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Mechanical Arts & Merchandise

Author: Woolrich

Industrial espionage is as old as invention itself. The spread of technology, in our western world, during the last few centuries, may have been largely dependent on it. Often underhand methods had to be resorted to; in some instances, information could be gathered more openly by observers on "study tours". Spies' and travellers' reports form a great source for the study of historical technology.

In most European countries there was considerable state involvement in manufacturing industries. Not so in Great Britain, where commerce rather than manufacturing was sponsored by the state. Development of technology had to depend firmly on private enterprise. In consequence, few official sources are preserved nowadays for the study of the development of manufacturing technology in Britain. Foreign observers' reports on British works and techniques therefore form a welcome addition.

Lots of Continental visitors came to Britain. From Sweden, Russia, Denmark, Prussia, France, Switzerland, Spain, America and many other countries. Mind you, not all "observation" was performed by foreigners. Many British manufacturers studied their competitors, hoping to take over promising production methods.

Of course, factory owners generally were hardly prepared to part with relevant information, and most took protective measures against overcurious visitors. The British government tried to prevent the outflow of manufacturing know-how by prohibiting the export of workers and machinery. Although these actions seldom were successful, they made the task of the industrial spy quite dangerous.

Where to find these interesting reports? Many were published in book form, or as diaries; and still exist either in original form, or reprinted in annotated form. Another interesting source are (foreign) periodicals. The present book offers a bibliography of relevant literature as well as extensive lists of 19th century periodicals; and of the works of the Commissioners of Patents (another useful source).


eerste uitgave / first published type medium dim. omvang / extent binding prijs / price
1985 nieuw / new boek / book A5 vi+154 pp - 24 illus paperback € 20,00
hardcover € 30,00