Jean-Marc Gay and Geoffrey Schoefs
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La Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre (the National Factory of Weapons of War) is the pure product of its century and region. It could not have emerged at any other time or in any other place. Belgium’s industrial strength, and particularly that of the Liège basin, combined with a centuries-old tradition of arms-making to fulfil a mission set for the company by the national government in 1889. Namely to ensure Belgium’s military independence by manufacturing equipment for the army – Mauser rifles and cartridges – on home soil.
This publication retraces the successful history of a company that is today a global industrial force: the Herstal Group.
The story revolves around the company’s output and its ability to invent, manufacture and sell these products. It’s a story told through the industrial opportunities and major crises of a complex and sometimes tragic history.
Contemporary sources for this narrative have been tapped, wherever this proved possible. They include those who were directly involved or observers, such as journalists, politicians, inventors, engineers, directors, administrators, shareholders, employees and workers. Each and every one witnessed this story in some form or other.
The book seeks to reveal how FN has continued to trade and remain prosperous for 132 years, against a background of very different economic, industrial and social conditions. For this is a company that has weathered successive crises and upturns, alongside devastating wars and periods of patient reconstruction.
Mechanical engineering is surely the top driver for this progress and resilience. It’s clearly seen in the wide variety of FN’s products – weapons, ammunition, bicycles, cars, motorcycles, commercial vehicles, aircraft engines and more besides.
Foresight played a key role in putting this know-how into practice, enabling the company to adapt to all kinds of changes throughout this long century. FN has sidestepped the volatility of highly competitive military and civilian markets. It has achieved this by innovating, inventing and occasionally by harnessing current patents to launch new products, where the company has stamped its authority through its mechanical engineering genius.
This company also has a unique talent for seizing opportunities or creating the right conditions for these opportunities – best exemplified by the 1897 meeting with John Moses Browning. That fortuitous encounter marked the start of an exceptional partnership in the world of arms manufacturing.