By Philip J. Gooderson


This is a biography, business history and local history in one, for it combines the study of two hitherto unknowns - one an exceptional individual, and the other the linoleum industry that he spawned.


James Williamson, Baron Ashton, was a businessman, millionaire and eccentric who dominated the historic town of Lancaster until his death in 1930, transforming it from an old-fashioned county town into an industrial manufacturing centre. Linoleum, the product that he popularised, is one of the forgotten features of the consumer revolution of the late nineteenth century.


In a detailed and well-illustrated account, Philip Gooderson examines the competitiveness of British industry, the political developments of the period and major debates on British entrepreneurialism at the turn of the century to support his argument that, having founded an empire of some 4,000 employees, Ashton deserves the some sort of recognition as that usually accorded to his better-known contemporary, W H. lever. Together with an industry-based survey of issues related to collusion, domestic and foreign markets, labour relations, technology and managerial practices during the period, Lord Linoleum also describes how the unique brand of paternalism which pervaded the Lune Mills was to have lasting implications for the development of social and political relations within the town.


Michael Winstanley of Lancaster University describes the book as "Well written and rigorously researched" and says that the book should be of interest to a number of different audiences.


Published in 1995 by Keele University Press, it contains 288 pages including a table of contents, a list of abbreviations, acknowledgements, a list of illustrations and maps, an introduction, 15 chapters, glossary, an appendix on the Williamsons of Lancaster and an index, together with 41 maps and illustrations (mainly photographic). Produced as a black and gilt hardback, sized 16cm by 24cm, it comes in a pictorial dustwrapper.


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