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7. The Social Origins of the Factory

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Chapter Summary

This chapter attempts to chart a course through the murky waters of labour relations in manufacturing in the early eighteenth century by first discussing the overall economic environment. Secondly, it explores the ties between the increasing numbers of dislocated workers (in the midst of a demographic pause, which tells that population growth could not have been the only cause of their increasing numbers), and the earliest factories. Workhouses were intended to improve the lot of the poor by inculcating Christian values of piety and industry. Lombe's mill, and subsequent silk mills that followed, provided a model to be emulated. The story of these mills reveals important details about the emergence of factories in England. The factory owes its origins not specifically to the amassing of wealth, the concentration of units of production or the introduction of machinery, but to the economic forces generated by agrarian capitalism.

Keywords:agrarian capitalism; England; Factory; labour relations; poverty; silk mills; workhouses



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