Arms and the State: Sir William Armstrong and the Remaking of British Naval Power, 1854–1914, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Arms and the State

Sir William Armstrong and the Remaking of British Naval Power, 1854–1914, 1st Edition

By Marshall J. Bastable


312 pages

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Arms and the State is a history of Britain's first and foremost modern armaments company, the Armstrong Whitworth Company, from its origins in 1854 to 1914. It focuses on the role of Sir William G. Armstrong, an engineer and entrepreneur who transformed his modest mechanical engineering business into a vast industrial enterprise which invented, developed, manufactured and sold heavy guns and warships throughout the world. Arms and the State reconstructs the global arms trade as it follows Armstrong's companies selling the latest weapons to both sides in the American Civil War, Egypt, Turkey and Italy in the 1860s, to China, Chile and Japan in the 1870s and 1880s, and became Britain's leading armaments company in the age of the naval arms races that preceded the First World War. In so doing, it discusses varied topics such as the social and political nature of technological innovation, the quality of Britain's late-Victorian entrepreneurs, and the impact of armaments on British politics, defence policies, the international arms trade and imperialism. Arms and the State situates the history of the company in its technological, political and international contexts, with particular attention given to the role of British Parliamentary politics and the inner workings of the War Office and Admiralty bureaucracies. The central narrative is Armstrong's role in the militarization of technology in the 1850s, the commercialization of the armaments trade on a global scale in the 1860s and 1870s, and the emergence of the British military-industrial state in the 1880s and 1890s. Arms and the State provides a history of the people, the technology and the business of the Arms trade. It is a fascinating story of the domestic politics, the foreign policy and strategic calculations, the manipulation of the press and the bureaucratic intrigues that lay behind the invention, production and proliferation of the first weapons of mass destruction.


'… the book succeeds brilliantly […] in its analysis and dissection of the political-military-industrial complex.' Journal for Maritime Research 'This is a welcome history of one of the great armament firms and of one of the nineteenth century's most inventive mind.' Northern History '… an important contribution to scholarship on the development of military-industrial relationships.' Technology and Culture '… Bastable's work is the first truly scholarly history of Armstrong and his firm… Throughout his work, the author makes good use of government and private archival materials, as well as printed primary sources. He succeeds admirably in his goal of relating the history of the Armstrong firm in light of the rapid technological advances, ever changing domestic politics, and international machinations of the time.' The Mariner's Mirror

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: Theories, models and approaches. Part I Inventing the Armstrong Gun, 1854-65: War, friends and competitors; The naval arms revolution; Defending England: monster guns or iron ships? Part II Making the Global Arms Market, 1863-1914: Introduction; World demand and Elswick's marketing; Arming America and Europe in the age of nationalism; Arming Asia in the age of imperialism. Part III Remaking British Naval Power, 1880-1914: Introduction; The naval-industrial complex; The political-industrial complex; Entrepreneurs, managers and the British state. Conclusion; Epilogue; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Marshall J. Bastable is a professor at Acadia University, Canada.

About the Series

Modern Economic and Social History

Modern Economic and Social History
Modern Economic and Social History encourages the publication of scholarly monographs on aspects of modern economic and social history. While emphasis is placed on works embodying original research, the series also provides studies of a more general and thematic nature which offer a reappraisal or critical analysis of major issues of debate. Economic and social history has been a flourishing subject of scholarly study during recent decades. Not only has the volume of literature increased enormously but the range of interest in time, space and subject matter has broadened considerably so that today there are many sub-branches of the subject which have developed considerable status in their own right.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General