Article | Business History | January 1994

Foreign Multinationals in British Manufacturing, 1850-1962

by G. Jones and Frances Bostock


This article draws on a new database to describe the dimensions and characteristics of 685 foreign companies which established British manufacturing subsidiaries between 1850 and 1962. The numbers of foreign companies grew from the 1890s, expanded rapidly in the inter-war years, and even more rapidly from the 1950s. The majority were American, and were clustered in chemicals, mechanical and electrical engineering, metal goods, motor vehicles and food products. The majority of foreign firms established greenfield plants in Britain, but there were a significant number of acquisitions from 1900, and this became an important mode of entry from 1950. Many foreign investors were of modest size, and a considerable number of investors were short lived. The majority of factories were always in the south-east of England, but there was a surge of investment in Scotland and Wales after 1945. Foreign-owned companies began to undertake R&D activity in Britain from the inter-war years, and had a notable propensity to engage in foreign trade.

Keywords: Multinational Firms and Management; Business Subsidiaries; Expansion; Chemicals; Metals and Minerals; Food; Mergers and Acquisitions; Market Entry and Exit; Research and Development; Trade; Investment; Production; United Kingdom; United States; Scotland; Wales;


Jones, G., and Frances Bostock. "Foreign Multinationals in British Manufacturing, 1850-1962." Business History 36, no. 1 (January 1994): 89–126.