Christopher Corker

Jan 16, 2024

The Business and Technology of the Sheffield Armaments Industry, 1900-1930

University of York 2016

Christopher Corker's The Business and Technology of the Sheffield Armaments Industry, 1900-1930 (U of York, 2016) focuses on four in-depth case studies of John Brown, Cammell-Laird, Thomas Firth and Hadfields to examine the business and technology of the industry. It builds on the work of Tweedale and Trebilcock on Sheffield and armaments, and advances the argument that during the period of study from 1900 to 1930, the city was one of the most important centres for armaments research and production anywhere in the world. The business of the armaments industry is explored through an examination of the evolving links the industry had with the Government against the backdrop of an uncertain trading environment, and the managerial connections established between the state and private industry. Also explored are the collaborative, collusive and independent defensive measures enacted by the industry to counter uncertainty in the industry, through collaborative business arrangements and various approaches to entering international markets for armaments. An examination of the business of the armaments industry also highlights the value of the technological investment made by the industry. At the centre of exploring the technology of the armaments industry, a reconstruction of its technological history is undertaken using patent and archival records, highlighting the nuances and research dead-ends of development in the industry. Of central importance is the notion of spin-off and the interactions between armaments and metallurgical developments in the creation of a pool of knowledge to be utilised for future research into alloy steels, and the notion of path-dependent technological research. Also advanced is the concept of an innovation system centred on Sheffield, and an exploration of the important national and international links advanced by the industry.

This title is available open access here

Christopher is a business historian, and Lecturer in Management at the School for Business and Society at the University of York, where he is a former Director of Undergraduate Programmes. He completed his PhD in 2016, and won the 2017 Coleman Prize from the Association of Business Historians for excellence in new business history research, and an Emerald Literati Prize in 2019. His current research is on innovation and knowledge in industrial clusters, in particular the business and intellectual history of Stainless Steel, which has been supported by a small grant from the Business Archives Council. Outside of academia Christopher is an advisor to Sheffield Archives, member of the Joined Up Heritage Sheffield Partnership Board, and former Chair of Portland Works Little Sheffield, a social enterprise housed in a 19th century cutlery works. His work has also been featured on BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking.

Also discussed during the podcast

  • Christopher Corker, ‘Continuity and Change in the Sheffield Armaments Industry 1919-1930’, Journal of Management History, Vol. 24, No.2, pp.174-188, 2018.
  • Wilson, J.F., Corker, C., and Lane, J.P. (Eds), Industrial Clusters in the UK: Knowledge, Innovation Systems and Sustainability (Routledge, 2022).

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Bernardo Batiz-Lazo is currently straddling between Newcastle and Mexico City. You can find him on twitter on issues related to business history of banking, fintech, payments and other musings. Not always in that order. @BatizLazo

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