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Trailblazing Georgians (Hardback)

The Unsung Men Who Helped Shape the Modern World

P&S History Social History Colour Books Georgian Era 18th Century

By Mike Rendell
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 154
Illustrations: 20
ISBN: 9781473886094
Published: 15th January 2020


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Other books deal with the men under the spotlight of fame – the ‘lead singers’ of the Industrial Revolution. What this book tries to do is to focus on the ‘other boys in the band’ – the less famous inventors, artists, engineers and industrialists who played their part in the enormous changes that occurred in the eighteenth century.

You will not find James Watt, Josiah Wedgwood or Richard Arkwright – they have hogged the limelight long enough. Instead, you will meet the men who made their mark and then faded into obscurity – the man who came up with Sheffield Plate (Boulsover) and helped bring silver decorative ware into the reach of the general public; the man who heralded the development of costume jewellery by using an alloy resembling gold (Pinchbeck); the men who used papier-mache strong enough to make chairs, and versatile enough to make lacquer-ware as fine as anything found in China (Baskerville and Clay).

It is a book about scientists and engineers operating in areas which were completely new – Smeaton in civil engineering, Maudslay in machine tool manufacture, Repton in landscape gardening and Bakewell in the selective breeding of animals. It is also about entertainers like Astley, who introduced variety acts into circus performances – the forerunner of modern mass entertainment. It features J.J. Merlin, a clockmaker who inspired the young Babbage to develop an interest in the field of computing. These artists, scientists, inventors and industrialists all feature because, by some quirk of fate, they have never received the acclaim which they deserve.

Good introduction to a number of men in a few different areas of study or entertainment. One right after the other, a brief biography and work life. Some primary imagery and text to go along with pretty much all of them.

NetGalley, Alexandra Roth

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a very readable collection of pen portraits of about 30 lesser-known, forgotten or over-shadowed inventors with a wide variety of interests who were active in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century Britain, the "Age of Enlightenment".
The passage of time, personal qualities and situation of these men, their contemporaries and, for some, their descendants have not been kind to them; during their life times they did not get much recognition and by now they are largely forgotten. In many instances, for example, contemporary innovators who took advantage of the inventions and were wealthy enough to patent their model had the financial benefit, the fame and, now, have the place in our history books.
It is important to remember that developments in ideas during the Enlightenment were not restricted to certain places, areas of interest nor social groups. One of the most characteristic aspects of that era was the increasing interest in the cross-fertilisation of ideas between people and across places. There were many cogs in that wheel of intellectual, social and practical change; this book outlines some key players that should be added to the conventional hall of fame.
"Trailblazing Georgians" is an ideal introduction for anyone studying Georgian Britain and the Enlightenment. It would be an excellent addition to the history curriculum for UK schools.

NetGalley, AliceMaud Mary

Featured in

The Bookseller, October 2019
 Mike Rendell

About Mike Rendell

This is Mike's eighth book, all of them about Georgian England. His interest in the period was inspired by a fascinating cache of papers left by his 18th Century ancestors. He has written a general social history, a story about the founder of the modern circus, an introduction to the Georgians and to the Regency period, as well as books on art-related subjects. He spends his time, when not writing, giving lectures about life in Georgian Britain, both in England and abroad, and on cruise liners. He divides his time between homes in Spain and on the edge of Dartmoor.

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Trailblazing Women of the Georgian Era offers a fascinating insight into the world of female inequality in the Eighteenth Century. It looks at the reasons for that inequality – the legal barriers, the lack of education, the prejudices and misconceptions held by men – and also examines the reluctance of women to compete on an equal footing. Why did so many women accept that ‘a woman’s place was in the home’? Using seventeen case studies of women who succeeded despite all the barriers and opposition, the author asks why, in the light of their success, so little progress was made in the…

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