Synopses & Reviews
"Rather than an impersonal juggernaut, the British industrial revolution presented in this sprightly, if overly busy, study is the very human endeavor of inventors, engineers, craftsmen and entrepreneurs. Historian Weightman (London River) surveys the 19th-century development of the railroad, steel, oil, automobile and chemical industries and the evolution of marvels from the steam engine to electric lighting. There are few geniuses or breakthroughs the author says, for example, Thomas Edison excelled more at public relations than at mechanical innovation. Rather, this is a long slog through oft-forgotten pioneers. In Weightman's telling, industrialization proceeded through trial-and-error, hard-won expertise, laboriously amassed financing and the outmigration of technology and know-how from Britain. (He visits the industrial espionage demimonde that flourished when Britain vainly outlawed the export of technical secrets and skilled craftsmen.) The larger picture, and Weightman's too-sketchy accounts of technical innovations, sometimes get lost in the microhistory of prototypes, business startups, patent disputes and extraneous human interest (the singing von Trapp family, we learn, descended from the inventor of the torpedo.) Lacking the sweep and adventure promised in its epic title, Weightman's anecdotal narrative presents a realistically small-scale view of industrial progress. Illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In this vivid, sweeping history of the industrial revolution, Gavin Weightman shows how, in less than one hundred and fifty years, an unlikely band of scientists, spies, entrepreneurs, and political refugees took a world made of wood, powered by animals, wind, and water, and made it into something entirely new, forged of steel and iron, and powered by steam and fossil fuels. Weightman weaves together the dramatic stories of giants such as Edison, Watt, Wedgwood, and Daimler, with lesser-known or entirely forgotten characters, including a group of Japanese samurai who risked their lives to learn the secrets of the West, and John Iron Mad” Wilkinson, who didnt let war between England and France stop him from plumbing Paris. Distilling complex technical achievements, outlandish figures, and daring adventures into an accessible narrative that spans the globe as industrialism spreads, The Industrial Revolutionaries is a remarkable work of original, engaging history.