Étudiant-chercheur étoile February 2013

Leslie Tomory

Postdoctoral researcher in History
McGill University

Award-winning publication: Progressive Enlightenment: The Origins of the Gaslight Industry,1780–1820

Published in: MIT Press, March 2012


"This book looks at the origins of the gaslight industry, from invention to consolidation as a large integrated urban network. It shows that the gas industry represented a new wave in the Industrial Revolution (1760-1830) because it presented characteristics that distinguished it from earlier industries such as textile and iron production. Specifically, it was based on contemporary science in the form of the pneumatic chemistry of the Chemical Revolution; it required large quantities of capital to establish and build; and finally, because of its scale as a large urban utility, it necessitated new legal, technological, and business methods to stabilize it."


Leslie Tomory proposes a different understanding of the Industrial Revolution's chronology. Specifically, the author shows that characteristics usually associated with the later nineteenth century second industrial revolution had in fact been present earlier. In addition, the book has relevance for understanding the nature of business management. Indeed, Leslie Tomory questions Alfred Chandler's well-known thesis in business history – that the railways, because of their complexity, caused the development of modern structured management in the 1850s – and claims that our comprehension of the history of management needs revision, because this complexity was present earlier, with the gas industry.