Print of the weaving process in a factory


The 18th century saw the emergence of the Industrial Revolution; the great age of steam, steel and mechanised manufacturing that changed the face of the Western world forever. New weaving processes in the late 1700s allowed for the mass production of the cheap and light cloth that was highly sought after in Britain and her colonies.

New factories employed hundreds of people, including many small children, whose nimble hands made light-work of spinning. Many factories were dismal and highly dangerous, often likened to prisons, where workers encountered harsh discipline enforced by factory owners.

Numerous children were sent there from workhouses or orphanages to work long hours in hot, dusty conditions, and were forced to crawl through narrow spaces between fast-moving machinery. A working day of 12 hours was not uncommon, and accidents happened frequently. This illustration, from a 19th century book entitled History of the Cotton Manufacture in Great Britain, might strike us as a rather sanitised portrayal of factory working conditions.

Full title:
History of the Cotton Manufacture in Great Britain: with a notice of its early history in the East ... a description of the great mechanical inventions, which have caused its extension in Britain; and a view of the present state of the manufacture, etc.
1835, London
Book / Print / Illustration
Held by
British Library

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