This paper reflects on aspects of industrial and political history in Birmingham from the 1830s to the 1930s. Its object is to consider the strategies adopted by capital and labour in response to the challenges posed by successive phases of capitalist industrialization, urbanization and bureau-cratization. A convenient way to begin is by responding critically to the approach exemplified by the work of Richard Price and Clive Behagg. Although there are differences of emphasis, Price and Behagg have both explored workshop-based craft traditions, paternalistic labour management strategies and the complex links between them. They pay attention to the broader matrix of forces surrounding industry, including the impact of political movements. However, their main concern is the implementation of specific profit-seeking strategies in the sphere of production and the responses of key social actors, especially artisans and large employers, whose interests are advanced or harmed by these strategies. The master process, implicitly at least, is capitalist industrialization as shaped by the dynamics of domestic and international competition.