Smith is an expert in the field of industrial heritage. He studied at the University of Cambridge where he obtained a PhD in 1980 with a thesis on the political history of the Second French Republic. From 1979 to 1982 he worked as a researcher for the French national tobacco company (SEITA), and was subsequently a member of this company’s history committee “Seita, Terres d’Histoire”.
From 1983 to 1985, he was employed by the works committee of an aerospace factory in Chatillon-sous-Bagneux, where he prepared an exhibition and a publication entitled “Mémoire d’Usine” (“A Factory’s memory”). During the same period he also carried out two research projects financed by the French Ministry of Public Works on the commercial and industrial architecture of the Citroen Company. Since 1986 he has been working as a researcher for the heritage directorate of the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, where he has special responsibility for industrial, engineering and transport heritage. He is the author, or co-author, of several books and articles on these themes.