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Material World: Making the Modern Factory

Bridget Kendall and guests discuss the story of the factory around the world.

Bridget Kendall and guests discuss the key components of the global story of the factory, tracing its development from eighteenth century Britain to twenty-first century China and beyond. Exploring how the factory came to shape not just the material world but entire social worlds too, they share their expert knowledge on topics such as the lives of factory workers, the capitalist and communist factory, and the changing face of manufacturing in an age of robots and smart technology.

Bridget is joined by Joshua B. Freeman, Martin Krzywdzinski, Alessandra Mezzadri and Nina Rappaport. The sociologist Ching Kwan Lee also shares her insights into factory life in Shenzhen as it transformed in the late twentieth century.

Image: Illustration of an old 18th century factory. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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41 minutes

Last on

Tue 15 May 2018 23:06GMT


Guests and further reading...

Joshua B Freeman is a Distinguished Professor of History at Queens College and the Graduate Centre of City University New York

Martin Krzywdzinski is Head of the Project Group ‘Globalization, Work, and Production’ at The WZB Berlin Social Science Center.

Nina Rappaport is an architectural critic, curator, educator, and consultant. She is the director of the think tank, Vertical Urban Factory, which includes a book, exhibition, research branch and consultancy for spaces for manufacturers in cities.

Alessandra Mezzadri is a Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at SOAS, University of London.


Joshua Freeman (2018) Behemoth: A History of The Factory and the Making of the Modern World. W. W. Norton & Company.

Ulrich Jürgens & Martin Krzywdzinski  (2016) New Worlds of Work. Varieties of Work in Car Factories in the BRIC Countries. Oxford University Press.

Ching Kwan Lee (1998) Gender and the South China Miracle: Two Worlds of Factory Women, University of California Press.

Alessandra Mezzadri (2017) The Sweatshop Regime: Labouring Bodies, Exploitation and Garments Made in India. Cambridge University Press.

Nina Rappaport (2016) Vertical Urban Factory. Actar.


  • Sat 12 May 2018 19:06GMT
  • Tue 15 May 2018 08:06GMT
  • Tue 15 May 2018 17:06GMT
  • Tue 15 May 2018 23:06GMT

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