Social Change in the Industrial Revolution: An Application of Theory to the British Cotton Industry

By Neil J. Smelser | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
STRUCTURAL DIFFERENTIATION IN SPINNING

INTRODUCTION

In this and the next three chapters I shall implant the model of differentiation on the development of the British cotton industry between 1770 and 1840. The elements of this model are the organized roles of an industry, its value-system, dissatisfactions, symptoms of disturbance, handling and channelling, entrepreneurship, the gross movements of production, capitalization, innovation, profits, etc. To employ the empirical propositions developed in the last chapter is to account for the direction of change of these variables and their temporal relationship to each other.

Two features of the historical evidence complicate this task. First, the data are inadequate. Quantitative indices of production and capitalization, to say nothing of innovations, are absent, especially for the late eighteenth century; usually we must accept questionable substitutes. For profits, dissatisfactions, disturbances, etc., only qualitative evidence such as verbal testimony is available. Second, this evidence conceals many simultaneous processes. To cite one example, we shall use raw cotton consumption as an index of production; this is sometimes the only available index. Some of the empirical propositions, however, require the isolation of the components of total production, such as the production of muslins, calicoes, power-loom cloth, etc., which the figures of cotton consumption do not reveal. In such instances we shall rely on plausible movements of the general indices, and strengthen or weaken our impressions by other indirect evidence.

To interpret the facts of this period raises the inevitable question of the historical status of these facts. Did they occur, and if so, were they correctly recorded? Because of the wide scope of this study, it is impossible to assume a professional historian's concern with facts except in certain cases. In many instances I shall rely on what appear to be intelligent assessments by accepted authorities -- Baines,

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