Today it seems a brave, or even reckless, assertion to suggest that Britain might have shaped the manufacturing world. Yet, looking back through history, there is a grubby British thumb-print on many of the world’s manufacturing industries. In my forthcoming book I try to explore the assertion by unfolding what is quite a remarkable story.

I am not saying that Britain alone created the manufacturing world, but, as I will explain, it almost certainly started a process that would continue over many decades. The role played by Britain diminished as that played by other nations increased, but it didn’t disappear; indeed, it remained strongly influential.

My interest in the subject was sparked by research I carried out for my books on how the British army was supplied in the two world wars (War on Wheels, Ordnance and Dunkirk to D Day).

I was bowled over by the wholehearted commitment of all manner of businesses of Britain in support of the war effort. I had to discover who was behind these companies, where they had come from, but also where they went. It soon became clear that the questions, although related, could not be accommodated in the same volume, so this volume began by research into the first two: whence they had come.