The Radical Potter: The Life and Times of Josiah Wedgwood

Holt. Nov. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9781250128348. $29.99. BIOG
In this new biography, historian Hunt (director, Victoria & Albert Museum; Cities of Empire) chronicles the life of Josiah Wedgwood (1730–95), the Briton who created the Wedgwood ceramics company—a brand famous for its commercial success and reputation for quality. Born into a family of potters whose company did well but didn’t always have tremendous success, Wedgwood soon struck out on his own to manufacture ceramics in Staffordshire. With his love of experimentation and his gift for leveraging high-placed connections, Wedgwood, along with business partner Thomas Bentley, grew the company into a commercial success whose fine earthenware, stoneware, and eventually porcelain was purchased by English and Russian royalty. Hunt also explores Wedgwood’s nonconformist political sympathies, his membership in various scientific societies, and his role in spreading British national pride by making cameos of war heroes and propagandistic pottery that commemorated naval victories. Hunt argues that Wedgwood ceramics’ success is owed to its founder’s solid commercial sense and gift for creating desirable pieces.
VERDICT A bit dry in places but will likely appeal to academics, people in the decorative arts, and history buffs who enjoy biographies that include a solid amount of cultural background.
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