The Economic History of Steelmaking, 1867-1939: A Study in Competition

By Duncan Burn | Go to book overview

Chapter XI
THE PROGRESS OF STRUCTURAL ADAPTATION

1. ENGLISH AND FOREIGN STRUCTURE CONTRASTED

"The British industry", it was said in a brilliant survey of the international position for the Revue de Métallurgie in 1904, "was characterised by stagnation." Stagnation, not only of production and foreign trade, but also of structure. Works important in 1904 had all been already important in 1880, and for the most part had grown little since. The commercial organisation of the industry had been unchanged for half a century. Here were the sources of "the excessive division in the means of production" whence flowed all the technological failings of the British industry.1

Stagnation was certainly a misnomer for the state of the British structure; because although the character of the structure was little modified between 1890 and 1900, neither the average and maximum sizes nor the interrelations of units changing appreciably, individual components changed much and became more numerous. The pattern varied in detail while its main features were undisturbed. But the contrast of British with rival history was rightly emphasised. It has already been shown, in tracing the advance of productive methods, how British structure was in several directions inimical to the adoption of costreducing equipment. It will be seen later that advantages in selling were also obtained by some American and German changes. And though it is not to be supposed that all rival developments were adapted to British circumstances, or even that they all led to economy in their native settings, it is clear that the advantageous modifications, such as horizontal ex

____________________
1
Rev. d. Mét. 1904, pp. 104 sqq.: esp. p. 107.

-219-

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