Manufacturing industry : taste and science in mid-nineteenth century Britain
Johansen, Sylvi Helene
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This dissertation is about efforts to reconstruct industry to make it palatable to the English public and to enable the government to involve itself in the industrial sector. At a time when it was difficult to do so, taste and science became avenues for the government to insert control over the production sphere. Manufacture was represented as a product of taste and science and hence industrialization became culture. Before the Great Exhibition of 1851, concerns were raised that British manufacture was lacking in taste. The exhibition was initially intended to showcase taste, but that proved to be difficult. Nevertheless, in its aftermath, the Department of Practical Art was established and it defined the exact impact of taste and the exact measurements that needed to be taken to combat bad taste. As products of taste, industrial manufacture was defined as having aesthetic, moral and social dimensions and pressures were put on manufacturers to take up the role as upholders of good taste. By defining and treating machine production as culture, the government institutions extended the role of mass production beyond mere economy. The Great Exhibition was originally intended to promote both science and taste, and with the surplus generated from the exhibition, the Royal Commissioners of 1851 sought to establish an institution of science and technology. To reach its goals, the Commissioners prompted the establishment of the Department of Science and Art, but its initial policies failed. The Department then used exhibitionary strategies as well as examinations to promote science as a necessary knowledge. At the South Kensington Museum, the familiar was presented in an open, inviting setting to entice acceptance of the theoretical subcontext. Science was promoted as culture to further the idea that it was necessary to establish a central institution of science. This study shows the importance of placing educational measures in their actual context rather than focusing on topics such as decline and progress. In the decades around 1850, industry was defined as culture to transgress prominent contemporary definitions which constructed it in terms of the market or as the preeminence of the workplace.