The development of professional management in the public sector of the United Kingdom from 1855 to 1925 : the case of the ordnance factories

Black, John (2000). The development of professional management in the public sector of the United Kingdom from 1855 to 1925 : the case of the ordnance factories. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e29f

Abstract

This thesis is an exploration into the development and professionalism of management in the Ordnance Factories from 1855 to 1925. Writing in 1969, Ashworth commented that:

"Naval historians have usually been concerned much more with warfare, politics, the careers of great leaders than with the business side of the service. The technical characteristics of warships and their annament have received much attention, but the economic question (apart from the simple demand for money), which have been inseparably linked with technical advance, has attracted less study. Yet there are several ways in which the provision and running of a large and growing navy must have a peculiar significance and interest for the economic historian." (Ashworth, 1969: 491)

This is also similar to the development of the Anny from 1855.

Recent historians have focused on the Ministry of Munitions as the catalyst for management change within government departments. In particular Loft (1986, 1988, 1994) and Marriner (1980) have explored the change in government accounting procedures within the Ministry of Munitions due to the proliferation of professional accountants into the wartime government as temporary civil servants. There is a notion in history that the pre-I915 War Office was regarded as an inefficient organisation whereas the temporary and monolithic Ministry of Munitions is heralded as the organisation of change, having the services of "the men of push and go" (Lloyd- George, 1938; Adams, 1978).

The refonns of the Ordnance Factories from 1862 were mainly accounting driven and the catalyst for these changes were probably due to the logistical failures of the British Anny in the Crimean War. The refonns themselves were undertaken by civil servants although there was a nucleus of military talent, the concept of the soldier technologist was never as influential as the American experience. However, the Ordnance Factories did evolve into a factory system in the post-Crimean era, whereas the contemporary engineering industry was still dominated by the myth of the craft skill, subcontracting and a workshop ethos.

By 1915 the Ordnance Factories reflected a high degree of professionalism within its management ethos which probably was better than that experienced by the contemporary private sector.

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