The University of Southampton

MANG1018 Technologies that Shaped the Business World 1: Mechanical Age

Module Overview

This module helps students to appreciate the central importance of technology in the development of business organisations, industrial sectors, and national economies more generally. The module will locate industrial technology and innovation as the main driver of economic growth during the period of global expansion of trade and ‘mechanical age’ industrialisation between 1750 and 1950. The module will provide students with an appreciation of major international trends and breakthroughs in technological innovation and production. In 1750 most of the world’s manufacturing activity took place in China and India but then between 1750 and 1880 the British Industrial Revolution transformed the European economic landscape and Britain’s share of world manufacturing increased from 2 per cent to 23 per cent. The period from 1880 to the Second World War was marked by the industrialisation of the USA and continental Europe. Students will explore the business archival record to understand the ideas and personalities behind the major technological breakthrough, including General Purpose Technologies (GPT) such as the steam engine, and important organisational advances, such as the Arkwright’s factory system. The emergence of new economic actors, including merchants, entrepreneurs, engineers and managers will also be examined in relation to the development of new industrial sectors and large-scale business operations. The general history of industrialisation will be illustrated with specific business case studies and episodes from European and North American business history. Students will gain insight into the ethics and issues of CSR during industrialisation. ‘Part 1 – the mechanical age’ is distinctive in linking technological progress with the formalisation of business and management. As well as visiting the major products, processes and associated institutions that shaped economic development the module will examine the management techniques that shaped business in the 19th and 20th centuries. The module will ask a series of fundamental questions, such as: what kinds of problems with management control were identified as organisations increased in scale? How did organisations monitor and plan technical activity? What effect did a given technology have on the development of specific sectors and national economies? How did the government and business leaders manage externalities, such as the diseases associated with urban overcrowding and pollution? The module will outline the development of management control, in parallel with the products and processes developed during the industrial revolution and into the mid-20th century. Student will be able to recall the major events of the British Industrial Revolution and related industrial movements in Europe and North America. They will also appreciate that the greatest achievement of the Industrial Revolution was not any specific invention or technological breakthrough but the wider socio-cultural and political systems that established business innovation as a core process in society. International financial markets, limited liability companies, and mass education systems were all necessary components of this new system of unfolding ‘creative destruction’. By the end of the module students will have an understanding of how technology, economy, society, and the natural world are interrelated, and how a mix of government and private organisations, profit and not-for-profit enterprises shape economic growth. Students will also benefit from a fieldtrip on this module.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To provide you with an understanding of the intellectual history shaping business and management as a field of inquiry.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The major events in the history of industrialisation between 1750 – 1950, including General Purpose Technologies, infrastructure, and urbanisation;
  • The intimate relationship between scientific knowledge, technological application and business productivity;
  • The salience of understanding the influence of technology on the structure and dynamics the business world.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Appreciate the impact of the British Industrial Revolution, and related industrial developments in continental Europe and North America, on global economic growth and business productivity;
  • Appreciate and understand how technology is designed and manufactured across a variety of industries;
  • The ability to relate commercial/economic objectives to technical processes;
  • An understanding of the relationship between entrepreneurs and technological change, and management and engineering techniques.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Use a wide range of intellectual ideas and analytical thinking to enrich your arguments;
  • Write well-crafted essays and present them in a well-structured manner;
  • Conduct independent historical and bibliographical research using a range of information sources.


The module will begin by examining claims that there is ‘New Economy’ or a ‘Knowledge Economy’ in the 21st Century that is somehow different to the past. To do this we need to define what is meant by the Industrial Revolution and why Britain was first to industrialise, compared with China, France and Holland. This will be followed by examining issues relating to industrialisation and the development of technology and associated institutional background. The finance of Industrialisation: bank, stock exchange and venture capital; The contrast between Germany and Japan, Britain and the USA. Changing organisational forms and the creation of business ‘systems’. From P form to M form and back to ‘P’ form. The routinisation of Research and Development. Understanding National Innovation Systems. Product design and manufacturing; The ‘S’ curve and economics of transition between technologies. The nature of technological novelty and significance. Productivity and technological change: Entrepreneurial failure and transition in Britain and the USA. Case Studies: • Mass Production to Flexible Specialisation • Electricity; system building and planning of infrastructure in cities • Process industry: Oils and Chemicals development of plastics • Materials: iron, steel and aluminium; • Motive Power: the development of the internal combustion engine: road, aircraft and ship – prime movers for a connected world. • Costs: environment and inequality: the costs of industrialisation

Special Features

External speakers will deliver guest lecture slots, where possible. Students will participate on a field trip to learn more about the core content covered in the module. It is expected that students participate in the fieldtrip, as this informs part of the assessment. If there is a good reason why students cannot attend, alternative local experiences and assessment can be negotiated.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Lectures • Interactive case studies • Problem-solving activities • Directed reading • Fieldtrip • Private/guided study Learning activities include: • Introductory lectures • An assignment (individual written coursework to deepen learning in a specific topic of the module chosen by you) • Fieldtrip • Case study/problem solving activities • In class debate and discussion • Private study • Use of video and online materials

Wider reading or practice35
Follow-up work20
Completion of assessment task33
Preparation for scheduled sessions20
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Alfred Chandler (1977). The Visible Hand. 

James Utterback (1996). Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation. 

David Edgerton (2008). Shock Of The Old: Technology and Global History since 1900. 

Vaclav Smil (2005). Creating the Twentieth Century: Technical Innovations of 1867-1914 and Their Lasting Impact. 

Barrie Trinder (2013). Britain's Industrial Revolution: The Making of a Manufacturing People, 1700-1870. 

Roert Hayes et al (1988). Dynamic Manufacturing: Creating the Learning Organisation. 

Vaclav Simil (2006). Transforming the Twentieth Century: Technical Innovations and Their Consequences. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Individual assignment  (1500 words) 60%
Individual assignment  (1000 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Individual assignment  (2500 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Individual assignment  (2500 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Field Trips

Students may have to cover reasonable costs incurred as part of the field trip, but these will be minimal.


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the core/recommended text as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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