Book reviews — December 1987
A BIBLIOGRAPHY OF BRITISH BUSINESS HISTORIES, Edited by Francis Goodall
Sower Press. March 1987. 644 pages
I came across this book in a publishers' catalogue at work. It is described as 'essential for both the professional historian and the amateur interested in local history and industrial archaeology, this work provides access to a wealth of material on British companies during the last 150 years'.
At £45 it is not likely to be bought by many local historians or industrial archaeologists, but it sounds like a useful reference work to be consulted in a library and therefore worth drawing to the attention of members.
BUSINESS DOCUMENTS — Their Origins, Sources and Uses in Historical Research, Authors — John Armstrong and Stephanie Jones
Mansell Publishing Ltd
I came across this one in an insert to a history journal in my local library. It is described as providing 'an introduction to the most topical, informative and readily available business documents and shows how they may be used in historical research'.
At £30 this too must be regarded as a work of reference to be consulted' in a library but It seems worth mentioning as such. Bill Firth
PANDAEMONIUM By Humphrey Jennings
Andre Deutsch 1985. 376 pp, 30 ill. £12.95. (ISBN 0 233 97808 9)
Edited and introduced by 'Humphrey Jennings' daughter Mary Lou and Charles Madge and published posthumously (Humphrey died in 1950), this account of 'the coining of the machine as seen by contemporary observers', a collection of quotations presented in chronological order, has much to recommend itself to industrial archaeologists who will find a wealth of fascinating contemporary material to be read in a variety of manners, following suggested schemes set out at the back of the book. Although national in scope, London receives a fair share of the total text, 30 specific entries and there is a good deal of London relevance elsewhere.
Despite the size of 'Pandaemonium' a surprisingly large amount of its material is familiar. The anthology starts from 1660 with Paradise Lost, The Royal Society, Newton, Hooke and Pepys, with a delightfully obscure passage on the heat engine by the Marquis of Worcester; and runs on to Jethro Tull, accounts of James Watt, quotations' from Priestley, Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley, the Mechanics Magazine, Fanny Kemble, Andrew Ure, Najaf Koolee Merza (a visitor, to England in 1836), Michael Faraday, Hector Berlioz, John Ruskin and James Nasmyth. As the book progresses there is an increasing concern with the effects of 'progress' on the ordinary individual and seeing that the book ends at 1886 it is not surprising that railway travel has become prominent.
Humphrey Jennings was a painter and poet who worked in the theatre and was involved with the first documentary films from the early 1930s. He is famous for the wartime films 'Listen to Britain', 'Fires Were Started' and 'Diary for Timothy'. Work started on 'Pandaemonium' about 1937 and in 1950 Jennings considered a good six months full-time work still had to be done. The recent editing and typing of the manuscript was assisted by a grant from the Elephant Trust. 'Pandaemonium' is a book highly reminiscent of the work of Francis Klingendor and one might almost consider Jennings a member of the same school. The quotations range from Smollett, Dickens, Smiles and Darwin to factory workers, farm labourers and women. Such variety! The intention is to present an imaginative history of the industrial revolution father than the more usual, specialised accounts. The quotations are meant as images that contain 'in little a whole world', and Jennings likens the chronological sequence of these images to a motion picture. The reviewer is not sure if 'Pandaemoniun' is a neglected masterpiece or just a pot-boiler and leaves that issue to the judgement of posterity but this fat volume can be firmly recommended to GLIAS readers at a price of £12.95. It is very entertaining. Bob Carr
OLD DOCKS, By Nancy Ritchie-Noakes
Shire Publications Ltd. 1987. 32pp. 38 ill. £1.25. (ISBN 0 85263 893 0)
Shire Album 199 covers the relatively neglected topic of Port Industrial archaeology. The development of harbours and dock systems in Britain is dealt with and dock constructions, operation and cargo handling are considered, as well as recent run-down and closure. Despite the compact size of this publication, little has been omitted and the work is highly commendable.
The adult style of English is not particularly approachable for young readers or even, the total newcomer; from a youngish American one night have expected a Shire Album to be a little racy. A selection of archive photographs is scattered through-out the book. It would have been interesting, to have some recent views but this should not be regarded as a criticism and in any case photographs of empty docks are notoriously boring. There is a tendency towards history rather than industrial archaeology.
Despite the author's well-known Merseyside interests London receives plenty of mention but the Port's unique lighterage system is not dealt with. By implication Millwall Dock (1868) is introduced as a Railway Dock (page 18) and on page 21 it appears that Rennie was the first to use steam power for purposes other than pumping, but throughout there are few errors and those quoted likely slips of the pen rather than intended. The booklet was probably put together in some haste.
At the back there is a welcome section on places to visit which includes the Museum in Docklands Visitor Centre, “W” Warehouse, Royal Victoria Dock; very useful for tourists who would do well to do a little prior homework with this book. The criticisms made are really minor considering the work as a whole and at its price 'Old Docks' can be recommended to GLIAS readers especially if they intend to visit ports other than our own. Bob Carr
© GLIAS, 1987