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Boosey & Hawkes: The rise and fall of a wind instrument manufacturing empire

Howell, Jocelyn (2016). Boosey & Hawkes: The rise and fall of a wind instrument manufacturing empire. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


For over 150 years the names Boosey and Hawkes dominated the British music scene, at first independently, and from 1930, in response to the difficult trading conditions of the Depression, as a single firm – Boosey & Hawkes. Although it was run as one company it comprised two divisions – the publishing business and instrument manufacturing. This thesis examines the history, role and significance of Boosey & Hawkes and its associated companies as musical instrument makers. Acquisition of new firms played an important part in business expansion, and particular focus is given here to the complex and lengthy incorporation of Besson & Co. into Boosey & Hawkes.

The influence of Boosey & Hawkes extended far beyond Great Britain; in its heyday, besides providing wind instruments for the numerous civilian bands at home, the company supplied instruments to military regiments of the British armed forces, resulting in global distribution. Consequently the company became a symbol both of the British Empire and of British music. After the upheaval of the Second World War hand-crafting instruments gave way to mass production with many instruments made for educational purposes. Productivity increased, but quality-control declined, and it has been argued that the more successful new instruments were essentially the result of old-fashioned craftsmanship. These changing methods of manufacture are appraised here, and instrument design and innovation are examined and evaluated.

During the 1960s and 1970s Boosey & Hawkes monopolised the market and the firm became one of the largest and most successful instrument manufacturing companies in the world. However, competition from companies abroad, mismanagement and bad workmanship caused the demise and eventual closure of Boosey & Hawkes instrument-making division in 2003.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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