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Durham e-Theses
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Battleships and Dividends: The Rise of Private Armaments Firms in Great Britain and Italy,
c. 1860-1914

MARCHISIO, GIULIO (2012) Battleships and Dividends: The Rise of Private Armaments Firms in Great Britain and Italy,
c. 1860-1914.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis analyses the rise of private armaments firms in Great Britain and in Italy from
mid-19th century to the outbreak of the First World War, with a focus on naval armaments and
military shipbuilding.
During this period, the armaments industry underwent a radical transformation, moving
from being based on public-owned arsenals and yards to being based on private firms – the system
of military procurement prevalent today. The key reason behind this transformation was the
increasingly rapid evolution of military technology which started in the late 1850s and which was
especially marked in naval ordnance and warship design. Guns and vessels, which previously could
have been used for decades, were now outdated in a few years. Rapid technological change forced
governments to constantly re-equip their armed forces, thus creating the opportunity for private
firms both to supply goods which government arsenals did not make, and to supplement their
production when this was not sufficient. It also favoured the expansion of the international
armaments trade because advanced technologies were difficult to replicate. By 1914, private
armaments firms had become the leading suppliers of crucial military hardware and the driving
force behind technical innovations. Moreover, armaments firms now ranked among the largest
private companies in many economies.
This research casts fresh light on this development through a comparative analysis of the
Italian and British cases. Both countries experienced a similar trend, despite very different
economic, strategic and political conditions. Analysing the evolution of their armaments industries
thus highlights both the common long-term changes and the differences, notably in the relationship
between private companies and governments, and the level of competition inside the industry.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Armaments industry; Great Britain 1850-1914; Italy 1850-1914; Armstrong; Terni; Vickers; Ansaldo; Warships; Guns;
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:30 May 2013 14:03

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