General State of Industry - Introductory

THE history of the development of the textile trades and their organization after 1600 is the story, first of the development of a capitalist class, the clothiers, who provided the raw material for their poorer folk to work up in their own homes, paid them wages and sold the finished product;1 later, of the rise of the small, energetic capitalists to rapid fame and fortunes.2 It is a story that has been often written, and has been taken as typifying the development of capitalism in all industry; but the non-textile trades provide as interesting a story, and one that does not follow exactly the same course, and it is with them that we are principally concerned.

In the period 1700-1750, practically all the trades and industries that exist to-day had their beginnings. It was in this period that capital was really invested in mines and a great return received.

It is necessary to summarize what has already been said of industry in the seventeenth century before the lines of development in the early eighteenth can be made clear. The main point is that localities were no longer self-contained industrially. Mining, which had always been a localized industry, led the way. Then agriculture followed; the slopes of the hills were the best grazing in the country, and the sheep farms were fixed on the Pennines, Salisbury Plain, and in Suffolk, where large stretches of heath and common made sheep farming profitable.

The fact that specialized agriculture and mining were early located in various parts of the country meant that the allied industries of spinning, weaving, and tanning, smelting and rough metalwork also began to be localized. Developing parallel with this, however, were the other industries that had grown out of the " miller-blacksmith " type of work, e.g. the leather workers, the potters, the farm implement makers, the hardware makers, the brewers, the millers, none of whom had anything in common with the development of the textiles, and whose economic organization in the eighteenth century was different.

Moreover, there were the water companies, the canal companies, and the shipping companies which, though they were closely connected with the regulated companies, yet were not examples of the development that is seen in the textile trades. At the beginning of the eighteenth century all these latter industries were becoming fixed in definite localities­Macclesfield specialized in buttons, Reading in malt, Bridport in hemp,3 and so on. The two influences that made for this result were either the particular suitability of the town or the type and training of the people in it. The first cause is obvious, but the second has not as yet been sufficiently emphasized.4

1 Daniels, The Early English Cotton Industry, p. 30-33.

2 Gaskell, Artisans and Machinery, pp. 94-5.

3 Present State of Great Britain (1745), p. 20: " London is largely supplied with meal and malt by Reading barges, some of which will carry a load of twelve hundred ton."

4 W. J Ashley, Brit. Assoc. Handbook Birmingham, 1913, P. 356,

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