Factory Production in Nineteenth-Century Britain

By Elaine Freedgood | Go to book overview

FOUR
BY HAND

This section could be much longer; it might include many major aesthetic theorists of the nineteenth century who were in various ways horrified by mass production and recommended a return, or a partial return, to earlier methods of manufacture. Or, a return to the original meaning of manufacture, which was “to make by hand.” Ruskin's “The Nature of Gothic” influenced many later thinkers, including William Morris and Mahatma Gandhi, his fellow writers in this section. His is undoubtedly one of the great arguments against mass production. Acknowledging what he knows his audience experiences as the virtues of machine-made goods—regularity, perfection, quantity—Ruskin goes on to celebrate the apparent flaws of handmade items as the sign of their humanity, and as the sign of an elevated humanity in those who purchase such goods. William Morris took Ruskin's return to the Gothic architecture of the Middle Ages quite literally: His designs for furniture and wallpaper evoke that period, as did their manufacture in Morris's workshop. Morris, like Ruskin, invokes the humanity that inheres in handmade things and argues for the enjoyment of fewer well-made things over many badly made ones.

Gandhi's interest in the spinning wheel was political and economic: He cites Britain's destruction of the indigenous cotton industry in India as the root of British domination and argues that independence will only be fully realized if Indians end their dependence on foreign-made goods and start making and buying their own products. Gandhi also believed that home spinning would provide significant economic relief to the most impoverished Indians. To produce goods at home and by hand becomes the solution for the depredations of a distant factory system, one that changed production systems throughout the world, with often disastrous results.

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Factory Production in Nineteenth-Century Britain
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vi
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments x
  • Chronology xii
  • Introduction 1
  • One - Looking Inside 19
  • Chapter One - Tourists 21
  • Chapter Two - Investigators 61
  • Chapter Three - Historians 70
  • Two - Machines and Management 83
  • Chapter Four - Theory 85
  • Chapter Five - Practice 122
  • Three - Calculating Losses 183
  • Chapter Six - Childhood and Domesticity 185
  • Chapter Seven - Limbs and Lives 215
  • Four - By Hand 281
  • Chapter Eight - The Humanity of the Handmade 283
  • Chapter Nine - [Manual] Labor and National Independence 297
  • Glossary 303
  • Contributors' Biographies 305
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 312
  • Index 315
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