The development of the Royal Small Arms Factory (Enfield Lock) and its influence upon mass production technology and product design c1820-c1880.

Lewis, James H. (1996) The development of the Royal Small Arms Factory (Enfield Lock) and its influence upon mass production technology and product design c1820-c1880. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

Through a study of the Royal Small Arms Factory (Enfield Lock) and its influence upon product design and development, we examine an apparent anomaly. While accepting that Britain was the seat of the industrial revolution, several historians have claimed that American engineers held the technological advantage in the manufacture of small arms in the first half of the 19th century. Accounts of this disparity in the main have sought economic answers but this thesis examines technological change in relation to the weapons procurement system for the British armed force operated by the Board of Ordnance. Attention is focussed upon the political interplay between the public and private sectors of the gun trade, which was particularly influential in delaying the progress of the British military small arms industry towards the standardisation of weapons through a mechanised system of manufacture. As a result, reliance by the private sector upon traditional labour intensive methods of production remained perhaps longer than would otherwise have been the case. In addressing these issues it is argued that Britain's seeming hesitancy in maintaining her earlier rate of technological progress was the result of a veritable cocktail of events, with several factors at play. The investigation draws on primary documents and secondary accounts complemented by interviews with representatives of established small arms manufacturers, skilled craftsmen, weapons and machine tool experts and an examination of relevant artefacts, the results of which have cast doubt on some aspects of received interpretations of early part interchangeability. This study re-appraises the important role and character of one of the most influential and controversial "Ordnance" figures of the period, George Lovell. It sets the Board of Ordnance method of weapon procurement against the methods of other purchasing agencies, notably the East India Company. The results of the inquiry indicate that Britain's seeming technological pause in the field of small arms manufacture was more due to political influence and the administrative structures than to a lack of technical expertise on the part of its engineers, entrepreneurs and craftsmen.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

Collaborating establishment: Ministry of Defence Pattern Room, Nottingham.

Published in partial fulfilment of a PhD in the School of Humanities and Cultural Studies.

Research Areas:Masters and Doctorates > Theses
ID Code:6706
Deposited On:16 Nov 2010 10:35
Last Modified:18 Jul 2014 12:35

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