GKN in 1925 was a much altered entity from the three companies which had merged in 1900–2 to form the core of the group. By the early 1920s it had collected a number of subsidiary companies; its activities were extended by both horizontal and vertical integration; it was in the process of building up several overseas subsidiaries, which by the 1930s were to include Australia, India and Sweden within their territory. Overall control of the company could no longer be mastered by one man and a few deputies, advised by non-executive directors, as in the days of Arthur Keen.2 The complex and fluctuating circumstances of the interwar period caused the group to take two major changes of direction: first, into coal, and subsequently away from coal and heavy steel towards its established base in light engineering. The 1920s and 1930s were difficult times for GKN and perhaps produced more fundamental change, not all to the good, than had been seen over the previous century.
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