Ch 06 The New Monarchy and the Bourgeoise

Ch.06-The New Monarchy and Bourgeoisie

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CHAPTER VI: NEW MONARCHY AND BOURGEOISIE

SECTION 1: THE CLOTHING INDUSTRY

 

IT WAS DURING THE POLITICAL TURMOIL OF THE 15th CENTURY THAT ENGLAND PASSED FROM BEING A PRODUCER OF WOOL TO BEING A MANUFACTURER OF CLOTH.


THIS EMPLOYED FEWER PEOPLE THAN AGRICULTURE AND WAS A DECISIVE FEATURE OF ENGLISH ECONOMIC LIFE.

THE TEXTILE INDUSTRY DEVELOPED IN EAST ANGLIA, AROUND NORWICH, BECAUSE OF ITS CLOSE PROXIMITY TO FLANDERS. PREVIOUSLY, THIS AREA HAD EXPORTED CORN. EAST ANGLIAN MIXED FARMING OF CORN AND SHEEP CONTINUED, BUT THE WOOL WAS OF AN INFERIOR QUALITY.


FLEMISH CRAFTSMEN SETTLED, AND THE NEWCOMERS TAUGHT LOCAL PEOPLE TO WEAVE IN VILLAGES LIKE KERSEY AND WORSTED, WHICH GAVE THEIR NAME TO THE CLOTH.


THE FIRST EXPORTS WERE IN A HALF FINISHED STATE, BEING SENT TO FLANDERS FOR DYEING AND SHEARING, BUT THE PROFIT REMAINED IN FLEMISH HANDS.


IN 1434, FLANDERS PROHIBITED THE IMPORT OF ENGLISH CLOTH FOLLOWING DISPUTES OVER WOOL PRICES, AND THE DAMAGE CAUSED TO FLANDERS LED TO ITS INDUSTRIAL DECLINE. EVEN AFTER HENRY VII RE-ESTABLISHED TRADE IN 1496, THE INDUSTRY STILL DECLINED.

THE RESULT WAS THE ENGLISH MANUFACTURED THE CLOTH ON AN INDUSTRIAL SCALE, ALMOST FROM THE START AND ALONG CAPITALIST LINES, ONCE THE LARGE SCALE EXPORT OF CLOTH OCCURRED. WOOL GROWERS HAD BEEN ACCUSTOMED TO SELLING THEIR ‘CLIP’ IN BULK.


THE ‘CLOTHIER’, AS THE WOOL CAPITALIST WAS EVENTUALLY CALLED, BEGAN SELLING YARN TO THE WEAVERS AND BUYING THE CLOTH BACK FROM THEM.


SOON, THE CLOTHIERS HAD EVERY PROCESS UNDER THEIR CONTROL. THEY BOUGHT RAW WOOL, GAVE IT TO THE SPINNERS, MOSTLY WOMEN AND CHILDREN WORKING IN THEIR COTTAGES, COLLECTED IT AGAIN AND THEN HANDED IT TO THE WEAVERS, DYERS, FULLERS AND SHEARMEN, PAYING EACH PROCESS AT FIXED RATES.


A STATUTE OF 1465 GIVES DETAILS OF FRAUDS AND FALSE WEIGHTS.

THE ‘TRUCK ACT’ ORDERED THAT WAGES BE PAID IN “TRUE AND LAWFUL MONEY,” NOT IN PINS AND GIRDLES AND OTHER UNPROFITABLE WARES.

PROFITS WERE ENOURMOUS FOR THE CAPITALISTS. THE INDUSTRY SPREAD TO SOMERSET AND WEST RIDING. BRISTOL AND HULL WERE INVOLVED IN EXPORTS, BECAME WEALTHY AND HAD INCREASED INFLUENCE.

A HIGHER STAGE OF CONCENTRATION WAS REACHED WHEN THE CLOTHIERS BEGAN TO COLLECT ARTISANS UNDER ONE ROOF TO CARRY OUT THE WHOLE INDUSTRIAL PROCESS THERE. VIVIDLY DESCRIBED BY NORWICH WEAVER THOMAS DELONEY (1543-1600), THIS STIRRED PROTESTS BY WEAVERS.

SOME OF THE EVILS ARE DESCRIBED IN THE PREAMBLE OF THE ACT OF 1555, WHICH AIMED TO LIMIT THEM.

THE ACT WENT ON TO LIMIT THE NUMBER OF LOOMS THAT EACH CLOTHIER MIGHT KEEP IN HIS HOUSE. IT EFFECTIVELY CHECKED INDUSTRIAL RATHER THAN DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENT.

(IT WAS POSSIBLE THAT THE EXTRA PROFIT WAS NOT SUFFICIENT AT THIS TIME.)

THE CLOTHIERS WERE THUS UNABLE TO SECURE A MONOPOLY CONTROL.

(SEE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION, LATER.)

RISING PROFIT RAISED ANOTHER ISSUE IN INTERNATIONAL TRADE: A CURRENCY CRISIS IN THE LATER PART OF THE 15th CENTURY - THE INCREASED DEMAND FOR GOLD AND SILVER, THE ONLY SATISFACTORY MEANS OF EXCHANGE WHEN CREDIT WAS IN ITS INFANCY.

EUROPE COULD NOT MEET THE DEMAND.

THERE WAS PROBABLY LESS GOLD IN CIRCULATION IN ABOUT 1450 THAN DURING THE ROMAN PERIOD.

SILVER WAS MINED IN GERMANY BUT WAS NOT SUFFICIENT, AND THERE WAS A REAL SHORTAGE OF PRECIOUS METALS, ESPECIALLY GOLD.

ALL COUNTRIES ATTEMPTED TO PREVENT THE EXPORT OF BULLION. EDWARD IV OF ENGLAND MADE IT A FELONY TO DO SO.

ENTER COLOMBUS AND THE DESIRE TO FIND NEW SUPPLIES, WHICH GAVE THE IMPULSE FOR GEOGRAPHICAL DISCOVERIES IN THE 16th CENTURY. THIS OPENED UP VAST NEW TERRITORIES FOR EUROPEAN EXPLOITATION.

COLOMBUS WROTE:

“GOLD CONSTITUTES TREASURE, AND HE WHO POSSESSES IT HAS ALL HE NEEDS IN THIS WORLD AND HAS ALSO THE MEANS OF RESCUING SOULS FROM PURGATORY AND RESTORING THEM TO THE ENJOYMENT OF PARADISE.”

HE WAS FULLY AWARE OF THE NATURE OF HIS OBJECTIVE.

HIS VOYAGE WAS THE SIGNAL FOR THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE FIRST GOLD RUSH - THE GREATEST EVER, AND, IN EFFECT, THE WORLD’S MOST FAR REACHING.

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