team

Why the Industrial Revolution.

Arkrite

master brummie
Available on BBCi player a BBC Radio 4 program.

In Our Time, The Industrial Revolution.

Melvyn Bragg with other intellectual worthies discuss just why did the Industrial Revolution take off in Britain. Other countries had similar skills and access to materials.Japan was an island nation but industrialized much later. Inquiring minds,inventions and circumstances came together and Britain became the workshop of the world. Very interesting but not for lightweight listening.
 

izzy eckerslike

Yaw've med my day yaw ave
Access to abundant coal and our canal system played a big part for us in leading the world in manufacturing etc. Japan were wonderful metal masters with swords and yet their firearms went from medieval matchlocks to modern cartridges and completely bypassed flintlock and percussion guns that spanned several centuries elsewhere.
Even more bizarre is it seems that they didn't master how to temper steel leaf springs and their matchlock weapons had brass springs which of course would be rather feeble and not strong enough for flintlocks and machinery in general that required powerful springs that would flex and return no matter how many thousands of times they were activated.
 

brummie nick

master brummie
I suppose we should be grateful that the Japanese got off to a slow start in the Industrial Revolution,as once they did get going they showed us how to make the most the knowledge on how to make things,
take their Motor, and Motorcycle industry for example.

Nick
 

pedlarman

master brummie
I remember the number of visits paid to the UK by Japanese 'trade' delegations before the war. The Land of The Rising sun knew exactly what it was doing, I think.

I remember, also, that to say an item - such as a tin toy - was 'made in Japan' was an indication that it was rubbish. Conversely, the term 'Made In England' was a garauntee of quality.

But how times change...! Most of the stuff - large and small - that we buy these days seems to be made in the Middle and/or Far East. So much for British Business and it's 'Patriotism'. Remember 'Buy British'.

Jim Pedley
 

brummie nick

master brummie
I remember the number of visits paid to the UK by Japanese 'trade' delegations before the war. The Land of The Rising sun knew exactly what it was doing,

Jim Pedley
You're spot on Jim, where I worked, we had lots of visitors from foreign countries looking at how we produced things, the only ones to show any real interest were the Japanese, they would have their cameras out taking pictures and writing down notes,
I suppose they went back home and improved on our ideas.
I do remember the 'Buy British' slogan. but I don't think it worked much back then either

Nick
 

christopher short

Birmingham Post
One thing within Japanese culture that held them back for many years was the idea of losing face. If an employee came up with an idea or a way of doing something better, he would rather keep it to himself and not tell his superior so the boss would not lose face by not having come up with the idea himself.
Also, the Japanese had no reserves of coal or oil and was one reason why they embarked on conquest before WW2. They also had no ready markets, whereas GB had the "Empire" and also the Empire had abundant raw materials to offer.
As Arkrite says, fine minds with ideas all came together almost at the same time and then after inventions and innovations started appearing it gave others the opportunity to develop and improve them.
 

Aidan

master brummie
We should be grateful that the first two industrial revolutions were lead by Britain. There are many reasons why Japan and Germany lead the post-war revolutions but I think a large part was played by the Marshall Plan. Hope it is not too off-topic to briefly mention one of my heros (if it is please edit):

Japan in particular grasped the importance of design (and thus service), product quality, testing and sales (the last through global markets). One of the key people they listened to was William Edwards Deming who was in Japan at the behest of the US Army to plan the 1951 Japan Census. During June–August 1950 accepted an invitation from the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) to train hundreds of engineers, managers, and scholars in statistical process control (SPC) and concepts of quality.

Deming declined to receive royalties from the transcripts of his 1950 lectures, so JUSE's board of directors established the Deming Prize (December 1950) to repay him for his friendship and kindness. Within Japan, the Deming Prize continues to exert considerable influence on the disciplines of quality control and quality management. In 1960 he was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure (Meiji).

An early example shows the outcome: Ford Motor Company was simultaneously manufacturing a car model with transmissions made in Japan and the United States. Soon after the car model was on the market, Ford customers were requesting the model with Japanese transmission over the USA-made transmission, and they were willing to wait for the Japanese model. As both transmissions were made to the same specifications, Ford engineers could not understand the customer preference for the model with Japanese transmission. Finally, Ford engineers decided to take apart the two different transmissions. The American-made car parts were all within specified tolerance levels. On the other hand, the Japanese car parts were virtually identical to each other, and much closer to the nominal values for the parts - e.g., if a part were supposed to be one foot long, plus or minus 1/8 of an inch - then the Japanese parts were within 1/16 of an inch. This made the Japanese cars run more smoothly and customers experienced fewer problems. Engineers at Ford could not understand how this was done, until they met Deming. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHvnIm9UEoQ
 
Last edited:

brummie nick

master brummie
Japan in particular grasped the importance of design (and thus service), product quality, testing and sales
I agree with that,it was certainly the case in the Motorcycle Industry, we had a 'take it or leave it' attitude, where has they made lots of different size engines for a better choice.
I had a mate who worked at the triumph factory telling me about a manager from there going to Japan on a fact finding tour, he came back and told the workforce "We have nothing to fear from the Japanese"
that proved to be wrong big time.
Nick
 

Aidan

master brummie
Sadly true Brummie Nick, when I was a gangly teenager a big dream was to be the proud rider of a Bonnie or Commando but by the time I had got to riding age there was virtually no sensible choice and the same went for cars (I directly compared beloved but unreliable Marina with Datsun Sunny) and this now extends to most techy things due to their Kaizen (改善?) continuous improvement approach.

As Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake says in Dr Strangelove when recalling being tortured by the Japanese "...It was just their way of having a bit of fun, the swines. Strange thing is they make such bloody good cameras. "
 
Last edited:

Big Gee

master brummie
I didn't hear Melvyn Bragg's programme, unfortunately. My feeling is that the Industrial Revolution began in Britain essentially because we had an expanding empire at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, and an ever-increasing requirement for materials and fuel. I believe the first steam-engines were developed for pumping out Cornish tin mines, and these engines quickly spread to other types of mining and draining of marshland for agriculture. As more and more engines were required, more and more people were needed to make them, and so it grew. Britain was first to lay down basic principles of science and engineering, and it might be hard to believe these days but this was a much freer country than others in Europe, certainly France, and people were able to 'rise' from humble origins (most early French scientists were members of the aristocracy, and they didn't much care for jumped-up members of the peasantry getting in on their act). In Britain, most early engineers, inventors and scientists were from quite humble origins, with a much better understanding of what industry required. Once power was available, the textile industry boomed (only after early problems with groups such as the Luddites), and power could be applied to the manufacture of quite basic commodities. Oddly enough, it was the French who developed accurate standardised machining to provide interchangeable parts, evidently at Napoleon's insistence due to problems keeping firearms and artillery operating. All good stuff.

I read a book not long ago about how Japan was 'opened up' by Western powers, largely the USA, and the author maintained that in the middle of the 19th century, even without a developed industry, Japan had the highest standard of living in the world. Could be.

Big Gee
 

JohnO

master brummie
The nature, and causes of the 'Agrarian Revolution' was an essential back-drop to the 'Industrial Revolution occurring.
From the suffering of those cast away from the land, after the 'Enclosures Act', who then went on to supply the man-power for industry, and the subsequent agricultural improvements that helped to feed those same disinherited agricultural labourers, who had become industrial workers .... it might even be said, that the first stirrings of an incipient industrialisation occured even earlier, when over one third of the land was freed from the Roman Catholic Church, and sold-off by Henry VIII and Edward VI, to be used for profit. Queen Elizabeth's adventurers and sailors, began to open up the world for our trade, and to go on to stimulate all manner of possibilities, that were finally realised a century and a half later. The whole was an amazing period of interconnecting strands and features, that generated and supported the greatest change for human beings, that the earth had ever seen!
 

Rupert

master brummie
Yes I think that Henry V111 and his daughter Elizabeth were key actors on this stage. Henry maybe the main actor for splitting from the true faith and starting the beginnings of a real navy. Elizabeth for casting a blind eye at the actions of Drake and Hawkins perhaps. Anyway it must have resulted in an outlooking away from Europe that would eventually lead to a need for goods and equipment around the world that was needed for the developing industial and distribution prowess.
 

Arkrite

master brummie
If I remember correctly was it not the Bessemer Converter method of producing steel that was the big boost to German Industry. This enabled the use of sulphur heavy coal to be used when smelting. Germany had loads of the stuff.
While working in Machining we had Kaizen ,and a few other systems, taught us. Sadly it took just one bad manager to ruin a production teams spirit.I saw it happen a number of times. I eventually thought Why Bother.
I cannot understand those who say History is boring. May be having to recall lists of dates can be but history is taught differently now. As you can see in this thread it is all about Cause and Effect.
 

JohnO

master brummie
Slightly widening the topic here: for anyone interested in the beginnings of overseas trade from the Tudor period onwards, I recommend a super little history book called ''Nathional's Nutmeg'' by Giles Milton ... it is an easy, enjoyable read, and explains the 'accidental' process by which Britain developed its eventual Empire. It is fascinating to note, that British traders were, in the main, wholeheartedly welcomed by the 'natives' of other countries and islands, as being regarded as infinitely preferable to those of the Dutch, Spanish and Portugese traders and colonists. They admired the straight and fair dealing of the British traders, who also took pains to treat these people with decency and respect; their main problem being, having to fend-off the requests to become British protectorates!

The kernel of the book is primarily, though not exclusively, concerned with Britain's attempts to get a foot-hold in the 'Spice Islands'; and, as a consequence, come to own New York! Apparently a seaman with his pockets stuffed (literally) with nutmegs, could on the proceeds, retire in serious comfort!
 

Big Gee

master brummie
Yes, JohnO, absolutely right. By and large the English didn't try to convert 'natives' to Christianity or western so-called 'morals', as the Spanish most definitely did. When I was working in Egypt about 30 years ago I was told on more than one occasion that although after the war there was a growing call for full independence, most Egyptians regretted seeing the Brits move out and I was always made welcome whoever I met and wherever I went. A lot of industrial equipment had been supplied by the Russians during the 60's and 70's, but the Egyptians despised the Russians as largely uncivilised.

Off-thread, but during the Peninsular War the British and French soldiers, all professionals, would sometimes form unofficial bands to go after the Spanish soldiers, who were mostly an undisciplined un-trained rabble for whom the Brits and French, supposedly mortal enemies, had no respect. I've read that even Wellington turned a blind eye to this.

Big Gee
 

JohnO

master brummie
I think the trouble began when Queen Victoria decided that she would be an 'Empress' - which rather tended to alter the bias towards 'domination' rather than of 'co-operation' ... but even so, the history of the 'Empire' is nowhere near as black as 'revisionists' would have us believe. And where it is 'black' it is seldom down to us alone, eg the Partition of India ... but I am going well of-topic here, so I'll shut-up!
 

paul stacey

master brummie
Thank goodness that the British were the first to engineer the "Industrial Revolution" it gave an infastructure to more continents in the world than would have happened under any other colonial power, as far as India was concerned it actually united the sub continent rather than divided it, as some Indian born friends have said more than once "Thank God for the british we could have ended up with the portugese, french or spanish".
paul
 

Rupert

master brummie
England had lots of ships in a time when road systems where rough and rocky lanes. There is no point in having lots of ships if the distribution system can not deliver to the ports in a timely maner. The canal system, narrow that it was, could deliver and a single horse in the early days could do better on this than many hoses on the roads with heavy loads. I read somewhere that it would have been impossible to breed and feed enough horses for road transportation. In the early formative days maybe this was key in developing trade away from the continent to go with the efforts in Hockley.
 
Top