Sometimes a series of technological improvements causes dramatic change in the nature of society and in the way work is organised. The technical innovations introduced into the textile industries in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries provide an interesting example of this. They changed the manufacture of cloth from a process carried out in homes and small workshops to one carried out in large factories. So great were the changes in the textile and some other industries that this period has been described as the Industrial Revolution.
This module uses contemporary sources - texts, illustrations from the time and surviving buildings - to examine the impact of technology on the textile industry, its transformation from domestic to factory production and its effects on society.
The innovations in cotton and wool manufacture created a vast new industry, and provide an important case study in the Industrial Revolution.
To get some idea of the technology innovations in the textiles industries, explore the machines in operation in the following scene.
STORY: Rise of the factory system
SCENE: Spinning yarn