A broader recovery and rebalancing of the economy – speake not of iron and glasse.

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David Cameron was talking about building up the British manufacturing industry recently, speaking at the Toyota factory in Derby he said “I hope this recovery can be part of a broader recovery and rebalancing of the economy.” While I can only agree with the sentiment, the challenge is finding those things that we can build more efficiently or expertly than elsewhere. There’s not much point in attempting to go head to head with other countries where they can build a product cheaper, a problem recognised by this fellow back in the late Sixteenth Century:

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Oh how manie trades and handicrafts are now in England, whereof the common wealth hath no need? how manie needfull commodities have we which are perfected with great cost, &c: and yet may with farre more ease and lesse cost be provided from other countries if we could use the meanes. I will not speake of iron, glasse, and such like, which spoile much wood, and yet are brought from other countries better cheepe than we can make them here at home, I could exemplifie also in manie other.

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And Mr Cameron would no doubt agree with our early modern commentator, the success of English manufacturing is at its highest when we focus on quality and expertise:

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I have to saie of our husbandmen and artificers, that they were never so excellent in their trades as at this present. But as the workemanship of the later sort was never more fine and curious to the eie, so was it never lesse strong and substantiall for continuance and benefit of the buyers. Neither is there anie thing that hurteth the common sort of our artificers more than hast, and a barbarous or slavish desire to turne the penie, and by ridding their worke to make speedie utterance of their wares: which inforceth them to bungle up and dispatch manie things they care not how so they be out of their hands, whereby the buyer is often sore defrauded, and findeth to his cost, that hast maketh wast…

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Perhaps we’ve found the Prime Minister a new script writer?

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Quotes taken from ‘The Description and Historie of England’, (1587),  by Raphael Holinshed

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