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Visiting Fellows

Dr James Nye

James Nye
Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for British Politics and Government



My chief areas of interest are in financial and business history (mainly Victorian and Edwardian) and in the history of technology (largely related to the history of timekeeping.) My doctoral research (2008–2010) focused on the company promoter in the pre-Great War period, and commenced with the observation that the promoter has a uniformly poor reputation; in the press, in fiction, and in subsequent commentaries. My goal has been to discover whether this reputation is justified, or whether perhaps our view is overly coloured by the stories of a number of larger-than-life fraudsters. Through an analysis of bankruptcy records, company formation and winding-up statistics, contemporary literature and a number of case studies (of early electric clock companies in the City of London), I have arrived at a more detailed picture of the wider promotion sector – a view that places the best-known and colourful characters in a proper context amongst the vast majority of less well-known promoters. An ongoing project is to extend the period under review through till 1930 with a view to publication. I recently completed a detailed history of the Smiths Group ( from 1850 to 2007, to mark the centenary of the firm’s flotation on the London Stock Exchange in 1914 – see I am chairman of the Antiquarian Horological Society ( and sit on its editorial advisory board. I am also a Court assistant of the  Worshipful Company of Clockmakers 



James Nye, A Long Time in Making – The History of Smiths (Oxford: OUP, October 2014). See 

James Nye, ‘Boom, crisis, bust: speculators, promoters and journalists in the City 1880–1914’, in Steve Schifferes and Richard Roberts (eds) Soothsayers of Doom: the Media and Financial Crises (London: Routledge, September 2014).

James Nye and David Rooney, ‘“Such Great Inventors as the Late Mr. Lund”: an Introduction to the Standard Time Company, 1870–1970’, Antiquarian Horology (December 2007), 30, 501–523. Alan Shenton Memorial Prize from the AHS, 2008.

David Rooney and James Nye, ‘“Greenwich Observatory Time for the Public Benefit”: Standard Time and Victorian Networks of Regulation’, British Journal for the History of Science, 42(1): 5–30, March 2009.IEEE Life Members' Prize in Electrical History from the Society for the History of Technology, 2009. 



Conference and Symposium Papers

Engineered for Growth Symposium, Miami, May 2014: ‘Smiths – A Historical Perspective’.

NAWCC Ward Francillon Time Symposium, Pasadena, November 2013: ‘From Bain to Shortt: Electrical Timekeeping, 1840–1940’.

London Group of Historical Geographers Symposium: Time, Modernity and the City, Autumn 2012: ‘The Tricky Business of Selling Time – an exploration of European civic time distribution systems, their financing and failure.

’British Academy Symposium: Soothsayers of Doom? December 2011: ‘From Boom to Bust: Speculators, Promoters and Journalists in the City in the 1890s.

’Greenwich Time Symposium June 2010: ‘“He met with an abundant share of the trials and difficulties which proverbially beset the inventor” – an account of the life of George Bennett Bowell (1875–1942).

’Monetary History Group April 2009: ‘The World of the Company Promoter in the London Capital Market: 1890–1914.

’Greenwich Time Symposium October 2008: ‘Saving daylight or saving their bacon? – Money as the motive force in Edwardian timekeeping.’



Time and Transport conference, National Maritime Museum, May 2015: ‘At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from …'

’Harrison Lecture, September 2014, ‘Past Masters and Mass Production – British Clock and Watchmaking from the Depression to the New Jerusalem’. See

Military Time conference, National Maritime Museum, May 2014: ‘Bang on Time’.

St Roche Lecture, June 2013: ‘Smiths: a long time in making – the horological history of a British industrial icon’. See

London Lecture Series, Royal Astronomical Society, July 2012: ‘A Good Time in Berlin – The remarkable clocks of Normal-Zeit’.

AHS Northern Section, July 2012: ‘Synchronome – a look behind the scenes’.

BHI West Country Section, September 2011: ‘The Importance of Being on Time: an exploration of new technologies in the transmission of information at a distance: 1850–1950’.

Electrical Timekeeping Group, AHS: March 2011: ‘Submarines and the Submergence of Synchronome: the wartime operations of the Synchronome Company and their impact on the business’. 

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