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MAKING THE MODERN WORLD
Stories about the lives we've made

module:Textiles: From domestic to factory production

The Industrial Revolution and the textiles industries

page:Changes in everyday life

Traditionally, cloth was produced in people's houses or in workshops attached to the clothiers' houses. The essential principles of making wool or cotton cloth are simple, from producing the thread to weaving and finishing the material.

To see images of some of the stages and processes, look in detail at this scene on producing cloth in the home.


STORY: Rise of the factory system
SCENE: Domestic manufacture
launch scene

Initial changes to textile production began with spinning innovations, and later with weaving inventions. They occurred in both the cotton and the woollen industries and generally took place in the cotton industry first. These important changes are represented visually below.

ACTIVITY

 

Text only version

The first inventions in spinning could have been adopted within the domestic system. Early jennies and mules were small machines with several hand-operated spindles.

One of the earlier inventors and entrepreneurs, Richard Arkwright, saw that such a move would destroy the value of his patent. Small versions would be produced with no financial benefit to him. Instead he sold the rights to his patent for the Spinning Jenny to those prepared to invest in a factory using 1000 spindles at a time. You can read more about Arkwright and his inventions in the following scene.


STORY: Rise of the factory system
SCENE: Richard Arkwright
launch scene

The use of such large machinery meant that from then on textiles were increasingly produced in factories requiring large sources of power. This shift from domestic to factory production was one of the most far-reaching changes of the period, with enormous consequences for the workers themselves. The textile industry pioneered an approach that was later to become common in other industries. We will examine this transformation using a variety of types of evidence.

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