The Impact of Change on the West Midland Nail Trade. c.1760 -1914
I studied Economic History as an undergraduate. One module of the course was an introduction to the study of local history, led by the ‘father’ of local history, W. G. Hoskins. It was a tantalising but brief insight into the subject, and was one that I was keen to pursue when the opportunity arose. That opportunity came in 2008, when I embarked upon the MA in West Midlands History. The programme was fascinating and varied; each lecturer an acknowledged expert in their field; the course led by the energetic, enthusiastic and supportive Dr Malcolm Dick.
My MA dissertation dealt with the Birmingham cut-nail trade during the nineteenth century. With Malcolm Dick as my supervisor, I have now embarked on a part-time PhD. The aim of my research is to examine the rise and decline of the West Midland cut-nail trade between c.1811 and 1914. The history of the nail trade - the machine-cut nail trade in particular – has largely been ignored by historians, and yet nail making was of enormous importance in eighteenth-and nineteenth-century Britain. During much of the nineteenth century, the West Midlands led the way in the manufacture of cut nails although, by the last quarter of the century, the region was being overtaken by other manufacturing centres and new technologies. The focus of my research will be to find out just why, having achieved a position of pre-eminence before 1870, West Midland manufacturers allowed this to happen.