This a review of this book which appeared in the Morgannwg journal, volume 46 in 2002


Edited by Peter Jackson.
South Wales Record Society, Cardiff, and Glamorgan Archive Service, Swansea, 2001.

"This publication, the sixteenth in the SWRS series, is based on the ten surviving Company copy letter-books which record day to day issues confronting the Gilbertson family, owner-managers in the steel, tin­plate and galvanising industries. They cover four decades of technical development, home and foreign trade, an increasingly organised labour force and a world war with its debilitating aftermath. As well as capturing the perceptions of Arthur Gilbertson and his sons of these events, the letters also provide an insight into the Gilbertsons' opinions, values and prejudices and their reactions to the many problems of managing a competitive industry. The letters reveal much about the community of Pontardawe, whose inhabitants were largely dependent upon the works for their employment and financial security, and also illustrate the nature of a management which was essentially paternalistic and firmly rooted in traditional values and hierarchical relationships at a time of considerable social change.

In his introduction, the editor outlines the history of the Gilbertson family, setting William Gilbertson and his descendants in a broad social, industrial and business context. A judicious and representative selection of letters from the 5,000 or so contained in the surviving ten volumes have been arranged under headings (A Family Business, Trade and Expansion, Growth and Decline, Financial Performance, Man Management, Labour Relations, Health and Safety, A Company Village, Organised Religion and Leisure Pursuits ) and each section is prefaced by a useful background 'summary' .

These letters provide an invaluable reference tool for a wide range of studies relating to industrial south Wales in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

A joint publication with the West Glamorgan Archive Service."


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