Sunday, 22 May 2011


When M&I found out about Made in Britain by Evan Davis it got rather excited. Then the book arrived (thanks to Little, Brown) in its terribly dull dust jacket and expectations leveled.

Made in Britain is a misleading title. Davis' account is really an economic review of the UK. Therefore it contains very little on (physical) items created here. He visits BAE Systems, McLaren and Brompton - focusing on already well known British manufacturing success stories.

Davis writes in a manner similar to his presenting style on Radio 4 - convivial and easy to understand. There are some nice passages on the history of British manufacturing in the chapter entitled 'How We Got Here' plus some interesting examples of previous 'Back Britain' campaigns (including a 'Help Britain Pen Pal Club' which encouraged children to 'create new friends... future business contacts for your country'; a 60s version of LinkedIn for kids?) Despite these bursts of interesting material, the book suffers from a pervading feeling that it is merely an accompaniment to the TV series of the same name.

"We need to reorient resources away from domestic consumption towards the production of items that can help pay our way in the world," says Davis, in one of his many musings on the importance of manufacturing to the UK economy. He argues his case well throughout, providing a sensible level of optimism on the role of manufacturing working alongside other industries.

Made in Britain is enjoyably upbeat and serves as a sound introduction to how Britain makes money. However, if you are looking for in-depth analysis of the products we make and the people who make them you might want to look elsewhere. It will be interesting to see how the forthcoming TV series works alongside the book.

Reviews of Made in Britain can also be found on the Financial Times and The Independent

Evan Davis is appearing at Foyles on Charing Cross Road on 21st June. Tickets are free and available here.

Photo of Brompton bicycle frame parts from M&I's Facebook album of the visit in March 2011