Review of Reviews,  14 (1896), 74–84.

The Book of the Month. The Decline and Fall of British Industrial Supremacy. An Appeal for Instant Action Ere It be Too Late



Regular Feature, Abstract

Publications abstracted:

Williams 1896


Nationalism, National Efficiency, Government, Declinism, Industry, Artisans, Commerce, Statistics, Technology, Education, War, Analogy, Industrial Chemistry, Schools

    Expresses the hope that, as with the campaign of the Pall Mall Gazette in regard to the weakness of the Royal Navy in 1884, 'the publication of Mr. Williams's exposition of the parlous state of British trade in its struggle with German competition will produce a [...] right-about-face' in the 'retrenchment' policy of the Conservative administration of Robert A T G Cecil (3rd Marquess of Salisbury) (74), and will perhaps even induce the adoption of policies that will enable 'the British artisan and manufacturer to hold their own in the life and death struggle which has begun with Germany' (75). After defeating the military power of France in 1870, the Germans 'set themselves as deliberately and as resolutely to challenge the industrial supremacy of Great Britain [...]. They have already won their Forbach and Worth in the industrial campaign, but they have as little notion of halting in their march as Von Moltke had of stopping short of the walls of Paris' (77). Notes that 'Germany is overtaking us in iron and steel, and threatening us in textiles; but she is beating us hand over hand in chemicals. Our English chemists have for a long time past lived in Queer Street. Their German rivals are flourishing to the tune of dividends of 28 per cent'. In particular, their 'export of aniline to China and Japan has gone up threefold in the last five years, whilst our exports have steadily fallen. What makes it worse is that the aniline dyes were the discovery of an Englishman, and at first the whole trade was in English hands'. (79) Although our 'practical men sneer at the professors who are so abundantly employed by their German rivals', there is 'no doubt' that the superiority of their scientific and technical education is 'the greatest of all the secrets of German success' (81). Indeed, while the 'British Hare, feeling secure' 'lay down and snoozed', the 'German Tortoise, finding that his own unaided natural powers were inadequate to give him even a show in the international competition, mounted himself upon the motor cycle of applied science, and, before long, was able to get up sufficient speed to render the issue of the race a foregone conclusion' (79).

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