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A “Micawber-like” undertaking : innovation, intrigue, entrepreneurship and dynamic capabilities in the early British aluminium industry

Perchard, Andrew (2011) A “Micawber-like” undertaking : innovation, intrigue, entrepreneurship and dynamic capabilities in the early British aluminium industry. Cahiers d'histoire de l'aluminium, 46-47. pp. 143-162. ISSN 0990-6908

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Abstract

In 1889, the eminent British scientist and Aluminium Company director Sir Henry Roscoe gave an address at the Royal Institution of Great Britain on the manufacturing processes implemented in his industry. This article contextualizes the large extracts of this speech reproduced in this issue by provides a brief study of the early British aluminium industry, before the advent of the modern industry heralded by the formation of the British Aluminium Company in 1894. It places these concerns within the broader political and economic context of the era, explores corporate governance, innovation, and “dynamic capabilities,” and interrogates wider questions over perceived “entrepreneurial failure” and technical conservatism in late Victorian Britain. It also raises the issue of the proximity between aluminium industry pioneers and the national political elites; this offers a tantalising episode with the political controversy surrounding a serving Prime Minister and a future one, who served as company trustees, leaking into the world of commerce and threatening to destabilise the undertaking concerned.