Cotton - Industrial Revolution in Britain
Mechanisation and factories
Steam power, mechanisation and factories brought big improvements to textile spinning and weaving. Technological developments started to raise the profile of cotton and it became Britain's leading textile, taking over from wool. In 1733 John Kay, a Lancashire workman, invented his Flying Shuttle, which made the weaving of cloth much faster. Thomas Highs' invention of the Spinning Jenny in the 1760s, which was further developed by James Hargreaves, sped up thread manufacture. Mass production really took off with the creation of the first 'manufactories' pioneered by Richard Arkwright who set up that first spinning mill in the Pennines.
|Image: The mechanization of cotton manufacture and the invention of the power loom was an important step in nineteenth century industrial Britain.|
RebellionFor years, angry uprisings by hand spinners, or Luddites, attempted to destroy buildings and machinery, which they saw as a threat to their livelihoods. Their desperate attempts were in vain and factories grew ever successful, and more were established. The nucleus of Britain's cotton capital developed west of the Pennines in Manchester and the towns of Lancashire. The damp climate was perfect for cotton spinning and weaving as the high humidity prevented the fibres from breaking. In contrast, Britain's wool industry was centred in the drier eastern Pennines in Yorkshire.
Although the British cotton industry continued in the 19th century, it was seriously affected by the First World War. The economic depression of the 1930s, and the Second World War, the loss of former colonies and the increasing industrialisation of other European countries all played a part in the subsequent collapse of the British cotton industry.