with other families in the locality who concentrated on pastoral agriculture? What opportunities existed for women to work? In the heavy industrial towns such as Merthyr Tydfil, women were often employed in sorting materials for the furnace: how did their experience change, and what were the family structures? Questions abound; answers are few.
Clearly, coal-based industrialization varied as much as did regions of protoindustry. Iron poured from the forges and furnaces of south Wales, but was exported as semi-finished bars and rails to manufacturers in the west Midlands or the railways of Britain and the world. The industrialization of south Wales relied upon abundant cheap fuel and did not develop a wide industrial base as in other coalfields. There were no naileries and hardware manufactories as in the Midlands, and no significant shipbuilding or engineering industry as in the north-east of England or Clydeside; at most, iron was rolled into thin sheets and coated with tin in the tin-plate works around Swansea and Llanelli. When the iron industry faltered in the middle of the nineteenth century, the prosperity of the area was to rest upon the export of 'steam' coal for use in steamships and railway engines. The presence of coal and iron ore in south Wales, and the availability of copper and tin across the Bristol Channel in Cornwall, overcame the absence of skilled labour or an established industrial base, and attracted enterprise and capital from other regions. The pattern of industrialization on other coalfields was very different. On the Tyne and the Mersey, coal was used in the eighteenth century to produce salt, glass, and chemicals, and there was a more diverse industrial structure which drew upon local finance and enterprise. In the early nineteenth century, iron was increasingly used in the production of capital goods such as steam engines, textile machinery, ships, and machine tools. Shipbuilding and heavy engineering concentrated on the rivers of the Clyde, Tyne, Wear, and Tees, where iron and coal were available close to water. Textile machinery and machine tools were found close to the textiles centres, in towns such as Oldham and Leeds, and in Birmingham where the wide range of small metal manufacturers could supply parts for specialist machine- and engine-builders. Each region generated its own peculiarities of industrial structure, relations with merchants and financiers, and patterns of employment.
Britain in 1800 produced five times as much coal as the rest of Europe, and British workers gradually built up expertise in the use of the fuel as it spread from trade to trade. The diffusion of new coal-based technologies to other countries was, it is true, hampered because workers lacked knowledge, but too much can be made of Britain's advantage in the exploitation of coal. Whatever the difficulties of
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Publication information: Book title: Progress and Poverty:An Economic and Social History of Britain, 1700-1850. Contributors: M. J. Daunton - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 232.
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