Printing and the Mind of the Midlands: the transmutation of knowledge, skills and practice

Category: Research Projects


This research will investigate how skills, knowledge, working practices and specialist terminology were transferred between the many and various trades active in Birmingham during the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution.

The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries witnessed scientific and industrial revolutions that led to an explosion of inventions, which enabled widespread change in manufacturing. Simultaneously the Midland’s Enlightenment was a cultural manifestation that enabled the exchange of ideas between science, art and industry, and which facilitated the preconditions for rapid economic growth. It was an age that encouraged a metamorphic workforce, which in turn enabled the transmutation of knowledge, skills and expertise, and the exchange of a common language.

Birmingham’s printing industry forms the focus for this research as it not only adopted techniques from other industries for its own use, but also lent its own know-how and ingenuity to other trades. This research will investigate the interdependent nature of seemingly disparate trades; provide an understanding of the town’s flexible workforce; and consider the industrial topography that enabled the movement of skills and processes.

Members involved in this research

Professor Caroline Archer-Parré

Dr Malcolm Dick