The machine tool industry formed a small but vital part of Britain's manufacturing sector, and this study examines its development over the twentieth century. The importance of the industry's contribution to the health and efficiency of the manufacturing economy was reflected in the influential Mitchell Report of 1960. While the report was a public condemnation of the industry's technical record, it nevertheless recognised that the British machine tool industry had developed a reputation 'throughout the world as an excellent producer of standard machine tools of all categories: it supplies almost the whole home demand for such machine tools and exports approximately 30 per cent of its production'. 1 The industry exerted an influence far greater than its actual size, and consequently its analysis requires an engagement, at various points, with broad themes associated with the performance of British industry in the twentieth century. In particular, the industry is located within debates over Britain's long-run manufacturing decline and issues of modernisation, which from the late 1950s envisaged institutional reform, involving co-operation between business, labour and the state as a panacea for the declining competitiveness of manufacturing. 2 The machine tool industry at various stages of its evolution received scathing criticism over its performance, but, as we shall demonstrate, it also produced positive outcomes that marked it as an important sector of the British manufacturing economy.