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The Town - Birmingham: ‘The Workshop of the World’

There are many and varied reasons why Birmingham shouldn't have become the centre and focus of the Industrial Revolution in the way that it did. For one thing, it doesn't possess a sea port, or much in the way of natural resources. At the end of the eighteenth century, it didn't even have much history.


And that is possibly one of the reasons for its success. Most of the other centres of population and industry had grown up from towns dating back to the Middle Ages or before, where methods and regulation of work were set fast and adhered to. Birmingham was more in the nature of a frontier town, where an entrepreneur could try whatever he wanted without interference from vested interests - at least to start with!


But whatever the secret to the mix, it was precisely this which created the conditions in which industry flourished. The papers in this section will look at Birmingham, its condition and environment and, hopefully, create a 'feel' for the eighteenth century version of 'the white heat of technology.'


The first paper is 'A Ramble 'Round Old Birmingham' by Prof. George Selgin, who has created a snapshot of Birmingham as it was on a mid-October Friday in 1829.


Then we move on to a descriptive article "Soho - Birmingham" published in vol 220 of 'The Penny Magazine' on 5th September 1835, which contains a potted history of Soho, the Manufactory, and other interesting facets, as seen by contemporaries.

A Ramble 'Round
Soho - Penny Magazine

The East Prospect of Birmingham by William Westley, published 1732

BIRMINGHAM, a Market Town in the County of WARWICK, which by the art and industry of its Inhabitants, has for some years past been render'd famous all over the World, for the rare choice and inventions of all sorts of Wares

and Curiositys, in Iron, Steel, Brass &c; admir'd as well for their cheapness, as their peculiar beauty of Workmanship.