Progress and Poverty: An Economic and Social History of Britain, 1700-1850

By M. J. Daunton | Go to book overview

mechanization was likely to generate intense hostility because of the disruption of the existing social system. The extreme craft specialization of the putting out system in the woollen industry of the West Country created a social system which gave rise to friction and conflict, to a greater extent than either the artisan system in the woollen industry or the putting out system in the worsted trade of Yorkshire. There was, therefore, no necessary connection between the accumulation of capital in putting out and a transition to mechanization and factory production. Putting out could impose barriers, and artisan production could accommodate change: generalized models are less useful than careful analysis of the dynamics of each case.


Conclusion

Protoindustrialization excludes too much to provide the key to developments in eighteenth-century industry. Not only does it ignore domestic industry in the towns; it also ignores rural and urban industry based upon non-domestic organization. In the country, there was a wide variety of mines, mills, forges, and furnaces, and historians have made little effort to explain how these fitted into the agrarian economy, or to analyse their impact upon demographic behaviour. Domestic and plant-based industry coexisted in some areas, such as the Weald of Kent with its blast furnaces, paper-mills, and gunpowder plants as well as domestic textile production. In other areas, the two types of industry were distinct. On Tyneside, there was little in the way of domestic industry, and the industrial economy was dominated by coal-mining, salt-pans, glassworks, sulphuric acid production, and soap. Much the same was true of the Mersey, the Clyde, and south Wales. Many plant-based industries were located in the country, but they were also found within towns. Textiles were dyed and finished; there were food-processing industries such as the production of sugar; the drink trades such as beer, porter, and gin; the construction of ships and ancillary trades such as the manufacture of sails and ropes; and naval dockyards were amongst the largest industrial concerns in the eighteenth century. There were, indeed, probably more workers in plant-based industries than in protoindustrial activities. Although the debate over protoindustrialization has focused attention upon some major issues, it has also distorted the analysis of change in the eighteenth- century British economy. Perhaps the word 'protoindustrialization' with its associated explanatory model should be avoided; the older descriptive term of the 'domestic system of production' is more realistic and less prescriptive.

The rise and fall of domestic industry was influenced by the structure of farming regions and patterns of land tenure, by the ability of some areas to retain freehold or customary tenures which created the preconditions for domestic

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