A Long Time in Making: The History of Smiths

ISBN : 9780198717256

James Nye
408 Pages
187 x 254 mm
Pub date
Oct 2014
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Smiths Group (formerly Smiths Industries), part of the UK FTSE 100 index, is a global engineering company with a market capitalisation over GBP5bn. Evolving from beginnings in the Victorian jewellery trade, to significant market presences in the twentieth century motor accessory, clock and watch industries, it has reinvented itself again as a diversified international company, operating in the medical, communications, security and engineered components sectors. Its narrative history, illuminating the reasons for its survival and adaptability, offers useful data and information to aid wider research into questions such as the legitimacy of conglomerates as a business model, the creation and maintenance of corporate culture, issues of succession, the effects of mergers and the questionable value placed upon targeted synergies-even the role of serendipity. The story begins with several generations of the Smith family amassing a fortune in retail, and then, following a 1914 stock-market flotation, describes the transition from family run business to the development of a professionally-run managerial enterprise. Since the 1970s it has had to face the decline of major markets and competitive pressures, leading to the adoption of new business lines, globalisation, and the internationalisation of its workforce. It now has 23,000 employees across more than 50 countries-along the way shocking the markets by abandoning core businesses and undergoing a controversial merger. Unfettered access to company records, and interviews with former staff members, provide insights into the strategy and management of the firm, illuminating the rich culture of Smiths, characterised by the frequent fostering of technical brilliance and a cast of larger than life characters.


1. 1851-1899 Elephant and Castle to the Strand
2. 1899-1913 A new business emerges
3. 1914-1928 Flotation, war, boom and bust, recovery
4. 1929 - 1939 A decade of diversification
5. 1939 - 1945 The war factory
6. 1945 - 1959 From austerity to prosperity
7. 1960-1975 The triumph of decentralization
8. 1976-1990 Shocking the markets
9. 1991-2000 The end of an era
10. 2000-2007 Shocking the markets again
11. A fortune in change

About the author: 

James Nye's first career was in finance and commerce, followed by a PhD in financial history at King's College London, where he holds a visiting fellowship in the Institute of Contemporary British History. He is also an award-winning historian of technology, with a focus on the history of distributed accurate time. James sits on the council of the AHS, and the editorial advisory panel of Antiquarian Horology. He is a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, and was the founder and principal sponsor of The Clockworks, a unique London museum, workshop, and library dedicated to the history of electrical timekeeping (www.theclockworks.org).

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