By Paul Chrystal
Rated: 5 stars *****
There is more to just eating confections than meets the eye! This is delectable book for history and confectionery lovers the world over!
This book, as much as it looks into the very being of Rowntrees and other companies, with them at the centre, it has more to it than meets the eye!
Thanks to Pen & Sword for accepting my request to review this wonderfully interesting book, which goes into little known corners of the confectionary world with its very interesting insights.
Please follow through the blurb and then onto my review to discover more…
The Rowntree family, especially Henry and the younger Joseph Rowntree are, along with the Fry’s, Cadbury’s, Mars and Terry’s, synonymous with the birth and growth of the chocolate industry in Britain. Between them, they were the chocolate industry in Britain.
This book charts the fascinating story behind the birth and development of the chocolate empire that was Rowntrees. Background information to this astonishing business comes by way of chapters on the early history of the Rowntrees, contemporary York, the relationship between Quakers and chocolate, and the Tuke family – without whom there would have been no Rowntrees, and no Kit Kats.
Henry, it is usually forgotten, was the founder of Rowntree’s – he made the momentous decision to sign the deal with the Tukes and we join him in those very early days of the fledgling company and watch how he helped it through some very dark, and sometimes humorous, times in what was then a very shambolic set up – cash strapped and making it up as the company lurched from crisis to crisis. Joseph, his elder brother, it was, who became the driving force to eventual global success, mixing his hectic business life with acts of compassion and a benevolent management model, all of which paved the way for decent wages, pensions, insurance and mutual respect in the workplace. Charity work extended beyond the factories to lift workers and others out of the slums of York to a life in a healthy model village, to provide a good social life, an extensive park, swimming pool and education for children and adults. More context is given with chapters on Joseph’s relentless industrial espionage, the advancements in chocolate production and 20th century rivals in the domestic and export markets, and mergers and acquisitions.
Rowntree’s role in the two world wars is also covered along with the struggle Joseph Rowntree had accepting the importance of advertising. Altogether this book gives two fascinating biographies of two exceptional and driven brothers who came together to form one of our greatest companies – producing some of our best loved confectionery products.
Rowntrees is about that famous family, especially Henry and Joseph who are synonymous with the birth of chocolate and in how it has grown.
It charts how Henry is the founder of Rowntrees and it details about his younger brother Joseph. It’s one for the reader with a sweet-tooth and with an interest in how these companies came about, as it has other confectionary companies mentioned too. The pace is excellent for such a historical non-fiction book. It’s interesting as Henry and Joseph Rowntree weren’t just pioneering chocolate, but also in treating their staff well. It demonstrates their philanthropy and human interest and industrial relations, influenced by them being Quakers. The book has lots of context to it and mentions Lewis Fry and George Cadbury as well as The East India Tea Company and Nestle and how events influenced their ways of working and brought about meetings with Samuel Tuke, who is a key man.
There is plenty of history, even if you don’t have a sweet-tooth as it isn’t all chocolate related. It chronicles improvements to buildings and schooling and the contributions the Rowntrees made and how Joseph, especially, had been active in so many good causes.
There’s a lot to learn about the Confectionery Industry from the Mid nineteenth century onwards. It’s written in a manner as though studies have just been done and the information is unfolding for the first time. This style of writing brings some excitement to the book, especially when talking about what chocolate contains and how cacao can be consumed. The book shows differences in branding and advertising, which is a bit like an exclusive sneaky peak behind the scenes. It’s interesting what is uncovered within the book, including competition and the concerns of industrial espionage.
As the book takes readers through the years, its pace builds up some excitement as chocolate emerges and becomes established in York, England. Although there are a lot of figures and dates, it adds to the context and doesn’t detract from the rest of the facts, so even if figures aren’t your thing, the rest of the book might well be and the pace is kept-up.
In the modern day, there seems to be more discoveries and it is exquisite that there are still old traditions that still survive today. It truly is all a delightful feast for the eyes and it may just make you want to buy some of Rowntree’s confectionary as you read the rapid rise and rise of it all as it documents drinking chocolate, eating chocolate, sweets such as humbugs and pastilles, all of which still survive today.
The book nicely and respectfully concludes with The Last Will and Testament of Henry Isaac Rowntree and the heritage and suggests where to find further reading on the subject matters within the book. Beyond that, there are pictures of the Rowntrees and George Cadbury as well as some of the architecture, landscape and advertisement posters of their times, which is a delight to see.