Ch 11 The Industrial Revolution

CH.11-THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

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CHAPTER XI: THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

SECTION 3: TEXTILES & THE SPEENHAMLAND EXPERIMENT

 

FROM THE 16th CENTURY TO THE 18th, THE WOOL INDUSTRY REMAINED IN A STATE OF SUSPENSION DUE TO A LACK OF CAPITAL, MACHINERY AND A RESTRICTED MARKET.

IN THE WEST RIDING OF YORKSHIRE, WEAVING WAS DONE ON A DOMESTIC AND ‘COTTAGE’ INDUSTRY BASIS, BUT PROGRESS OCCURRED WITH KAY’S FLYING SHUTTLE IN THE MID-18th CENTURY.

THE SHUTTLE WAS INEXPENSIVE, BUT THERE WAS OPPOSITION IN EAST ANGLIA WHERE THERE WERE GREATER PROFITS FOR THE CLOTHIERS AND LESS LABOUR WAS REQUIRED. MEN WERE THROWN MEN OUT OF WORK.

THE WEST RIDING WELCOMED IT BECAUSE IT ADDED TO THEIR INCOME. THE MANUFACTURE OF BROAD WOOLLEN CLOTH ROSE TO 61,000 PIECES IN 1750, AND, AT THE SAME TIME, THE LENGTH OF A PIECE HAD ALMOST DOUBLED FROM 35 YDS to 60 YDS.

HOWEVER, MORE STRIKING PROGRESS WAS BEING MADE FROM COTTON GOODS IMPORTED FROM INDIA. AN ACT OF PARLIAMENT FORBADE THE IMPORT IN 1700 ON THE GROUNDS IT TOOK AWAY JOBS AND PROFITS AT HOME. THIS PROHIBITION GAVE WAY TO SUBSTITUTES MADE AT HOME.

IT WAS GOING TO BE A LONG TIME YET BEFORE COTTON YARN COULD BE MADE STRONG ENOUGH WITHOUT MIXING IT WITH LINEN AND OR WOOL.

THE LIGHTNESS, CHEAPNESS AND NOVELTY OF COTTON GOODS GAVE THEM A READY SALE.

SO, THIS NEW INDUSTRY WAS ARTIFICIALLY PLANTED AND DEPENDED ON RAW MATERIALS FROM ABROAD THAT MADE ADAPTATION AND INVENTION NECESSARY.

LANCASHIRE WAS THE START BECAUSE WOOL WAS NEEDED FOR THE WARP AND A DAMP CLIMATE FOR SPINNING COTTON YARN.

WEAVING AND SPINNING WERE SHARPLY DIVIDED. WEAVING PAID BETTER AND SPINNING WAS SLOW. IT WAS ALWAYS A PROBLEM FOR THE SPINNERS TO SUPPLY WEAVERS WITH SUFFICIENT YARN.

KAY’S FLYING SHUTTLE DOUBLED THE SPEED CLOTH COULD BE WOVEN, CREATING AN IMBALANCE AND A NEED TO IMPROVE SPINNING METHODS.

IN 1764, A BLACKBURN WEAVER NAMED HARGREAVES PRODUCED THE SPINNING JENNY, AND LATER ARKWRIGHT INVENTED THE WATER FRAME, WHICH NOT ONLY SPUN COTTON BUT PRODUCED A FINER YARN BY MIXING COTTON WOOL AND LINEN.


CROMPTON’S MULE COMBINED THE ADVANTAGE OF BOTH WATER FRAME AND SPINNING JENNY.

AT THE SAME TIME, WHITNEY’S COTTON GIN SIMPLIFIED THE EXTRACTION OF WORKABLE COTTON FROM THE PLANT. IT INCREASED THE USE OF RAW MATERIAL, AND THERE WAS A HUGE INCREASE IN PLANTATION SLAVERY IN THE COTTON STATES OF THE USA.

THE BALANCE BETWEEN WEAVING AND SPINNING WAS AGAIN DESTROYED, THIS TIME IN FAVOUR OF SPINNING.

CARTWRIGHT’S POWER LOOM ENABLED THE WEAVER TO OUTPACE THE SPINNER, AND OTHER INVENTIONS CONCERNED WITH WOOLCOMBING AND PRINTING OF CALICOS WERE INTRODUCED.

GREATER DEVELOPMENTS WERE NEEDED THAT REQUIRED EXTERNAL POWER, SUPPLIED FIRST BY WATER. THIS PLACED DEVELOPMENT BEYOND THE DOMESTIC INDUSTRY AND WORKER.

THIS LED TO THE CREATION OF FACTORIES WHERE MASSES OF SPINNERS AT FIRST, THEN WEAVERS, WORKED FOR A WAGE PAID FOR BY EMPLOYERS, WHO NOT ONLY OWNED THE MATERIAL THAT WAS BEING WORKED, BUT ALSO THE INSTRUMENTS THAT WERE USED AND THE PLACE WHERE THE WORK WAS DONE.

BY 1788, THERE WERE 143 WATER MILLS. IN 1785, STEAM WAS INTRODUCED TO DRIVE SPINNING MACHINERY, AND IT RAPIDLY DROVE OUT DEPENDABLE WATER POWER.

THE DISCOVERY OF LARGE COAL DEPOSITS KEPT THE INDUSTRY GOING IN LANCASHIRE, AND, BY THE END OF THE CENTURY, COTTON CAPITALISTS WERE ‘STEAM MILL MAD’.

A WITNESS BEFORE THE FACTORY COMMISSION OF 1833 DESCRIBED THE RECRUITS AS COMING FROM AGRICULTURAL PARTS OF WALES, SCOTLAND AND IRELAND. PEOPLE LEFT OTHER OCCUPATIONS FOR SPINNING AND HIGHER WAGES.

SKILLS WERE LEARNED IN SPINNING AND WEAVING, BUT EVEN CHILDREN WERE PUT TO THE MILLS AS HANDICRAFTSMEN LOST THEIR OCCUPATION. THE IRISH, REDUCED TO STARVATION BY ENGLISH RULE, AND LABOUR FROM RURAL BRITAIN, FLEEING FROM VAST DISTRESSED AREAS, TURNED MANUFACTURE INTO AN ‘INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION’.

THE CONDITIONS AND FORTUNES OF THE INDUSTRIAL WORKERS IN THE TOWNS WILL BE DEALT WITH IN A LATER CHAPTER.

UNTIL 1790, MACHINES AND MILLS WERE CONFINED TO LANCASHIRE’S COTTON INDUSTRY, BUT, WHEN MACHINES WERE APPLIED TO THE WOOLEN INDUSTRY, HARDLY A SINGLE COUNTY OF ENGLAND REMAINED UNAFFECTED.

THIS ALL OCCURRED BECAUSE THE ENCLOSURES LED TO THOUSANDS OF WORKERS BEING FORCED FROM THE LAND. PRICES WERE ALSO RISING FASTER THAN WAGES, AND HAND SPINNERS AND WEAVERS’ DOMESTIC INDUSTRY FINALLY WENT UNDER.

 IN 1795, WHEAT STOOD AT 75 SHILLINGS A QUARTER, AND AVERAGE WAGES WERE EIGHT SHILLINGS A WEEK. RIOTS BROKE OUT, AND FOOD WAS SEIZED, NOT PILLAGED, TO BE RESOLD AT A LOWER PRICE. IN FACT, THE RIOTS WERE A WAY OF FIXING THE PRICE AT A REASONABLE LEVEL.

THE AUTHORITIES HAD TWO OPTIONS, BUT NO PRACTICAL MEANS OF FIXING A PRICE. ONE WAS TO FIX WAGES BASED ON THE COST OF LIVING. THE OTHER WAS TO SUBSIDISE WAGES FROM THE RATES.

 AT SPEENHAMLAND IN BERKSHIRE ON MAY 6TH 1795, MAGISTRATES STATED THAT “EVERY POOR INDUSTRIOUS MAN” SHOULD HAVE THREE SHILLINGS FOR HIMSELF AND ONE SHILLING AND SIX PENCE FOR EACH MEMBER OF HIS FAMILY WHEN THE ‘GALLON’ LOAF COST ONE SHILLING.

THIS ALLOWANCE ACCOUNTED FOR AN INCREASE IN THE PRICE OF BREAD. THE DECISION BECAME KNOWN AS THE SPEENHAMLAND ACT AND HAD THE FORCE OF LAW.

THE COST WAS SOON FELT WHEN THE ‘POOR RATE’, WHICH STOOD AT £ 700,000 IN 1750, ROSE TO £4,000,000 BY 1800 THEN LATER TO £7,000,000. BETWEEN 1810 AND 1834, IT FELL BELOW £6,000,000 IN ONLY SIX OF THE 14 YEARS.

DURING THE 18th CENTURY, THE POOR LAW SYSTEM HAD BEEN BASED ON RELIEF FOR A PERSON IN THE PARISH WHERE HE WAS BORN AND WORKED, WHEN THE POPULATION WAS STABLE. HOWEVER, THE MIGRATION OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AND THE SPEENHAMLAND SYSTEM MADE PAUPERS EXPENSIVE TO THE RATEPAYER, BUT PROFITABLE TO THE EMPLOYING CLASSES, AND DEALT THE OLD POOR LAW ITS DEATH BLOW.

BY 1720, THE ERECTION OF WORKHOUSES BEGAN, AND THE POOR STARTED TO WORK FOR NOTHING. THOSE WHO WANTED SUBSIDIES WERE SENT TO THEM. COSTS AT THE WORKHOUSE WERE ONLY £350 PER PERSON A YEAR. CONDITIONS WERE DREADFUL. THE INMATES WERE TAUGHT TO SPIN AND WEAVE, AND THOUSANDS WERE ‘DEPORTED’ TO LANCASHIRE. BEING DEFENCELESS, THEY FORMED THE IDEAL HUMAN MATERIAL FOR THE COTTON MASTERS. THEIR SCANDALOUS TREATMENT WAS EVENTUALLY THE STARTING POINT FOR FACTORY LEGISLATION.

 WHATEVER THE INTENTION OF THE BERKSHIRE MAGISTRATES, WHO WERE NO PHILANTHROPISTS, THE SPEENHAMLAND ACT PROVED LITTLE MORE THAN A SUBSIDY FOR LOW WAGES AND LED TO THE PAUPERISATION OF THE WORKING PEOPLE OF ENGLAND AND REACTION TO THE POOR LAW BASTILLES OF THE ACT OF 1834 (EXPLAINED LATER IN CHAPTER XIII).

FARMERS AND OTHER EMPLOYERS CUT WAGES KNOWING THEY WOULD BE MADE UP BY THE RATES. IN ENGLAND, LABOUR WAS REDUCED TO BEING AUCTIONED.

THE SYSTEM WAS MOST PROFITABLE FOR THE EMPLOYERS. THEY COULD TRANSFER PART OF THE COSTS OF LABOUR ONTO THE RATEPAYERS WHO EMPLOYED LITTLE OR NO LABOUR.

SMALL FARMERS SUFFERED MOST AS THE PRICE OF CATTLE AND DAIRY PRODUCE, ON WHICH THEY DEPENDED, ROSE LESS THAN CORN. NOW THEY WERE BEING ASKED TO SUPPLEMENT THE WAGES OF THEIR SUCCESSFUL COMPETITORS, AND MANY WERE RUINED.

ANOTHER EFFECT OF THE SPEENHAMLAND SYSTEM WAS TO STIMULATE POPULATION GROWTH. A PEASANT POPULATION TENDS TO BE STABLE BECAUSE THE DIVISION OF LAND DELAYS MARRIAGE UNTIL YOUNG MEN HAVE A FARM OF THEIR OWN.

THE ENCLOSURES HAD REMOVED THE RESTRAINT BECAUSE THE LABOURER SAW NO POSSIBLE IMPROVEMENT IN HIS FORTUNE FOR WHICH IT WOULD BE REASONABLE TO WAIT.

CHILDREN WERE BECOMING A SOURCE OF INCOME, BEING SENT TO WORK AT AS YOUNG AN AGE AS POSSIBLE. THIS AND MACHINERY MEANT THAT MEN BECAME UNEMPLOYED. WOMEN AND CHILDREN WERE EXPLOITED MOST CRUELLY, AND THE HIGHER WAGES IN SPINNING PROVED OF VERY SHORT DURATION.

THE MISERY OF THE TIME WAS ACCENTUATED BY TWO EXTERNAL FACTORS: FIRST, FROM 1789-1802, THERE WERE BAD HARVESTS DUE TO WEATHER CONDITIONS; SECOND, FROM 1793-1815, THE CENTRAL PERIOD OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION WAS DOMINATED BY EUROPEAN WARS ON A SCALE UNKNOWN BEFORE.

BRITAIN ENTERED THESE WARS AN AGRICULTURAL COUNTRY AND EMERGED FROM THEM AS AN INDUSTRIAL NATION.

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