David Edgerton

David Edgerton is a reader in the history of technology at Imperial College, London. His Science, Technology and the British Industrial ‘Decline’ 1870-1970 will come out in May.


David Edgerton, 7 March 1996

The historiography of modern Britain is dominated by one issue – ‘decline’. The usual starting-point for discussion is the fact that Britain’s share of the world’s manufactured exports has fallen from about 25 per cent before the Great War to around 8 per cent today, although much of this has nothing at all to do with Britain. At their most extreme ‘declinists’ argue that Britain has been a second or third-rate nation since the 1870s. They maintain that this could have been prevented and indeed that it is not too late now to effect a change in Britain’s position. ‘Declinism’ is in many ways the last refuge of Great Power delusions.


We’re Here

18 November 2021

Neal Ascherson, in his review of Ian Sanjay Patel’s We’re Here because You Were There, quotes the book to the effect that the 1948 British Nationality Act created the new category of ‘citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies’, and that this gave the right to 600 million people to live in the UK (LRB, 18 November). That isn’t quite the case. In fact it created not one but two citizenships....

Brexit Blues

25 April 2018

David Edgar makes the suggestion that Anthony Barnett is a Chestertonian English nationalist. This seems to me to be another case of the left only being willing to see nationalism as pastoral and reactionary, and not understanding its own basis in it. I think we should read Barnett differently. One of his key points is that Scotland, including its deprived working class, voted Remain because post-devolution...


7 March 1996

I am delighted to find Correlli Barnett stating in print (Letters, 9 May) that it is an ‘absurdity’ to believe that in ‘the late Forties Britain was poorer than Germany and other major Continental nations, innovated less, spent more on welfare, or exported fewer manufactures.’ Nor does he deny that such a claim would be equally absurd for the Fifties. He suggests that it was merely my ‘cunning’...

As the toffs began to retreat: Declinism

Neal Ascherson, 22 November 2018

There is a fine Scots word for the sale of the contents of a house, farm or factory: a ‘displenishment’. We have certainly witnessed the displenishment of Great Britain.

Read More

A Place for Hype: Old Technology

Edward Tenner, 10 May 2007

A new golden age of technological hype seems to be dawning. This January, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a small unfurnished booth cost $24,500. Some 2700 companies proved willing...

Read More

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences