Life in the Slow Lane: Research and Electrical Engineering in Britain, France, and Italy, CA. 1900

Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 144)


This paper is a reflexion on an assumption that has run through studies of industrial technology ever since the First World War. The assumption, broadly stated, is that in the age of science-based industry a strong and preferably expensive commitment to research and development is an essential ingredient of a nation’s technological prowess. The corollary is that technological success and, by a deceptively easy extension, economic success have come to be seen as being dependent on a capacity for autonomous innovation. A serious commitment to research has assumed, in the process, an almost symbolic and, as we shall argue, exaggerated importance. Among historians of the period that concerns us here — the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries — it has come to be regarded as one of the main touchstones dividing the countries we traditionally see as the technological pacemakers — in particular Germany, the U.S.A., and Switzerland — from those, of which Britain, France, and Italy are typical, which are usually portrayed as limping along in their wake.


Electrical Engineering Shop Floor Electrical Industry Foreign Technology Electrical Machinery 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OxfordUK

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