The Rise and Decline of England's Watchmaking Industry, 1550–1930  book cover
1st Edition

The Rise and Decline of England's Watchmaking Industry, 1550–1930

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after April 8, 2022
ISBN 9781032131344
April 8, 2022 Forthcoming by Routledge
440 Pages 21 B/W Illustrations

USD $160.00

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Book Description

This survey of the rise and decline of English watchmaking fills a gap in the historiography of British industry. Clerkenwell in London was supplied with "rough movements" from Prescot, 200 miles away in Lancashire. Smaller watchmaking hubs later emerged in Coventry, Liverpool, and Birmingham. The English industry led European watchmaking in the late eighteenth century in output, and its lucrative export markets extended to the Ottoman Empire and China. It also made marine chronometers, the most complex of hand-crafted pre-industrial mechanisms, crucially important to the later hegemony of Britain’s navy and merchant marine. Although Britain was the "workshop of the world", its watchmaking industry declined. Why? Firstly, because cheap Swiss watches were smuggled into British markets. Later, in the era of Free Trade, they were joined by machine-made watches from factories in America, enabled by the successful application to watch production of the "American system" in Waltham, Massachusetts after 1858. The Swiss watch industry adapted itself appropriately, expanded, and reasserted its lead in the world’s markets. English watchmaking did not: its trajectory foreshadowed and was later followed by other once-prominent British industries. Clerkenwell retained its pre-industrial production methods. Other modernization attempts in Britain had limited success or failed.

Table of Contents

Part 1: Rise

1. Origins: From Craft to Industry

2. Supply: Clerkenwell and Prescot: A Geographical Division of Labour

3; Supply: Two Other Hubs: Liverpool and Coventry

4. Towards English Horology’s Golden Age: Technology, Organisation, Rewards

5. Demand: Domestic, Government, and Foreign

Part 2: Challenge

6. Clouds on the Horizon: Switzerland’s Challenge

7. War and Peace, 1793–1817: Crisis, Recovery, and Crisis Again

8. The 1817 Inquiry: Tariffs and Smuggling, 1818–1842

9. The Ingold Episode and After, 1842–1860

10. Meeting the Challenge: Chronometers in War and Peace, 1793–1860

Part 3: Decline

11. Revolution in America: Evolution in Switzerland

12. Consequences for Britain

13. The British Horological Institute: Ignoring the Elephant

14. Twilight in Clerkenwell: Ignoring the Market

15. Attempting the "American System": Birmingham, Coventry and Liverpool

16. English Chronometers Defy Decline

17. The Great War and After

Postscript: The Third Horological Era

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Alun C. Davies, Ph.D., was educated at the Universities of Aberystwyth and Princeton and retired in 1999 after thirty-three years at The Queen’s University of Belfast as Reader (and sometime Head of Department) in the Department of Economic and Social History.