Britain’s transformation from rural economy to ‘workshop of the world’ relied on new mechanical engineering practices. How were these techniques developed and passed on in an economy that, initially, had no system of formal technical education?
Places like Henry Maudslay’s London works produced the talented engineers who were to dominate the early Industrial Revolution. Elsewhere, apprenticeships and other hands-on experience were found to be increasingly inadequate. After 1850 they were unable to satisfy the high and rising demand for trained engineers.
By the end of the nineteenth century, technical education and training in Britain lagged behind other countries, placing the ‘Workshop of the World’ at a grave disadvantage.