The so-called 'industrial revolution' is most commonly presented as a history of machines or a relentless process of innovation that sprang from a new kind of scientific thought forged in the eighteenth century. But, as it emerges in Gavin Weightman's fascinating social history, machines are mere gadgets unless there are people to make good use of them. "The Industrial Revolutionaries" interweaves accounts of the achievements of giants such as Trevithick, Stevenson, Watt, Wedgwood, Daimler, Bessemer and Edison with lesser-known characters who carried industrialism from one nation to another, like the young Japanese Samurai who risked their lives to learn the secrets of Western industrial might. In his account of the spread of industrialism from Britain to Europe, North America and Japan, Gavin Weightman resurrects many unsung pioneers from obscurity, and puts a few luminaries in their place, not least the celebrated Scot James Watt, whose brilliance had blind spots, notably his hatred of steam locomotives. The span of "The Industrial Revolutionaries" is vast, taking the story from the ironworks of rural England to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
Gavin Weightman is a social historian based in London. He has a special interest in the origins of modern society and his books include the best-selling London River: A History of the Thames, The Frozen Water Trade, an account of the American natural ice industry, and most recently a history of wireless, Signor Marconi's Magic Box.