Diffusion of technology in flour milling and the emergence of the modern British milling industry

  • R.G. Jones

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy


The fact that traditional methods of producing flour were replaced
by highly mechanised processes, using roller mills, is well known. The
speed of technical change from the end of the 1870s and the emergence of
the modern British milling industry has already been described in general
terms, but a detailed and connected account and an analysis of the technological
and organisational activity is lacking.

The pioneering insights of Henry Simon and other milling engineers
enabled the British milling industry to adopt gradual reduction methods of
roller milling on a scale and at a speed sufficient to counter the growing
challenge of foreign flour supplies.

Several hundred British master millers soon became aware of the
opportunities of innovative action and despite their largely individualist
outlooks they associated closely for the discussion of technical matters
and organisational problems.

A record of technical changes exists in milling journals, in
specialist milling literature and in patent specifications; the journal
The Miller is the most important single source of information for the
period 1875 to 1914. Using these principal sources, this study deals with
the diffusion of roller milling in Britain, the connections with developments
abroad and with commercial problems which resulted from major
expansions of milling capacity at the ports. There is also discussion of
the network of communication that resulted from the formation of the
National Association of British and Irish Millers.

Detailed business records were not available, but it has been
possible to show the importance of individual initiatives and to present
an account of the course of technological change. ‘This has involved an
examination of the processes of decision-making during innovation.
Date of Award1985
Original languageEnglish


  • flour milling
  • British milling industry
  • diffusion of technology

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