British innovation in the twentieth century - what we know and what we don't know

Speaker: Prof David Edgerton # King's College, London

8th Dec 2014

15:30 - 17:00

Conference Room, David Hume Tower


The story of innovation in twentieth-century Britain used to be told as stories either of failure to innovate, or failure to use innovations locally.  They were central to declinist accounts of Britain, and led to what we might now think was bizarre account of what was by any sensible accounting a significant location for successful global innovation.  They were also prominent (and to some extent remain so) in the discourse around so-called ‘science policy’.  Work over the last twenty years has given us a quite different picture, one in which British capitalism, imperialism and nationalism are connected to innovation in revealing ways.  I will review some of this work, and look also at new avenues for research that this new map of British innovation suggest, for example in relation to individual inventors, ideologies of inventors and invention, and  innovation in coal and other ‘old’ sectors.

Speaker's biography