Economic History of Europe in Modern Times

By Melvin M. Knight; Harry Elmer Barnes et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

INDUSTRY ABOUT 1750

THE emphasis upon commercial and financial development between 1500 and 1750 should not be allowed to obscure the fact that industry had also grown enormously. This growth had carried with it considerable changes in organization and technique. In the Low Countries, many industries had spread from the towns to the countryside, where by the sixteenth century they had undergone a degree of capitalistic organization by "merchant-manufacturers." Among these were the cheaper grades of carpets, some linens and laces, and a light, inexpensive cloth known as worsted, made from Spanish wool. The rural artisan produced on a small scale, and usually marketed through a middleman or entrepreneur. Oftentimes this "merchant-manufacturer" or "clothier" also furnished the raw material. As fully developed during the two centuries just before 1750, with the various processes divided among different households, coming together in the clothier and reaching the market through him, this was called the "putting-out" system. It was very common in the textile industries of England, the Low Countries and France, as well as other places where cloth-making for the market was important.

There is a certain suggestiveness in the division of the industrial work carried on in homes into independent and dependent types -- remembering always that they are not to be mistaken for general economic "stages." For example, in Brittany, a poor agricultural region without extremely active urban centers, the merchant capitalist remained such, instead of "putting out" raw or partially worked materials and gradually getting control of the industry itself. The same was true of the Belfast region of northern Ireland until after

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