To illustrate the decline of industrial manufacturing in the UK, the graphic designer, author and historian, Ian Johnston chose the City of Glasgow as a microcosm to chronicle the fate that befell other cities across the country, from the industrial revolution in the early 19th century and its peak output during the war efforts, to the eventual takeover by Eastern nations in the late 20th Century.
So what sparked the industrial boom and why have we lost it? The reasoning behind the initial growth can be attributed to a number of factors. Glasgow was established as a trade port for shipping cotton/tobacco from US and to support the shipbuilding efforts a myriad of supply industries flourished. Scotland was home to a number of engineering greats such as Watt, Napier and Telford, who were all instrumental in the pioneering of steam power and developments in iron and steel which helped to progress heavy industry. Combining this knowledge with entrepreneurial spirit and a swelling population created the perfect conditions for an industrial hot spot.
Britain’s prowess in manufacturing created a global demand with a massive export market. However, due to the retrenchment in defence spending after the First World War and a global economics crisis in the 1930’s, the depression lead to mass unemployment and a contraction of heavy industrial efforts. Over time, the poor working conditions and cultural differences between workers and management proved detrimental to the system. Other countries like Germany and Japan employed more scientific processes in industry and began taking on graduates. This high standard and cheap output made it difficult for Britain to compete.
Nowadays the tertiary sector is the only successful industry in the UK but Ian Johnston reckons that we need not rely on this. There is no reason why we can’t manufacture here any more. We’ve lost the pride in British engineering and the population is beginning to take notice. With petitions being made to protect the title of engineer all that has to be done now is to get the interest of the younger generation away from the TV and into Meccano.
‘Still holding on…’
The Dalmarnock Power Station took three attempts to topple.