James Hamilton-Paterson presents a very convincing case for the decline of British industry in this well written and passionate book. Without being extreme or raging the author presents the case of how much decline has occurred in the last seventy years and why. From his own childhood experience he paints a picture where nearly everything is made in Britain and across industries as diverse as motor cycles to shipping shows that in the modern age most things are made abroad. Almost incredibly he shows even the public squares of London are being bought up and possessed by foreign owners.
This is not a partisan book although the authors leftist credentials do shine through. The blame for decline is equally shared between workers, managers, politicians and the general public. The scope moves steadily from the workplace, to the boardroom, to parliament and to the schools showing that Britain simply does not value engineers, their skills and their contribution. In this I am reminded of Niomi Klines No Logo where she argues that modern business is about brands which try to distance themselves from the actual business of making things. The manufacturing process being something grubby and distasteful. Its this attitude that I think is the most dangerous and one that I have experienced working in museums. It pervades British Industry, society and culture. It drives young people away from honest, well paid and rewarding work towards glamorous careers that fade like fairy gold into meaningless jobs that sap the life and blood from the soul. Which is why my little boy is encouraged to play with lego, watch James May’s Magnificent Machines: How men in sheds have changed our lives and play with toy trains. In one respect I do disagree with the author in that I do think that our industry can be revived and that we can in the future make our own products and export them to the world but that will take some work.
On that note I would recommend this book for anyone thinking about the decline of Britain in general and the decline of British industry in particular since the 2nd World War.
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