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The Birth of Capitalism: Richard Arkwright and Robert Owen

The Birth of Capitalism: Richard Arkwright and Robert Owen



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The first signs of capitalism began in the 15th century when the country began to move from being a producer of wool to being a manufacturer of cloth. As A. L. Morton, the author of A People's History of England (1938) has pointed out: "Though employing far fewer people than agriculture, the clothing industry became the decisive feature of English economic life, what which marked it off sharply from that of most other European countries and determined the direction and speed of its development." (1)

During this period most of the cloth was produced in the family home and therefore became known as the domestic system. (2) There were three main stages to making cloth. Carding was usually done by children. This involved using a hand-card that removed and untangled the short fibres from the mass. Hand cards were essentially wooden blocks fitted with handles and covered with short metal spikes. The spikes were angled and set in leather. The fibres were worked between the spikes and, be reversing the cards, scrapped off in rolls (cardings) about 12 inches long and just under an inch thick. (3)

The mother turned these cardings into a continuous thread (yarn). The distaff, a stick about 3 ft long, was held under the left arm, and the fibres of wool drawn from it were twisted spirally by the forefinger and thumb of the right hand. As the thread was spun, it was wound on the spindle. The spinning wheel was invented in Nuremberg in the 1530s. It consisted of a revolving wheel operated by treadle and a driving spindle. (4)

Finally, the father used a handloom to weave the yarn into cloth. The handloom was brought to England by the Romans. The process consisted of interlacing one set of threads of yarn (the warp) with another (the weft). The warp threads are stretched lengthwise in the weaving loom. The weft, the cross-threads, are woven into the warp to make the cloth. Daniel Defoe, the author of A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724) "Among the manufacturers' houses are likewise scattered an infinite number of cottages or small dwellings, in which dwell the workmen which are employed, the women and children of whom, are always busy carding, spinning, etc. so that no hands being unemployed all can gain their bread, even from the youngest to the ancient; anyone above four years old works." (5)

The woven cloth was sold to merchants called clothiers who visited the village with their trains of pack-horses. These men became the first capitalists. To increase production they sometimes they sold raw wool to the spinners. They also sold yarn to weavers who were unable to get enough from family members. Some of the cloth was made into clothes for people living in this country. However, a large amount of cloth was exported to Europe. (6)

In 1555 Parliament became concerned by the growth in wealth of these merchants and passed legislation to deal with the problem: "For as much as the weavers of the realm have as well at this present parliament as at diverse other times complained that the rich and the wealthy clothiers do many ways oppress them, some by setting up and keeping in their houses diverse looms, and keeping and maintaining them by journeymen and persons unskilful, to the decay of a great number of weavers, their wives and households". The legislation limited the number of handlooms that a clothier might keep in his house. (7)

The production and export of cloth continued to grow. In order to protect the woolen cloth industry the import of cotton goods was banned in 1700. In the time of Charles II the export of woolen cloth was estimated to be valued at £1 million. By the beginning of the 18th century it was almost £3 million and by 1760 it was £4 million. However, this was all changed when James Hargreaves invented the spinning-jenny in 1764. The machine used eight spindles onto which the thread was spun from a corresponding set of rovings. By turning a single wheel, the operator could now spin eight threads at once. (8)

Richard Arkwright was a wig-maker in Bolton. Arkwright's work involved him travelling the country collecting people's discarded hair. In September 1767 Arkwright met John Kay, a clockmaker, from Warrington, who had been busy for some time trying to produce a new spinning-machine with another man, Thomas Highs of Leigh. Kay and Highs had run out of money and had been forced to abandon the project. Arkwright was impressed by Kay and offered to employ him to make this new machine.

Arkwright also recruited other local craftsman, including Peter Atherton, to help Kay in his experiments. According to one source: "They rented a room in a secluded teacher's house behind some gooseberry bushes, but they were so secretive that the neighbours were suspicious and accused them of sorcery, and two old women complained that the humming noises they heard at night must be the devil tuning his bagpipes." (9)

As the economic historian, Thomas Southcliffe Ashton, has pointed out, Arkwright did not have any great inventive ability, but "had the force of character and robust sense that are traditionally associated with his native county - with little, it may be added, of the kindliness and humour that are, in fact, the dominant traits of Lancashire people." (10)

In 1768 the team produced the Spinning-Frame and a patent for the new machine was granted in 1769. The machine involved three sets of paired rollers that turned at different speeds. While these rollers produced yarn of the correct thickness, a set of spindles twisted the fibres firmly together. The machine was able to produce a thread that was far stronger than that made by the Spinning-Jenny produced by James Hargreaves. (11)

Adam Hart-Davis has explained the way the new machine worked: "Several spinning machines were designed at about this time, but most of them tried to do the stretching and the spinning together. The problem is that the moment you start twisting the roving you lock the fibres together. Arkwright's idea was to stretch first and then twist. The roving passed from a bobbin between a pair of rollers, and then a couple of inches later between another pair that were rotating at twice the speed. The result was to stretch the roving to twice its original length. A third pair of rollers repeated the process... Two things are obvious the moment you see the wonderful beast in action. First, there are 32 bobbins along each side of each end of the water frame - 128 on the whole machine. Second, it is so automatic that even I could operate it." (12)

Arkwright needed investors to make the spinning-frame profitable. Arkwright approached a banker Ichabod Wright but he rejected the proposal because he judged that there was "little prospect of the discovery being brought into a practical state". (13) However, Wright did introduce Arkwright to Jedediah Strutt and Samuel Need. Strutt was a manufacturer of stockings and the inventor of a machine for the machine-knitting of ribbed stockings. (14) Strutt and Need were impressed with Arkwright's new machine and agreed to form a partnership. (15)

Arkwright's machine was too large to be operated by hand and so the men had to find another method of working the machine. After experimenting with horses, it was decided to employ the power of the water-wheel. In 1771 the three men set up a large factory next to the River Derwent in Cromford, Derbyshire. Arkwright later that his lawyer that Cromford had been chosen because it offered "a remarkable fine stream of water… in a an area very full of inhabitants". (16) Arkwright's machine now became known as the Water-Frame. It not only "spun cotton more rapidly but produced a yarn of finer quality". (17)

Arkwright did not build the first factory in Britain. It is believed that he borrowed the idea from Matthew Boulton, who financed the Soho Manufactory in Birmingham in 1762. However, Arkwright's factory was much larger and was to inspire a generation of capitalist entrepreneurs. According to Adam Hart-Davis: "Arkwright's mill was essentially the first factory of this kind in the world. Never before had people been put to work in such a well-organized way. Never had people been told to come in at a fixed time in the morning, and work all day at a prescribed task. His factories became the model for factories all over the country and all over the world. This was the way to build a factory. And he himself usually followed the same pattern - stone buildings 30 feet wide, 100 feet long, or longer if there was room, and five, six, or seven floors high." (18)

In Cromford there were not enough local people to supply Richard Arkwright with the workers he needed. After building a large number of cottages close to the factory, he imported workers from all over Derbyshire. Within a few months he was employing 600 workers. Arkwright preferred weavers with large families. While the women and children worked in his spinning-factory, the weavers worked at home turning the yarn into cloth. (19)

A local journalist wrote: "Arkwright's machines require so few hands, and those only children, with the assistance of an overlooker. A child can produce as much as would, and did upon an average, employ ten grown up persons. Jennies for spinning with one hundred or two hundred spindles, or more, going all at once, and requiring but one person to manage them. Within the space of ten years, from being a poor man worth £5, Richard Arkwright has purchased an estate of £20,000; while thousands of women, when they can get work, must make a long day to card, spin, and reel 5040 yards of cotton, and for this they have four-pence or five-pence and no more." (20)

Peter Kirby, the author of Child Labour in Britain, 1750-1870 (2003) has argued that it was poverty that forced children into factories: "Poor families living close to a subsistence wage were often forced to draw on more diverse sources of income and had little choice over whether their chidren worked." (21) Michael Anderson has pointed out, that parents "who otherwise showed considerable affection for their children... were yet forced by large families and low wages to send their children to work as soon as possible." (22)

The youngest children in the textile factories were usually employed as scavengers and piecers. Piecers had to lean over the spinning-machine to repair the broken threads. One observer wrote: "The work of the children, in many instances, is reaching over to piece the threads that break; they have so many that they have to mind and they have only so much time to piece these threads because they have to reach while the wheel is coming out." (23)

Scavengers had to pick up the loose cotton from under the machinery. This was extremely dangerous as the children were expected to carry out the task while the machine was still working. David Rowland, worked as a scavenger in Manchester: "The scavenger has to take the brush and sweep under the wheels, and to be under the direction of the spinners and the piecers generally. I frequently had to be under the wheels, and in consequence of the perpetual motion of the machinery, I was liable to accidents constantly. I was very frequently obliged to lie flat, to avoid being run over or caught." (24)

John Fielden, a factory owner, admitted that a great deal of harm was caused by the children spending the whole day on their feet: " At a meeting in Manchester a man claimed that a child in one mill walked twenty-four miles a day. I was surprised by this statement, therefore, when I went home, I went into my own factory, and with a clock before me, I watched a child at work, and having watched her for some time, I then calculated the distance she had to go in a day, and to my surprise, I found it nothing short of twenty miles." (25)

Unguarded machinery was a major problem for children working in factories. One hospital reported that every year it treated nearly a thousand people for wounds and mutilations caused by machines in factories. Michael Ward, a doctor working in Manchester told a parliamentary committee: "When I was a surgeon in the infirmary, accidents were very often admitted to the infirmary, through the children's hands and arms having being caught in the machinery; in many instances the muscles, and the skin is stripped down to the bone, and in some instances a finger or two might be lost. Last summer I visited Lever Street School. The number of children at that time in the school, who were employed in factories, was 106. The number of children who had received injuries from the machinery amounted to very nearly one half. There were forty-seven injured in this way." (26)

William Blizard lectured on surgery and anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons. He was especially concerned about the impact of this work on young females: "At an early period the bones are not permanently formed, and cannot resist pressure to the same degree as at a mature age, and that is the state of young females; they are liable, particularly from the pressure of the thigh bones upon the lateral parts, to have the pelvis pressed inwards, which creates what is called distortion; and although distortion does not prevent procreation, yet it most likely will produce deadly consequences, either to the mother or the child, when the period." (27)

Elizabeth Bentley, who came from Leeds, was another witness that appeared before the committee. She told of how working in the card-room had seriously damaged her health: "It was so dusty, the dust got up my lungs, and the work was so hard. I got so bad in health, that when I pulled the baskets down, I pulled my bones out of their places." Bentley explained that she was now "considerably deformed". She went on to say: "I was about thirteen years old when it began coming, and it has got worse since." (28)

Samuel Smith, a doctor based in Leeds explained why working in the textile factories was bad for children's health: "Up to twelve or thirteen years of age, the bones are so soft that they will bend in any direction. The foot is formed of an arch of bones of a wedge-like shape. These arches have to sustain the whole weight of the body. I am now frequently in the habit of seeing cases in which this arch has given way. Long continued standing has also a very injurious effect upon the ankles. But the principle effects which I have seen produced in this way have been upon the knees. By long continued standing the knees become so weak that they turn inwards, producing that deformity which is called 'knock-knees' and I have sometimes seen it so striking, that the individual has actually lost twelve inches of his height by it." (29)

John Reed later recalled his life aa a child worker at Cromford Mill: "I continued to work in this factory for ten years, getting gradually advanced in wages, till I had 6s. 3d. per week; which is the highest wages I ever had. I gradually became a cripple, till at the age of nineteen I was unable to stand at the machine, and I was obliged to give it up. The total amount of my earnings was about 130 shillings, and for this sum I have been made a miserable cripple, as you see, and cast off by those who reaped the benefit of my labour, without a single penny." (30)

In 1775 Samuel Crompton invented a new machine a spinning mule. It was called because it was a hybrid that combined features of two earlier inventions, the Spinning Jenny and the Water Frame. The mule produced a strong, fine and soft yarn which could be used in all kinds of textiles, but was particularly suited to the production of muslins. Crompton was too poor to apply for a patent and so he sold the rights to a Bolton manufacturer. (31)

Handloom weavers were now guaranteed a constant supply of yarn, full employment and high wages. This period of prosperity did not last long. In 1785, Edmund Cartwright, the younger brother of Major John Cartwright, invented a weaving machine which could be operated by horses or a waterwheel. Cartwright began using power looms in a mill that he part-owned in Manchester. An unskilled boy could weave three and a half pieces of material on a power loom in the time a skilled weaver using traditional methods, wove only one. (32)

The building of large factories marked the beginning of modern capitalism. In 1776 the moral philosopher, Adam Smith, published the world's first book on economics. In Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Smith outlined the advantages of capitalism. He claimed that the capitalist was motivated by self-interest: "He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it.... By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.... It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages" (33)

Smith argued that capitalism results in inequality. For example, he wrote about the impact poverty had on the lives of the labouring class: "It is not uncommon... in the Highlands of Scotland for a mother who has borne twenty children not to have two alive... In some places one half the children born die before they are four years of age; in many places before they are seven; and in almost all places before they are nine or ten. This great mortality, however, will every where be found chiefly among the children of the common people, who cannot afford to tend them with the same care as those of better station." (34)

To protect the poor Smith argued for government intervention: "The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. The torpor of his mind renders him not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life... But in every improved and civilized society this is the state into which the labouring poor, that is, the great body of the people, must necessarily fall, unless government takes some pains to prevent it." (35)

Adam Smith pointed out the dangers of a system that allowed individuals to pursue individual self-interest at the detriment of the rest of society. He warned against the establishment of monopolies. "A monopoly granted either to an individual or to a trading company has the same effect as a secret in trade or manufactures. The monopolists, by keeping the market constantly under-stocked, by never fully supplying the effectual demand, sell their commodities much above the natural price, and raise their emoluments, whether they consist in wages or profit, greatly above their natural rate." (36)

In 1810 Robert Owen purchased four textile factories owned by David Dale in New Lanark for £60,000. Under Owen's control, the Chorton Twist Company expanded rapidly. However, Owen was not only concerned with making money, he was also interested in creating a new type of community at New Lanark. He became highly critical of factory owners to employ young children: "In the manufacturing districts it is common for parents to send their children of both sexes at seven or eight years of age, in winter as well as summer, at six o'clock in the morning, sometimes of course in the dark, and occasionally amidst frost and snow, to enter the manufactories, which are often heated to a high temperature, and contain an atmosphere far from being the most favourable to human life, and in which all those employed in them very frequently continue until twelve o'clock at noon, when an hour is allowed for dinner, after which they return to remain, in a majority of cases, till eight o'clock at night." (37)

Owen set out to make New Lanark an experiment in philanthropic management from the outset. Owen believed that a person's character is formed by the effects of their environment. Owen was convinced that if he created the right environment, he could produce rational, good and humane people. Owen argued that people were naturally good but they were corrupted by the harsh way they were treated. For example, Owen was a strong opponent of physical punishment in schools and factories and immediately banned its use in New Lanark. (38)

David Dale had originally built a large number of houses close to his factories in New Lanark. By the time Owen arrived, over 2,000 people lived in New Lanark village. One of the first decisions took when he became owner of New Lanark was to order the building of a school. Owen was convinced that education was crucially important in developing the type of person he wanted. He stopped employing children under ten and reduced their labour to ten hours a day. The young children went to the nursery and infant schools that Owen had built. Older children worked in the factory but also had to attend his secondary school for part of the day. (39)

George Combe, an educator who was unsympathetic to Owen's views generally, visited New Lanark during this period. "We saw them romping and playing in great spirits. The noise was prodigious, but it was the full chorus of mirth and kindliness." Combe explained that Owen had ordered £500 worth of "transparent pictures representing objects interesting to the youthful mind" so that children could "form ideas at the same time that they learn words". Combe went on to argue that the greatest lessons Owen wished the children to learn were "that life may be enjoyed, and that each may make his own happiness consistent with that of all the others." (40)

The journalist, George Holyoake, became a great supporter of Owen's work in New Lanark: "At New Lanark he virtually or indirectly supplied to his workpeople, with splendid munificence and practical judgment, all the conditions which gave dignity to labour.... Co-operation as a form of social amelioration and of profit existed in an intermittent way before New Lanark; but it was the advantages of the stores Owen incited that was the beginning of working-class co-operation. His followers intended the store to be a means of raising the industrious class, but many think of it now merely as a means of serving themselves. Still, the nobler portion are true to the earlier ideal of dividing profits in store and workshop, of rendering the members self-helping, intelligent, honest, and generous, and abating, if not superseding competition and meanness." (41)

When Owen arrived at New Lanark children from as young as five were working for thirteen hours a day in the textile mills. Owen later explained to a parliamentary committee: "I found that there were 500 children, who had been taken from poor-houses, chiefly in Edinburgh, and those children were generally from the age of five and six, to seven to eight. The hours at that time were thirteen. Although these children were well fed their limbs were very generally deformed, their growth was stunted, and although one of the best schoolmasters was engaged to instruct these children regularly every night, in general they made very slow progress, even in learning the common alphabet." (42)

Owen's partners were concerned that these reforms would reduce profits. Frederick Adolphus Packard explained that when they complained in 1813 he replied: "that if he was to continue to act as managing partner he must be governed by the principles and practices." Unable to convince them of the wisdom of these reforms, Owen decided to borrow money from Archibald Campbell, a local banker, in order to buy their share of the business. Later, Owen sold shares in the business to men who agreed with the way he ran his factory. This included Jeremy Bentham and Quakers such as William Allen, Joseph Foster and John Walker. (43)

Robert Owen hoped that the way he treated children at his New Lanark would encourage other factory owners to follow his example. It was therefore important for him to publicize his activities. He wrote several books including The Formation of Character (1813) and A New View of Society (1814). In these books he demanded a system of national education to prevent idleness, poverty, and crime among the "lower orders". He also recommended restricting "gin shops and pot houses, the state lottery and gambling, as well as penal reform, ending the monopolistic position of the Church of England, and collecting statistics on the value and demand for labour throughout the country." (44)

In January 1816, Robert Owen made a speech at a meeting in New Lanark: "When I first came to New Lanark I found the population similar to that of other manufacturing districts... there was... poverty, crime and misery... When men are in poverty they commit crimes.., instead of punishing or being angry with our fellow-men... we ought to pity them and patiently to trace the causes... and endeavour to discover whether they may not be removed. This was the course which I adopted". (45)

Robert Owen sent detailed proposals to Parliament about his ideas on factory reform. This resulted in Owen appearing before Robert Peel and his House of Commons committee in April, 1816. Owen explained that when he took over the company they employed children as young as five years old: "Seventeen years ago, a number of individuals, with myself, purchased the New Lanark establishment from Mr. Dale.... I came to the conclusion that the children were injured by being taken into the mills at this early age, and employed for so many hours; therefore, as soon as I had it in my power, I adopted regulations to put an end to a system which appeared to me to be so injurious". (46)

In his factory Owen installed what became known as "silent monitors". These were multi-coloured blocks of wood which rotated above each labourer's workplace; the different coloured sides reflected the achievements of each worker, from black denoting poor performance to white denoting excellence. Employees with illegitimate children were fined. One-sixtieth of wages was set aside for sickness, injury, and old age. Heads of households were elected to sit as jurors to judge cases respecting the internal order of the community. (47)

Robert Owen came under attack from those who objected to the capitalist system of manufacturing. In August 1817, Thomas Wooler wrote an article about Owen in his radical newspaper Black Dwarf: "t is very amusing to hear Mr Owen talk of re-moralizing the poor. Does he not think that the rich are a little more in want of re-moralizing; and particularly that class of them that has contributed to demoralize the poor, if they are demoralized, by supporting measures which have made them poor, and which now continue them poor and wretched? Talk of the poor being demoralized! It is their would-be masters that create all the evils that afflict the poor, and all the depravity that pretended philanthropists pretend to regret."

Wooler went on to argue: "Let him abandon the labourer to his own protection; cease to oppress him, and the poor man would scorn to hold any fictitious dependence upon the rich. Give him a fair price for his labour, and do not take two-thirds of a depreciated remuneration back from him again in the shape of taxes. Lower the extravagance of the great. Tax those real luxuries, enormous fortunes obtained without merit. Reduce the herd of locusts that prey upon the honey of the hive, and think they do the bees a most essential service by robbing them. The working bee can always find a hive. Do not take from them what they can earn, to supply the wants of those who will earn nothing. Do this; and the poor will not want your splendid erections for the cultivation of misery and the subjugation of the mind." (48)

Robert Owen toured the country making speeches on his experiments at New Lanark. He also publishing his speeches as pamphlets and sent free copies to influential people in Britain. In one two month period he spent £4,000 publicizing his activities. In his speeches, Owen argued that he was creating a "new moral world, a world from which the bitterness of divisive sectarian religion would be banished". As one of his supporters pointed out that to argue that "all the religions of the world" to be wrong was "met by outrage". (49)

During this period Owen made about fifty visits to the philosophical anarchist and religious sceptic William Godwin, who was the husband of Mary Wollstonecraft, the author of Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792). Godwin had been a great influence on people such as Richard Price, Joseph Priestley, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. (He fell out with Shelley when he eloped with sixteen-year-old daughter, Mary Godwin.) Over many years had argued that the evil actions of men are solely reliant on the corrupting influence of social conditions, and that changing these conditions could remove the evil in man. (50)

On 14th August 1817, Robert Owen addressed an audience of many hundreds at the City of London tavern. Leading members of the clergy and government were present. So also were political economists and significant figures in the reform movement. Owen called for Parliament to pass legislation to protect the poor. He also advocated an increase in taxation in order to increase public spending. (51)

Robert Wedderburn, the son of a slave, and one of the leaders of the revolutionary organisation, Society of Spencean Philanthropists, and Henry 'Orator' Hunt, accused Owen of being manipulated by the government in order to deflect working-class attention from political reform. He was also attacked by economists such as David Ricardo who said he was "completely at war with Owen" over his views on government intervention in trade and industry. (52)

A second meeting took place on 21st August, Owen rounded on all teachers of religion as having made man "a weak, imbecile animal; a furious bigot and fanatic; or a miserable hypocrite". His audience, Owen later recalled, was "thunderstruck". A few clergymen hissed but according to one newspaper, "the loudest cheers" took place when condemned the "vices of existing religious establishments". (53)

Owen's criticisms of religion caused much distress, including reformers such as William Wilberforce and William Cobbett. It also upset one of his business partners, William Allen, who was a devout Quaker. As his biographer, Leslie Stephen, has pointed out, Allen was "alarmed by Owen's avowed atheism" and eventually succeeded "in enforcing biblical instruction in the New Lanark schools, and in banning the teaching of singing, dancing, and drawing". (54)

Over the next few years Robert Owen developed political views that has resulted in him being described as the "father of socialism". In the Report to the County of Lanark (1821) suggested that in order to avoid fluctuations in the money supply as well as the payment of unjust wages, labour notes representing hours of work might become a superior form of exchange medium. This was the first time that Owen "proclaimed at length his belief that labour was the foundation of all value, a principle of immense importance to later socialist thought". (55)

Disappointed with the response he received in Britain, Owen decided in 1825 to establish a new community in America based on the socialist ideas that he had developed over the years. Owen purchased the town of Harmony in Indiana from George Rapp for £24,000. Rapp was the leader of a religious group called the Harmonists (German Lutherans) Owen called the community he established there, New Harmony. (56)

Robert Owen explained in a letter to William Allen that he was convinced that America was an excellent place to establish his socialist community: "The principle of union and co-operation for the promotion of all the virtues and for the creation of wealth is now universally admitted to be far superior to the individual selfish system and all seems prepared or are rapidly preparing to give up the latter and adopt the former. In fact the whole of this country is ready to commence a new empire upon the principle of public property and to discard private property and the uncharitable notion that man can form his own character as the foundation and root of all evil." (57)

By 1827 Owen had lost interest in his New Lanark textile mills and decided to sell the business. His four sons and one of his daughters, Jane, moved to New Harmony and made it their permanent home. Robert Dale Owen became the leader of the new community in America. Another son, William Owen, admitted that the town often attracted the wrong people. "I doubt whether those who have been comfortable and content in their old mode of life, will find an increase of enjoyment when they come here. How long it will require to accustom themselves to their new mode of living, I am unable to determine." (58)

Owen attempted to set up Owenite villages in England. Over the next twenty years he established seven communities, the largest being at Orbiston in Scotland and at East Tytherly in Hampshire. John F. Harrison, the author of The Common People (1984) points out that "Owenism" was the main British variety of what Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels called utopian socialism. "The Owenites believed that society could be radically transformed by means of experimental communities, in which property was held in common, and social and economic activity was organized on a cooperative basis. This was a method of effecting social change which was radical, peaceful and immediate." (59)

George Holyoake became an Owenite Missionary and claimed that he was the most important political thinker since Thomas Paine. In his autobiography, Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life (1892) Holyoake explained why Owen was so important: "Just as Thomas Paine was the founder of political ideas among the people of England, Robert Owen was also the founder of social ideas among them. He who first conceives a new idea has merit and distinction; but he is the founder of it who puts it into the minds of men by proving its practicability. Mr. Owen did this at New Lanark, and convinced numerous persons that the improvement of society was possible by wise material means.... Owen gave social ideas form and force. His passion was the organization of labour, and to cover the land with self-supporting cities of industry, in which well-devised material condition should render ethical life possible, in which labour should be, as far as possible, done by machinery, and education, recreation, and competence should be enjoyed by all. Instead of communities working for the world, they should work for themselves, and keep in their own hands the fruit of their labour; and commerce should be an exchange of surplus wealth, and not a necessity of existence. All this Owen believed to be practicable." (60)

Henry Hetherington was another devoted follower of Robert Owen's political and religious beliefs: "I consider priestcraft and superstition the greatest obstacle to human improvement and happiness. I have ever considered that the only religion useful to man consists exclusively of the practice of morality, and in the mutual interchange of kind actions. In such a religion there is no room for priests and when I see them interfering at our births, marriages and deaths pretending to conduct us safely through this state of being to another and happier world, any disinterested person of the least shrewdness and discernment must perceive that their sole aim is to stultify the minds of the people by their incomprehensible doctrines that they may the more effectively fleece the poor deluded sheep who listen to their empty babblings and mystifications.... The scrambling, selfish system; a system by which the moral and social aspirations of the noblest human being are nullified by incessant toil and physical deprivations; by which, indeed, all men are trained to be either slaves, hypocrites or criminals. Hence my ardent attachment to the principles of that great and good man Robert Owen." (61)

Ralph Miliband has argued that Owen's political ideas would never be successful: "His insistence upon the futility of political agitation, his belief in the need to rely upon the enlightened benevolence of the governing orders, and his advocacy of a union between rich and poor made it impossible for him to play a central part in the movement of protest which followed the end of the wars. Above all, Owen's distrust of the 'industrialised poor' and his inveterate conviction that their independent action must inevitably lead to anarchy and chaos denied him the support of those leaders of labour who... came to believe that the political organization of the people was the key to social progress." (62)

Socialists such as Owen were very disappointed by the passing of the 1832 Reform Act. Voting in the boroughs was restricted to men who occupied homes with an annual value of £10. There were also property qualifications for people living in rural areas. As a result, only one in seven adult males had the vote. Nor were the constituencies of equal size. Whereas 35 constituencies had less than 300 electors, Liverpool had a constituency of over 11,000. Owen now realised that he would have to develop more radical methods to obtain social change. (63)

Robert Owen gave his support to Michael Sadler in his attempts to reduce the hours worked by children. On 16th March 1832 Sadler introduced legislation that proposed limiting the hours of all persons under the age of 18 to ten hours a day. He argued: "The parents rouse them in the morning and receive them tired and exhausted after the day has closed; they see them droop and sicken, and, in many cases, become cripples and die, before they reach their prime; and they do all this, because they must otherwise starve. It is a mockery to contend that these parents have a choice. They choose the lesser evil, and reluctantly resign their offspring to the captivity and pollution of the mill." (64)

The vast majority of the House of Commons were opposed to Sadler's proposal. However, in April 1832 it was agreed that there should be another parliamentary enquiry into child labour. Sadler was made chairman and for the next three months a parliamentary committee, that included John Cam Hobhouse, Charles Poulett Thompson, Robert Peel, Lord Morpeth, and Thomas Fowell Buxton interviewed 89 witnesses.

On 9th July Michael Sadler discovered that at least six of these workers had been sacked for giving evidence to the parliamentary committee. Sadler announced that this victimisation meant that he could no longer ask factory workers to be interviewed. He now concentrated on interviewing doctors who had experience treating people who worked in textile factories. In the 1832 General Election, Sadler lost his seat to John Marshall, the Leeds flax-spinning magnate. (65)

Parliament did pass 1833 Factory Act, but it disappointed the reformers. As R. W. Cooke-Taylor "The working day was to start at 5.30 a.m. and cease at 8.30 p.m. A young person (aged thirteen to eighteen) might not be employed beyond any period of twelve hours, less one and a half for meals; and a child (aged nine to thirteen) beyond any period of nine hours." This was much more limited than many trade unionists had hoped. (66)

Owen was so disappointed with this legislation that in November 1833 he joined John Doherty, leader of the Lancashire cotton spinners, and John Fielden, the mill owner and MP for Todmorden, to establish the National Regeneration Society. Its main object was the eight hour day in factories. (67)

Robert Owen now came to the conclusion that the only way forward was through the trade union movement. He called for the establishment of a single body of trade unionists in Britain. In October 1833 he wrote that "national arrangements shall be formed to include all the working classes in the great organisation". (68)

The first meeting of the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union (GNCTU) took place on 13th February, 1834. Within a few weeks the organisation had gained over 1,500,000 members. James Morrison, the editor of Pioneer, the official paper of the GNCTU, wrote: "our little snowballs have all been rolled together and formed into a mighty avalanche". (69)

Owen hoped it would be possible to use the GNCTU to peacefully supplant capitalism. A. Morton, the author of A People's History of England (1938) argues that once the GNCTU "had been formed, strikes broke out everywhere, making demands on its resources that it had no means of meeting and at the same time scaring the government into a belief that the revolution was at hand." The government decided to fight back and six farm labourers at Tolpuddle were charged with administering illegal oaths and sentenced to transportation. Over 100,000 people demonstrated against this verdict in London but it was unable to stop the men being sent to Australia. The decline of the GNCTU was as rapid as the growth and in August 1834 it was closed down. (70)


In 1835, Robert Owen formed the Association of All Classes and All Nations (later renamed the Rational Society). Over the next five years it started over 60 branches of self-styled "socialists" concentrated in the manufacturing districts, with perhaps 50,000 flocking to weekly lectures. The society's regular paper, the New Moral World, ran for nearly eleven years (1834–45), and achieved a circulation of about 40,000 weekly at its peak. Such was his fame that in 1839 he was presented to Queen Victoria. (71)

Later that year Owen and the Rational Society attempted to create a new community called Queenwood on a 533-acre site designed for 700 members. "Owen's own vision of its creation as a symbol of his ideas also became steadily more grandiose and impractical. Much of the money collected for the community was spent on constructing, in 1842, an impressively large building with lavish fittings. Especially noteworthy was a model kitchen with a conveyor to carry food and dishes to and from the dining room which, its architect exulted, rivalled the amenities of any London hotel. This would have been a great achievement had Owen been a hotelier. Owen's defence was that the community was intended to be the standard for a superior socialist future where all would enjoy privileges the wealthy monopolized at present, nay even more, for all apartments were eventually to have central heating and cooling, hot and cold water, and artificial light. Its main building thus ought to be superior to any palace. By 1844, after over £40,000 had been spent, Queenwood bankrupted the society". (72)

Owen himself returned to America several times over the next few years. In 1846 he helped to ease tensions between Britain and the USA over a border dispute in Oregon. After consulting with Robert Peel and Lord Aberdeen he crossed the Atlantic four times in fewer than six months in an effort to solve the problem. In June he wrote "the Oregon question was finally settled and on the principle which I recommended and the details will scarcely vary from my proposals to both governments." (73)

In February 1848, revolution broke out in Paris. Although nearly 77-years-old, he raced to the French capital in an attempt to popularize his views, placarding the walls of the city with broadsheets. He also wrote several articles which was both an appeal to the nation and an offer of his services to the provisional government. Owen praised the French people for taking such action and urged them to form a government to serve as an example to the world. (74)

In one article published in Le Populaire, he explained his achievements over the previous sixty years: "I have created children's homes and a system of education with no punishments. I have improved the conditions of workers in factories. I have revealed the science by which we may bestow on the human race a superior character, produce an abundance of wealth and procure its just and equitable distribution. I have provided the means by which an education may gradually be achieved - an education equal for all, and greatly superior to that which the most affluent have hitherto been able to procure. I have come to France, bringing these insights and experience acquired in many countries, to consolidate the victory newly won over a false and oppressive system that could never have lasted". (75)


The Mind-Based Etymology of 'Capitalism'.

Political-economic systems are identified by broad abstractions such as "capitalism," "socialism," "communism," "fascism." Philosophy and history enable us to identify, in broad abstractions, the essence of political economic systems. But the meanings of these abstractions can sometimes be difficult to retain. Etymology, the study of the origin and development of words, can help us to concretize and retain the essence of these systems by exposing their roots. In the case of "socialism," "communism," and "fascism," the words relate clearly and directly to their respective systems. Etymologically, socialism derives from the same root as "social" and "society" communism derives from the same root as "commune" and "community" fascism derives from the Italian word fascismo, which derives from fascio, which means a bundle of rods tightly bound together (from fasces, Latin for "bundle" or "group"). (1)

But what about capitalism? Is it just about capital, wealth, economics, money? Or is there a deeper meaning in the etymological roots of this term--a meaning that ties into and supports a broader meaning of the system?

Origins of 'Capital,' 'Capitalist,' and 'Capitalistic'

The terms "capital," "capitalist," and "capitalistic" were used for centuries before the term "capitalism" was coined. (2) The term "capital" derives from "caput," which is Latin for "head." The most-recognized form of wealth in early recorded history was cattle, and the extent of a man's wealth was commonly measured by the total head of cattle that he owned. Closely related is the adjective "pecuniary," which indicates a relationship to wealth it derives from pecu, Latin for "cattle." In time, the concept of capital was used to signify wealth more generally. The related concept of "chattel," meaning personal property other than land, also developed from this broader use of "capital." (3)

During the Renaissance (14th to 17th century), the world's freer economies became more sophisticated and diversified. Commerce, industry, and finance bloomed. People needed a new term to designate those who accumulated and invested capital. Thus, the concept "capitalist" was born.

Although the root of capital and its derivatives is "caput," for "head" of cattle (a measure of wealth), these terms also pertain to "heads" more broadly construed--including the human head. The head of a nation's government, we all know, resides in its capital. The head of a ship or a sports team is the captain. The stone fixed atop a structure is called the capstone. If we calculate per capita income, we divide income by the number of heads. The French language converted "caput" into other terms describing heads of things, such as chiefs, chefs, and chapters. If revolutionaries demand the decapitation of royals, then "heads will roll." Capital punishment is the loss of one's head (life). Some hats we call caps because they sit atop human heads.

What about the term "capitalism"? Interestingly, although the Industrial Revolution (beginning in the mid-18th century) demonstrated capitalism at work, the term wasn't coined or used until the mid-19th century. Even Adam Smith (1723-1790)--the father of political economy, first systematic expositor of the workings of free markets, and author of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776)--did not use the term "capitalism." The closest he came was to endorse what he called "the obvious and simple system of natural liberty." Likewise, prominent philosophers and economists who issued widely-read treatises in the decades surrounding Smith's 1776 book (e.g., David Hume, Thomas Malthus, Jean-Baptiste Say, James Mill, David Ricardo, J.R. McCullough, J.S. Mill) discussed "capital" and "capitalists," but not "capitalism."

Origin of the Term 'Capitalism'

It is widely but mistakenly believed that German socialist Karl Marx (1818-1883) coined the term "capitalism." Marx is rightly characterized as the most prominent 19th-century critic of capitalism, which he painted as a system by which capitalists steal wealth by exploiting or underpaying labor. But Marx did not coin the term "capitalism," and he rarely used it. In the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), co-authored with Frederic Engels, he assailed "the bourgeois mode of production." However, aside from the prefaces that Engels added when the term had become more common after Marx's death, the Manifesto doesn't mention "capitalism." "Capitalism" does appear a few times in the three volumes of Marx's massive tome, Capital, issued in 1867, 1885, and 1894, respectively (the last posthumously), but only in a superficial, fleeting manner. (4)

The term was coined, however, in 1850 by another socialist, Louis Blanc (1811-1882). Blanc belonged to a small set of French intellectuals known as the "utopian socialists." Beginning in the 1830s, this group, which also included Henri Saint Simon and Charles Fourier, proffered a "voluntarist" socialism. (5) Blanc used the term "capitalism"--for the first time in print--in the ninth edition of his book Organisation du travail ("Organization of Labor"). (6) Notably, he regarded capital and capitalism as being at odds with each other. In the relevant passage, he discusses the "usefulness of capital" and the alleged problem of it being "perpetually confused with what I call capitalism, which is to say the appropriation of capital by some, to the exclusion of others. Let everyone shout 'Long live capital.' We shall applaud and our attack on capitalism, its deadly enemy, shall be all the stronger." (7)

Many writers preceded Marx in using the term "capitalism," and of course, many used it after him. However, it has primarily been used by anti-capitalists. Thus, historically the use of the term "capitalism" has been shaped largely by those who, at best, misunderstood the system or, at worst, understood it but deliberately mischaracterized it in order to attack a straw-man version of it. In 1861, French socialist Pierre Proudhon used the term to describe an "economic and social regime in which capital, the source of income, does not generally belong to those who make it work through their labor." (8) In What is Property? (1840), Proudhon claimed that property is, per se, "theft." Like Marx, he gave capitalism a nefarious connotation.

Beginning in the 1870s, formidable "neo-classical" and Austrian economists refuted Marxist myths about value theory, the source of wealth, "exploitation," and "unstable" free markets. But they rarely referred to "capitalism," regarding it as morally dubious (because egoistic) or, at best, amoral. (9) Some endorsed a "value-free," mathematized form of economics, modeled on physics. In their view, capitalism is an efficient, productive success--not the expropriating devil portrayed by Marx. But nor did they regard it as moral.

References to "capitalism," mainly by socialists and other anti-capitalists, spread gradually over the last few decades of the 19th century before accelerating in the early 20th century. For instance, in 1880, Irishman William Bailey issued a pamphlet based on his public address, The Great Labor Movement: Cooperation versus Capitalism. The first book with "capitalism" in its title appeared in 1894, The Evolution of Modern Capitalism, by socialist John A. Hobson. In 1902, Werner Sombart, another socialist, published Modern Capitalism. In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904), sociologist Max Weber argued that the Protestant sect of Christianity was important to the development of capitalism. In 1906, Sombart responded to Weber's thesis with The Jews and Modern Capitalism, arguing that Judaism was more of a contributing factor than Protestantism in capitalism's emergence. (Sombart was critical of capitalism and Jews alike.)

Authoritative, widely-cited dictionaries, encyclopedias, and books reveal a relatively slow adoption of the term. John Joseph Lalor's three-volume Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States (1881) included an entry on "capital" but not "capitalism." (10) Likewise, for the Dictionary of Political Economy by R. H. Inglis Palgrave (with editions appearing between 1899 and 1926).

In the 1920s, a few writers ascribed more positive meaning to the term. In 1920, British financial journalist Hartley Withers published The Case for Capitalism, describing capitalism as "the system based on private property, competition, individual effort, individual responsibility and individual choice." Under capitalism,

In 1926, J. L. Garvin penned a semi-apologetic essay, "The Case of Capitalism," for the New York Times. (12) And in 1929, he wrote a brief entry on "capitalism" for Encyclopedia Britannica, of which he was an editor. (13) In that entry he wrote, "There is no satisfactory definition of the term, though nothing is more evident than the thing," and that it "came into general use during the second half of the nineteenth century as a word chiefly signifying the world-wide modern system of organizing production and trade by private enterprise free to seek profit and fortune by employing for wages the mass of human labor."

Unfortunately, by the 1930s the anti-capitalist mentality was entrenched. This development was presaged by the vicious sentiments expressed by British economist John Maynard Keynes, in "The End of Laissez-Faire" (1926), where he reviled "the essential characteristic of capitalism, namely the dependence upon an intense appeal to the money-making and money-loving instincts of individuals as the main motive force of the economic machine." Keynes held that capitalism tragically encourages the "individualist" who, "acting through the pursuit of profit," seeks "to bring about production on the greatest possible scale." "Capitalism," he concluded, "is in many ways extremely objectionable." (14) The subsequent stock-price crash of 1929 and Great Depression of the 1930s were blamed not on the real culprit--socialistic government interventions--but on free markets and capitalism. In 1930, the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences included a thirteen-page entry on "capitalism," written, unfortunately, by Werner Sombart. (15)

Fortunately, favorable and formidable books on capitalism emerged between the 1940s and 1960s. The trend began with defenses of capitalism on economic grounds, such as Louis M. Hacker's The Triumph of American Capitalism and Carl Snyder's Capitalism the Creator: The Economic Foundations of Industrial Society. (16) Then came works that highlighted the connection between capitalism and freedom, such as Friedrich A. Hayek's Capitalism and the Historians, Ludwig von Mises's The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, John Chamberlain's The Roots of Capitalism, and Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom. (17) This pro-capitalist trend peaked with the works of Ayn Rand--especially Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1967)--which provided the first thorough demonstration that capitalism is the only practical and moral social system, with the mind as the root of wealth-creation and egoism as the only proper moral code. (18) These influential works contributed to renewed interest in free markets and their foundations. It is no surprise that the elections of Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Ronald Reagan in America soon followed.

Despite decades of intellectual and political progress toward capitalism, as late as 1987, just before the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the editors of the four-volume New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics felt justified in assigning the "capitalism" entry not to any of the new pro-capitalist intellectuals--two of whom had won the Nobel Prize in Economics in the 1970s (19)--but to a long-time socialist, Robert Heilbroner. (20) Likewise, the entry on "socialism" was given to an apologist for socialism, Alec Nove, who argued in a 1983 book that socialism was "economically feasible." (21)

Given that the term "capitalism" was coined and used mainly by its critics--and given that it long lacked a principled, moral defense--it is unsurprising that many of its would-be defenders preferred terms such as "the market economy" and "free enterprise." Even today, some proponents of free markets actively reject the term "capitalism" despite the fact that in the mid-20th century, Ayn Rand made capitalism's moral foundation indisputably clear. (22)

'Capitalism' Rightly Understood

Ayn Rand argued that reason is our main means of survival, that brains, not brawn, are the primary source of wealth creation and flourishing. She demonstrated why human intelligence and productive prowess must be free if they are to function properly, and--of most relevance here--that capitalism is the only social system that protects individual rights, frees man's mind, and enables him to produce, trade, and prosper. (23) Rand defined "capitalism" as "a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned." Crucially, "it is the basic, metaphysical fact of man's nature--the connection between his survival and his use of reason--that capitalism recognizes and protects." (24)

Etymology helps us to understand how and why terms developed as they did. The etymology of "capitalism" integrates seamlessly with the system to which the term refers. Capitalism is the system that respects the mind, frees the mind, is based on the mind, and is driven by the mind.

There is no better name for the system of the mind than "capitalism."

Dr. Salsman is assistant professor in the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program at Duke University and president of Inter Market Forecasting, Inc.

(1.) The etymological roots of socialism, communism, and fascism are clearly collectivist in such systems the individual is subordinated to the group, however the latter is defined.

(2.) The main sources for the etymology of terms discussed in this essay are the Oxford English Dictionary (London: Oxford University Press, 2018), plus various dictionaries and encyclopedias dating from the 19th century. According to Fetter, "There is no obscurity about the origin of the term 'capital.' It made its appearance first in medieval Latin as an adjective capitalis (from caput, head) modifying the word pars, to designate the principal sum of a money loan." See Frank Fetter, Capital, Interest, and Rent (Mission, Kansas: Sheed Andrews and McMeel, Inc., 1977), 154. The term "capitalist" was first used in 1788 by Etienne Clavier (in French, "capitalistes") and soon thereafter by economic historian Arthur Young, in his Travels in France (1792). A concise account of the etymology of "capital," "capitalist," and "capitalism" appears in Fernand Braudel, The Wheels of Commerce: Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th century, vol. 2 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1979), 232-39. See also "capitalism" in Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 17-19.

(3.) "Capital" derives from capitale, a late-Latin word (itself derived from caput, or "head"), which emerged in the 12th and 13th centuries and referred to stocks of merchandise, funds generally, sums of money, and money lent at interest.

(4.) Although the first volume includes sections titled "The Capitalistic Character of Manufacture," "Capitalistic Production on a Progressively Increasing Scale," and "The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation," only in chapter 24 is "capitalism" mentioned, as "the period when social wealth becomes to an ever-increasing degree the property of those who are in a position to appropriate continually and ever afresh the unpaid labor of others." In chapter 16 of the first volume, Marx refers to "the prolongation of the working-day" and "the appropriation of surplus-labor by capital" as "the general groundwork of the capitalist system." The second volume makes only four references to "capitalism," but without any systematic claims or discussions. Likewise, volume three mentions the term just thrice, each in a superficial, fleeting manner. See Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1 (1867), 414, available at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Capital-Volume-I.pdf.

(5.) Disparate socialistic theories existed prior to the 1830s, notably from Plato. But socialism as a modern theory and movement took hold in the 1830s. See William Guthrie, Socialism Before the French Revolution (London: Macmillan Company, 1907), which is also an early source for (mostly derogatory) mentions of the term "capitalism." Beyond France, a "cooperative" form of socialism was pushed by Robert Owen (1771-1758) in Britain and America, beginning in the 1820s, but he didn't refer to "capitalism" as a system.

(6.) Geoffrey M. Hodgson, "Capitalism and Its Usage," in Conceptualizing Capitalism: Institutions, Evolution, Future (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016), 252-253. See also Steven G. Marks, "The Word 'Capitalism:' The Soviet Union's Gift to America," Society, 2012, 155, n. 4.

(7.) Cited in Eve Chiapello, "Accounting and the Birth of the Notion of Capitalism," Critical Perspectives on Accounting, vol. 18 (2007), 276 see also Hodgson, "Capitalism and Its Usage," 252. Notably (and paradoxically), Blanc ends the passage by saying capital is the "enemy" of capitalism, a precursor to Marx's subsequent dogma that capitalism wasn't sustainable because capitalists would over-accumulate capital and thereby suffer a declining rate of profit.

(8.) Cited in Braudel, The Wheels of Commerce, 237.

(9.) The most notable and influential of these economists were Carl Menger, William Stanley Jevons, Leon Walras, Eugen Bohm-Bawerk, and Alfred Marshall. Bohm-Bawerk refuted Marx's critique of capitalism but did not portray capitalism as a moral or just system it was, he showed, eminently productive.

(10.) See John Joseph Lalor, Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States by the best American and European Authors, edited by John J. Lalor (New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co., 1899), 3 vols, https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1459.

(11.) Hartley Withers, The Case for Capitalism (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1920), 14.

(12.) J.L. Garvin, "The Case for Capitalism," New York Times, September 12, 1926.

(13.) J.L. Garvin, "Capitalism," The Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th Edition, vol. 4 (London: Encyclopedia Britannica International, Ltd. 1929).

(14.) John Maynard Keynes, "The End of Laissez-Faire," (1926), in Essays in Persuasion (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1931), 312-22.

(15.) Werner Sombart, "Capitalism," in the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, vol. 3 (New York: Macmillan Company, 1930), 195-208.

(16.) See Louis M. Hacker, The Triumph of American Capitalism (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1940) and Carl Snyder, Capitalism the Creator: The Economic Foundations of Industrial Society (New York: Macmillan Company, 1940).

(17.) See Friedrich A. Hayek, Capitalism and the Historians (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954) Ludwig von Mises, The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality (New York: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1956) John Chamberlain, The Roots of Capitalism (New York: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1959) and Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).

(18.) Rand's philosophic case for capitalism also appeared, famously, in such works as Atlas Shrugged, centennial edition (New York: Penguin, 1957) and The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism (New York: New American Library, 1964). In extolling the free and creative rational mind under capitalism, Rand included not just those in business, but also those in science, engineering, medicine, government, and the arts.

(19.) Friedrich Hayek won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974 Milton Friedman won it in 1976.

(20.) Robert L. Heilbroner, "Capitalism," in The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics vol. 1, edited by John Eatwell, et. al. (London: Macmillan Press Ltd., 1987), 347-53.

(21.) Alec Nove, "Socialism," in The New Palgrave, edited by Eatwell et al., 398-407. See also, by Nove, The Economics of Feasible Socialism (London: Allen & Unwin, 1983).

(22.) See libertarian Charles Johnson, "Libertarian Anticapitalism," Bleeding Heart Libertarians, August 18, 2011, http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2011/08/libertarian-anticapitalism/. See also libertarian professor Bryan Caplan, who argues that "if we were starting from scratch, I agree that it would be great to scrap both 'capitalism' and 'socialism.' Etymologically, capitalism does sound like a system of rule by capitalists for capitalists and socialism sounds like a system of rule by society for society. Since neither etymological suggestion is true, I wish the terms had never been coined," in "Should Libertarians Oppose 'Capitalism'?" EconLog, March 2, 2010, http://www.econlib.org/archives/2010/03/should_libertarians_oppose_capitalism.html. Many libertarians and conservatives are reluctant to acknowledge or defend capitalism's rational, egoistic base they also sympathize with socialist critics who define capitalism as unjust rule by "crony" capitalists (via "plutocracy") thus, they prefer amoral, innocuous-sounding terms like "the market economy" or "free enterprise."

(23.) See Ayn Rand, "What is Capitalism?" in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (New York: Signet, 1967), 10-11.


Three UK heritage sites celebrate two decades of global recognition

2021 marks the 20 th anniversary of World Heritage status for the Derwent Valley Mills in Wales, Saltaire in England and New Lanark in Scotland. The sites were three of 13 inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2001.

To commemorate this milestone, the three sites have joined together in a programme of shared celebrations over the course of the year.

Derwent Valley Mills held an open-air exhibition along the Cromford Canal in April and are holding their first Georgian Derbyshire Festival – in conjunction with the newly restored Buxton Crescent- including walks, talks and family activities in September. This year will also see the re-opening of the Derby Silk Mill as a new Museum of Making, as it celebrates its 300 th anniversary. Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Mills will also be celebrating their 250 th anniversary with special events over the summer.

Leader of Derbyshire County Council Councillor Barry Lewis, who chairs the Strategic Board for the Derwent Valley Mills, said: “This is an important year for us, with Cromford Mills commemorating the 250 th anniversary of industrialist Sir Richard Arkwright arriving in the valley at one end of the site, and Derby Museums Trust celebrating the 300 th anniversary of the building of the Silk Mill with its transformation into a Museum of Making.

“The twentieth anniversary of inscription pulls that all together in recognising the importance of capitalism and the role it played in shaping modern commerce with the establishment of the world’s first factories, and of the innovators who created those factories, and gives us a chance to celebrate as we open our doors to the public once more.”

Saltaire is also running a series of events, including a Foundation and Legacy exhibition on Saltaire’s founder, Titus Salt and immediate successor James Roberts. There will be several Saltaire inspired arts events. A video screening of a tour of the model village of Saltaire at Bradford’s City Park Big Screen and a Heritage Open Day in September giving public access to Mr Salt’s Dining Hall. Saltaire Institute (Victoria Hall) will be celebrating 150 years of leisure and learning provision from December 2021-2022 by presenting performance, tours and events.

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Planning and Transport for the City of Bradford, said: “We are looking forward to celebrating local events at our Saltaire World Heritage Site. It’s hoped these events will help people learn about the site, appreciate and understand its special qualities and bring income to help businesses in the area. These are some of the many benefits that World Heritage Site status brings to the district.”

For New Lanark, the anniversary of the accreditation coincides with marking 250 years since the birth of Robert Owen, New Lanark’s most famous owner, and marks the completion of the restoration of the former millworkers’ housing in the village. The site is holding a three-day conference, starting on 12 October, looking amongst other things at the life and legacy of one of the renowned fathers of socialism.

Jane Masters Head of Heritage and Development at New Lanark Trust said: “Celebrating 20 years of this coveted status for places of historic and cultural interest is particularly important in the current climate, both in terms of lifting the spirits of the local and heritage communities and in helping to boost the tourism industry which has suffered significantly from the impact of COVID.”

“All three sites are fundamental to the history and heritage of this country and touched many aspects of life when they were thriving industries – economically, socially, politically, educationally and culturally. Knowledge of our history helps us to understand who we are and how our society has developed the way it has. It helps us to make sense of the world we live in today.”

“Achieving and maintaining UNESCO World Heritage Site status was and is a significant achievement and one that deserves to be celebrated and shared.”

Photo credit: New Lanark
(Crown Copyright HES)

More information on all events can be found on the respective sites’ websites.


ROBERT OWEN WAS A RACIST AND A FASCIST

Heɽ initially trained as a draper in Stamford, Lincolnshire, and worked in London before relocating aged 18 to Manchester and becoming a factory owner. In 1824, Owen travelled to America and invested most of his fortune in a failed experimental authoritarian 'socialist' collective at New Harmony, Indiana, a preliminary model for what he saw as a 'Utopian society'. It lasted only two years and other similar ventures also collapsed. In 1828, Owen returned to settle in London, where he continued to agitate for what he called ɼo-operatives'.

He was born in Newtown, a small market town in Montgomeryshire, Wales, on 14 May 1771, to Anne (Williams) and Robert Owen. Making 14 May 2021 the 250th anniversary of his birth Authoritarian socialists (or as they now call themselves ɼo-operators'), are keen on celebrating his malign authoritarian racist legacy.

At about the age of 18, Owen moved to Manchester, where he spent the next twelve years of his life, employed initially at Satterfield's Drapery in Saint Ann's Square.

While in Manchester, Owen borrowed £100 from his brother William, so as to enter into a partnership to make 'spinning mules', a new invention for spinning cotton thread, which was the product of the burgeoning Slave exploiting cotton growing industry in the Southern Slave States of the USA States. But he exchanged his business share within a few months for six spinning mules that he worked in rented factory space actually processing and selling the American Slave produced cotton.

By the early 1790s, Owen's capitalist spirit, and authoritarian views were emerging. In 1793, he was elected a member of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, where the ideas of the Enlightenment were discussed. He also became a committee member of the Manchester Board of Health, which has been started principally by Thomas Percival to press for improvements in the conditions of factory workers who had flocked in from the countryside in search of a better life in the newly emerging industrial capitalist world.

The Cotton Mills in Lancashire in particular were a valuable source of work. Raw cotton was imported in huge volumes from the American Slave States, spun and sometimes manufactured into garments in Lancashire, then sold throughout the UK and exported abroad.

On a visit to Scotland, Owen met Ann (or Anne) Caroline Dale, daughter of David Dale, a Glasgow based proprietor of the large New Lanark Cotton Mills. After their marriage on 30 September 1799, the Owens set up home in New Lanark, but later moved to Braxfield, Scotland. Owen's four sons, Robert Dale, William, David Dale and Richard, and his daughter Jane Dale, followed their father to the United States, becoming US citizens and permanent residents, Owen's wife Caroline and two of their daughters, Anne Caroline and Mary, remained in Britain, where they died in the 1830s.

In July 1799 Owen and his partners bought the New Lanark mill from David Dale, and Owen became its' manager in January 1800. It had been established in 1785 by David Dale and Richard Arkwright. Its' water power provided by the falls of the River Clyde turned its' cotton-spinning operation into one of Britain's largest consumers of slave produced Cotton.

About 2,000 individuals were involved, 500 of them children whom Owen exploited, having brought them to the mill from the poorhouses and charities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

But the general condition of New Lanark residents were poor. Theft, drunkenness and other vices were common and education and sanitation near non existent. Most families lived in one room. More fortunate people rejected the long hours and demoralising drudgery of the Owen's mills.

Until a series of Truck Acts enacted by both Liberal and Tory Governments between (1831–1887) required employers to pay their employees in common currency, many including Owen, operated a 'truck system', paying workers wholly or in part with tokens that had no monetary value outside the mill owner's "truck shop", which charged high prices for shoddy goods not unlike the modern Co-op in the UK.

Vestiges of this system haven't entirely disappeared even now.

Although employees get the vast proportion of their remuneration in the form of money many employees of companies like the British Co-op get some of their remuneration as a benefit e.g. discounts on the things their employers sell.

Owen's truck stores became the basis for Britain's ɼo-operative' shops, some of which continue trading in altered forms to this day. The system however, was, nevertheless a 'Truck Shop' which placed the employees in a subservient position to their employees (a kind of 'slave' or at 'least a 'serf').

The system effectively kept control of employees interests beyond the workplace. The value of their remuneration depended on the whims of the employer, and was eventually was outlawed, first by the Government in 1831 but more comprehensively by the Tories in 1887 and 1896.

As footnote to this, the modern Co-op retail chain operates an equally (arguably even more) pernicious control system. Employees are given a 20% discount on all items bought within two days of pay day. They are also given the same discount on Co-op branded items all month round.

For low paid part time employees this benefit represents a significant proportion of their remuneration package, and can result in them spending all their wages (and for part timers sometimes more) at the Co-op.

But in order to get their discount they have to become Members of the Co-op and therefore donate money to a little know political party called the ɼo-operative Party', which itself funds Labour Party election candidates. Few employees realise what's happening.

Whether this system is Human Rights and Employment Law compliant remains to be seen. Some say it also violates the Equalities Act because it withholds employee benefits from employees who's philosophical, and sometimes religious, beliefs precludes the from them joining the Co-op and making donations to Left Wing politicians.

Would, for example, a Jewish or anti racist employee be happy donating money to a Labour Party which has itself been convicted by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission of anti semitism? The Co-op however rarely tells any employee at the point of commencement or their job what is happening.

Robert Owen experimented on people with his social and economic ideas at New Lanark. Socialist, statesmen and royalty, including the future Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, visited New Lanark to study its' methods.

However in due course Owen sold his share of the business in 1813, for the equivalent of US$800,000. Making him VERY wealthy man. Comparatives of money with inflation are difficult over time. What appear moderate sums now were huge fortunes. US$800,000 was similar to the annual income of King George III, who was still in the throne.

Apart from the slavery connections, mechanisation of the nature pioneered by Owen was strongly opposed by genuine 'radicals' including what were to become 'Luddites' who claimed it lost jobs.

In fact it did no such thing, but the development of dehumanising intensive factory based work of the nature from which Owen profited, was the cornerstone of the worst elements of early industrial capitalism, and which only became substantially eased well into the 20th Century.

Owen also advised fellow capitalists in Scotland to look on their workers as 'unusually animated robots':- He said:-

The trouble was that, being human, (and Scots to boot) they couldn't be controlled by shifting a lever or opening a valve. On the contrary, Owen complained of his Scottish workers that:-

Still, not all were fooled. One, the poet Robert Southey, found Owen's Scots workers were

Southey concluded that:-

A boy at New Lanark, Duncan McKinlay, would later give evidence to a parliamentary committee that:-

He also adopted new methods of control to raise the standard of goods his workers produced. A cube with faces painted in different colours was installed above each machinist's workplace. The colour of the face showed to all, who saw it the quality and quantity of goods the worker completed.

So rather than give incentives of more pay for trying harder and doing better, workers were 'rewarded' and humiliated publicly if they couldn't do as well as others. This is continuing feature of British Labour Party 'socialism'. Its' proponents are, more often than not, every bit (and sometimes more) cruel as any ⟊pitalist' but are further burdened with a degree of dictatorial smugness and sense of superiority which leads them to disregard most, and sometimes all, standards of decency

Owen for example is still idealised by Left Wing fascist elements in the so called ɼo-operative' movement. Owen however, originally saw co-ops as no more than trading associations but warmed to them when they took off and gained their authoritarian ideological dimension, at which point he embarked on a social experiment even more ideologically authoritarian than New Lanark.

At 'New Harmony', in what is now the USA, people (apart from himself who's ownership of the assets was guaranteed under existing ⟊pitalist' law)) were to have no property and no money: their lives would be entirely ɼo-operative'. ɼo-operative' meant that Owen would tell them what to do, and what they could have. Not surprisingly, after four years the venture collapsed, with the settlers blaming Owen's despotic, overbearing manner.

In keeping with Owen's racism, New Harmony was a also a 'whites only co-operative' and had actually been erected over an earlier settlement called simply 'Harmony', and peopled by an evangelical community of Rappites – so called, because they followed a German mystic, 'Georg Rapp' who was as tyrannical and exploitative as Owen.

Whilst this community had devoted itself to its 'mysticism' however, it had Black 'Servants' to do its dirty work. Indiana was a ɿree State' but a few miles to the south, across from where the Wabash flowed into the Ohio River, lay Kentucky, a slave state. Probably most of the Black servants Owen was exploiting were fugitives from there.

Owen openly published his racist ideology in the New Harmony Gazette of 1 October, 1825. It made him a champion of repatriation, the Enoch Powell of his day but unlike Powell, Owen was an out and out racist. Owen's attitude towards Blacks was more like that of the South Africans Boers.

In 1813 Owen authored and published A New View of Society, or Essays on the Principle of the Formation of the Human Character, the first of four essays he wrote to explain the principles behind his philosophy of socialistic reform. Owen had originally been a follower of the classical liberal, utilitarian Jeremy Bentham, who believed that free markets, in particular the right of workers to move and choose their employers, would release workers from the excessive power of capitalists.

However, Owen rejected freedom, choice and diversity and developed a more authoritarian outlook. Although a believer in God he, criticised organised religion, including the Church of England, and developed a kind of religion of his own. He invented a kind of a 'supreme being who does not intervene in the universe'. Basically he invented a 'God' who didn't tell him what to do.

Owen also arrived at the fascistic and fatalist conclusion that human character is formed by conditions and personal traits over which individuals have no control. Thus individuals could not always be praised or blamed for their behaviour or situation in life.

This dogma is fatal to free society and is at the heart of modern mainstream 'socialism'.

It's worth pointing out at this stage that there's deep unremarked upon moral divide within Labour Party socialism in Britain. The Labour Party that grew up in Scotland and the North of England and now infects metropolitan cities does not have the same origins as the one in South Wales.

South Wales Labour Party socialism grew up out of Christianity and community. Scottish and English Labour Party socialism, is more hard faced dictatorial, materialistic and ⟺scistic' in nature. Inevitably the Labour Party in South Wales has drifted a long way towards the English and Scottish models, but there are still vestiges of the old tolerance and goodwill (if only amongst its' voters).

Robert Owen was much more like an English Labour Party socialist than a South Wales one.

Owen did not benefit from the direct influence of Enlightenment philosophers. His philosophy was influenced by Sir Isaac Newton's views on natural law, and his views resembled those of Plato, Denis Diderot, Claude Adrien Helvétius, William Godwin, John Locke, James Mill, and Jeremy Bentham, among others.

His fascistic and fatalistic mindset led Owen to conclude that the correct formation of people's characters called for placing them under proper physical, moral and social control (e.g his own) from their earliest years, and, it appears, for the rest of their lives.

These notions of inherent irresponsibility in humans and the effect of early influences on an individual's character formed the basis of Owen's system of education and social 'reform'. Relying on his own observations, experiences and pseudo scientific thoughts, Owen saw his view of human nature as 'original' and "the most basic and necessary constituent in an evolving science of society". He denied the existence of free will.

Perhaps, in purely philosophical terms he might even have been right. But acceptance of such a philosophy of despair is to deny to deny the existence of humanity.

Owen's campaign at New Lanark continued to have significance in Britain and continental Europe for many decades His schemes for directing and shaping his workers included opening an 'Institute for the Formation of Character' at New Lanark in 1818. Owen had interviews and direct communications with leading members of the Government, including its premier, Robert Banks Jenkinson, Lord Liverpool that culminated in the Cotton Mills and Factories Act enacted by Lord Liverpool's Reforming Tory Government in 1819.

In 1817, he began pursuing what he described as a "New View of Society". He outlined his position in a report to the committee of the House of Commons on the country's Poor Laws. Misery and trade stagnation after the Napoleonic Wars had captured national attention, leading the Tory government to invite Owen to offer advice on what to do to alleviate the industrial distress.

Although Owen attributed the immediate difficulties to the end of the wars, he argued underlying reforms were required to discourage competition, and recommended setting up authoritarian 'self-sufficient communities'.

Owen proposed that communities of some 1,200 people should settle on land from 1,000 to 1,500 acres (405 to 607 ha), all living in one building with a public kitchen and dining halls. (The proposed size is likely to have been influenced by the size of the village of New Lanark.) Owen also proposed that each family have its' own private rooms but with the responsibility for the care of its children only permitted up to the age of three.

Owen's (so called) 'utopian' model changed little in his lifetime. His developed model envisaged an association of 500–3,000 people as the optimum for a working community.

While mainly agricultural, it would possess the best machinery, offer varied employment, and as far as possible be self-contained. Owen went on to explain that as such communities proliferated, "unions of them federatively united shall be formed in circle of tens, hundreds and thousands", linked by common interest.

Owen always tried to spread his ideas to wider communities. First, he started publishing his dogmas in newspapers, then sent such newspapers widely to parliamentarians, politicians and other important people.These articles spurred the first hostile reactions to what were seen as an oppressive dehumanising ideology.

Materialist opponents thought that Owen's plans would result in an uncontrollable increase in population and poverty.

Other more morally focussed people saw that Owen's plan and the common use of everything would essentially make the country one large workshop. William Hone claimed that Owen saw people as 'unravelled plants from their roots, and that he wanted to 'plant them in rectangles'.

Another commentator accused Owen of wanting to imprison people in workshops like barracks and eradicate their personal independence turning them into (what would now be called) zombies. Owen's opponents had also begun to regard him as an ɾnemy of faith'. His influence in ruling circles, which he had hoped would help him to accomplish his authoritarian "plan", started diminishing and rumours of hostility to religion spread.

Owen however believed that without a change in the character of individuals, they would remain hostile to those around them. As long as a free social order continued, the positive aspects of Christianity could never be put into practice. Owen also believed that unless they were given permanent employment people were a danger to the security of the state.

Without making any changes in the national institutions, he believed that 'reorganising the working classes' would bring great benefits. So he opposed the views of radicals seeking to expand voting rights.

Other notable critics of Owen include Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who viewed his work as a precursor to their own. Marx and Engels, differentiated their own 'scientific' conception of socialism from Owen's by arguing that Owen's plan, to create a model 'utopia' to coexist with contemporary society and prove its superiority over time, was insufficient to create the new even darker socialist society they envisaged.

In their view, Owen was a Utopian, since his objective was "to discover a new and more perfect system of social order and to impose this upon society". Marx and Engels (incorrectly as it turned out) believed that socialism would erupt from within the ɼlass conflict' itself as a result of the inherent contradictions of capitalism and (correctly) maintained that, socialism could only be achieved by violence.

'New Harmony' although it had attracted over a thousand residents by the end of its first year proved to be an economic and social failure, lasting about two years, but many of its scientists, educators, artists and other inhabitants, including Owen's four sons, Robert Dale, William, David Dale, and Richard Dale Owen, and his daughter Jane Dale Owen Fauntleroy, remained at New Harmony after the experiment ended.

Other experiments in the United States included communal settlements at Blue Spring, near Bloomington, Indiana, at Yellow Springs, Ohio, and at Forestville Commonwealth at Earlton, New York, as well as other projects in New York, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Nearly all of these had ended before New Harmony was dissolved in April 1827.

Owen's Utopian communities attracted a mix of people, included vagrants, adventurers, various social misfits, and hangers on. In the words of Owen's son David Dale Owen, they attracted "a heterogeneous collection of Radicals, latitudinarians, and lazy theorists," with "a sprinkling of unprincipled sharpers thrown in." Like most socialists Owen blamed his victims Josiah Warren, a participant at New Harmony, however, asserted that the venture was doomed to failure for lack of individual sovereignty and personal property.

In describing the community, Warren explained:

Which is is fact the story of 'socialism' in nutshell and why socialists, 'progressives' and so called ɼo-operators' hate ɽiversity' Warren's observations on the reasons for the community's failure led to the development of American individualist anarchism, of which he was the original theorist.

Socialist experiments were also tried began in Scotland in 1825, when Abram Combe, an Owenite, attempted a utopian experiment at Orbiston, near Glasgow, but, again, this failed after about two years. In the 1830s, additional experiments in socialistic ɼo-operatives' were made in Ireland and Britain, the most important being at Ralahine, established in 1831 in County Clare, Ireland, and at Tytherley, begun in 1839 in Hampshire, England.

The former proved a success for three-and-a-half years until the proprietor, having ruined himself by gambling, had to sell his interest. Tytherley, known as Harmony Hall or Queenwood College, was designed by the architect Joseph Hansom also failed.

Another social experiment, Manea Colony in the Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire, was launched in the late 1830s by William Hodson, likewise an Owenite, but it failed in a couple of years and Hodson emigrated to the United States.

The Manea Colony site has been excavated by Cambridge Archaeology Unit (CAU) based at the University of Cambridge.

Although Owen made further brief visits to the United States, London became his permanent home and the centre of his work in 1828. After extended friction with William Allen and some other business partners, however Owen relinquished all connections with New Lanark.

In 1832, undeterred by the failure of his previous authoritarian ventures, Owen opened the National Equitable Labour Exchange system, a time-based currency in which the exchange of goods was effected by means of labour notes this system was supposed to supersede the usual means of exchange and middlemen. It became apparent however, that this was no more than an alternative form of currency but less reliable, less useful, and less widely accepted than the existing one.

The London exchange continued until 1833, a Birmingham branch operating for just a few months until July 1833. Owen also became involved in trade unionism, briefly leading the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union (GNCTU) before its collapse in 1834.

In 1817, Owen publicly claimed that all religions were false. In 1854, aged 83, Owen converted to spiritualism after a series of sittings with Maria B. Hayden, an American medium credited with introducing spiritualism to England. He made a public profession of his new faith in his publication 'The Rational Quarterly Review' and in a pamphlet titled The future of the Human race or 'great glorious and future revolution to be effected through the agency of departed spirits of good and superior men and women'.

He claimed to have had contact with spirits of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and others, explaining that the purpose of these conversations with the dead, was to change "the present, false, disunited and miserable state of human existence, for a true, united and happy state. to prepare the world for universal peace, and to infuse into all the spirit of charity, forbearance and love".

In Revolution in the Mind and Practice of the Human Race (1849), he went on to say that character is formed by a combination of Nature or God and the circumstances of the individual's experience. Citing beneficial results at New Lanark, Scotland, during 30 years of work there, Owen again restated his hostility to the idea of human freedom and responsibility, concluding that a person's "character is not made by, but ɿor' the individual, and that nature and society are responsible for each person's character and conduct.

As Owen grew older and even more bigoted in his views, his influence began to decline. He published his memoirs, 'The Life of Robert Owen', in 1857, a year before his death. Although heɽ spent most of his life in England and Scotland, Owen returned to his native village of Newtown at the end of his life. He died there on 17 November 1858 and was buried there on 21 November. He died penniless apart from an annual income drawn from a trust established by his sons in 1844.


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The Birth of Capitalism: Richard Arkwright and Robert Owen - History

In 1769, a mathematical-instrument maker by the name of James Watt filed a patent for an engine which called for strange things such as condensers and steam jackets. Within a few years, his company, the Soho Engineering Works was manufacturing pump machines run by steam. Thus it is, that the year 1769 may well be used as a mark for the beginning of a period in English history when there was a transition for society from that of agricultural to industrial. This new industrial base was to broaden and strengthen in the ensuing one hundred years.1 This is the year which we may further mark as the beginning point of a period during which great social and economic changes were to take place. The simple explanation is that this transition came about as a result of improved machinery and large-scale production methods but, as we will see, the story is more complex than that. The Industrial Revolution2 brought about labour saving machines and factory systems as much as these machines and these systems brought about the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution3 was the integration of a number of factors which acted on one another in a cybernetic fashion. The impulse of the Industrial Revolution, its force, its impetus, acted on the minds of all thinking men of the late 18th and early 19th century. Discoveries fed more discoveries. Ancient class structures broke down. Human labour began to be replaced with human thought. Men, who knew nothing but back breaking labour, mostly in agriculture, increasingly turned their minds to invent devices and contrivances which would give them more for less labour.

There is a great myth about the Industrial Revolution, perpetuated by writers such as Dickens, viz. , that it caused unspeakable misery to the people at large. On the contrary, I do not think any student of history can come to any other conclusion than that the average happiness, to take England as an example, in the early nineteenth century was considerably higher than it had been a hundred years earlier. The writers pointed to the Industrial Revolution in its infancy as one which did not assist the labouring poor, indeed, it was asserted it did them harm. To be found in Malthus' Essay on Population (1798), is this:

The truth is that the Industrial Revolution showed up the horrendous condition which had existed before it came along it not only shone the light but it came up with the remedies.

To demonstrate this evolutionary and integrated process that we have come to label the Industrial Revolution, I shall quote the Canadian political economist, Stephen Leacock:

1 Toynbee used 1760 as the beginning date. Certainly by 1782 the Industrial Revolution was well underway, for, as of that date "almost every statistical series of production shows a sharp upward turn." (T. S. Ashton, An Economic History of England: The 18th Century (London: Methuen, 1969) p. 125.) G. M. Trevelyan was to caution that the "reader must bear in mind that no single decade can be named for any one of the processes that together made up the Industrial Revolution. Even the most cataclysmic of the changes was not an event but a process. Dr. Cunningham suggests that the Industrial Revolution begins about 1770, 'commencing with changes in the hardware trades.' The date will serve, if we remember that since 1720, if not before, there had been signs of the increase of capitalist industry and the decay of the apprentice system, that the improvement of roads had begun to be rapid about 1750, and that the movement for absorbing small farms into large farms was at least as old as that. Yet none of these movements were complete till well on in the nineteenth century." ( British History in the Nineteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green 1924) fn. 1, p. 2.) Trevelyan made reference to Cunningham's work, The Industrial Revolution , which Cunningham had adapted from his larger work, Growth of English Industry and Commerce , a standard work for many years. Cunningham was a Scottish economist and taught at Cambridge.

2 It was Arnold Toynbee who popularized the expression, "Industrial Revolution."

3 The Industrial Revolution was not peculiar to England though, she led the way. This island nation of merchant/sailors were to trade their industrial production throughout the world in exchange for influence and prestige. The effects of the Industrial Revolution, however, were worldwide: France, after 1830 Germany, after 1850 and the U.S., after the Civil War, 1867. Europeans introduced the revolution to Asia at about the turn of the century, but only Japan eventually grew into an industrial giant the others only at the end of the 20th century. The problem of the Industrial Revolution, environmental pollution, one which has grown throughout the 19th and the 20th centuries, and which was abated by better western practices, may take a very sad turn for the entire human race in the coming century.

5 It started in France where the absolute monarchy and its attending aristocratic order collapsed on account of the French Revolution there then followed metamorphic leadership, the States General, the National Assembly, the Jacobins, the Revolutionary tribunal, the guillotine, Napoleon - in these years (between the execution of Louis XVI, 1793 and the Battle of Waterloo, 1815) blood, death and misery flowed over France, and over onto the neighboring countries. "The Industrial Revolution, the age of invention and machinery, had begun, in the technical sense, well back in the eighteenth century. But its results were little felt for most of mankind till the Great Peace of the nineteenth century. They were obscured and impeded by the almost unbroken wars of the sixty years from the outbreak of the Seven Years' War (1755) till Waterloo (1815). But the process of invention had begun, and invention in each industry called for similar progress and invention in others." [Stephen Leacock, Our Heritage of Liberty (London: Bodley Head, 1942), p. 44.]

6 Principles of Political Economy , Bk.4, Ch.6. Mill continues, and in advocating a government role, writes: "Only when, in addition to just institutions, the increase of mankind shall be under the deliberate guidance of judicious foresight, can the conquests made from the powers of nature by the intellect and energy of scientific discoverers, become the common property of the species, and the means of improving and elevating the universal lot." Mill, nonetheless, in one of his earlier passages (Bk.1, Ch.12.) makes it clear that "the progressive fall of the prices and values of almost every kind of manufactured goods during two centuries past a fall accelerated by the mechanical inventions of the last seventy or eighty years, and susceptible of being prolonged and extended beyond any limit which it would be safe to specify." (Bk.1, Ch.12.)

7 It was the Industrial Revolution that brought about sewer systems and water treatment plants. General health was benefited by the Industrial Revolution indeed, plagues (the "black death") that regularly swept countries from one end to another, came, only with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, to an end. "It [the Black Death, or the Great Plague] reached Weymouth in Dorsetshire in 1340. It raged for two years. One and a half million in a population of 4,000,000 died of it. It died down, but for three hundred years it never left England. It flared out again in the Great Plague of 1666. It was never killed till enlightened democracy took it by the throat with the sanitation and public health that was the nineteenth century's answer to the prayers of the fourteenth." (Leacock, op. cit. , p. 26.) For more, see, M. C. Buer and his book, Health, Wealth and Population in the Industrial Revolution (London: Routledge, 1926).

9 "At the time of George III's accession [1760] there had been no canals few hard roads practically no cotton industry no factory system few capitalist manufacturers little smelting of iron by coal and though there had been much enclosure of land, there had not yet been a wholesale sweeping of small farms into big." (G. M. Trevelyan, British History in the Nineteenth Century , op. cit. p. 2.) There was then few canals or roads capable of bearing wheeled traffic. The only trading was inter-village trading. It took place only on a light scale. Of necessity each village produced, for the home and the farm, its own cloth, basketwork, implements, and furniture. Things moved along in a changeless fashion, generation after generation. People of the pre-Industrial Revolution days had a static view of things: agriculture, industry, politics and religion. Today our view is evolutionary.

10 Bertrand de Jouvenel in his essay contained in the book edited by Hayek, Capitalism and the Historians , pp. 98-9.

11 Johnson, Birth of the Modern (New York: HarperCollins, 1991) pp. 571-2.

12 Johnson, pp. 571-2. Incidently, the law protects inventors and authors by patents and copyright. A patent is a license to manufacture, sell, or deal in an article or commodity, to the exclusion of other persons it is a grant from the government. Once a patent is secured, then the invention can only be employed by the patent holder or his assigns. Without such legal protection -- which was to first appear in England before the Industrial Revolution began -- anyone might steal the work of another thus, dampening the enthusiasm of would be inventors.


Chapter 42: The Early Socialists

This month we get to know the first wave of socialist thinkers – the Utopian socialists – including Robert Owen, Étienne Cabet, Jean Claude Leonard de Sismondi, Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, and more. We also get to see how Radical associations in Britain – like the trade unions, co-ops, and Chartists – paved the way for a socialist movement.

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Full Transcript

Reminder: Footnotes are available to those who support the podcast on Patreon. Sign up at Patreon.com/indrevpod.

In 1817, an unemployed stocking frame knitter and former Luddite named Jeremiah Brandreth led a group of over 200 men on a march from the village of South Wingfield to Nottingham. Their mission: March on London, overthrow the government of the United Kingdom, and bring an end to poverty forever.

At least that’s what the government said their mission was after the fact. In reality, their plans may well have been peaceful and their goals were never all that well focused.

Conditions had been ripe for such a demonstration. Recession had come in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars. Bad harvests, due to an unusually cold and wet season the year before – along with the Corn Laws – had created a bread shortage and, thus, a spike in food prices. And the introduction of the power loom in industrial textile mills made knitting by stocking frame an irrelevant trade, leaving those trained for the job with incomes in sharp decline. The dreams of the French Revolutionaries a generation earlier were still fresh in the memories of these Radicals.

Brandreth and his local allies had been approached by one William Oliver, who told them that a national uprising was being planned, and an army of 50,000 would join them in London. Oliver was, in fact, a government spy, sent to the north to expose revolutionaries. Before the men made it to Nottingham, they were met by the 15th Regiment of Light Dragoons. The men scattered, but the leaders – including Brandreth – were captured. He and two others were found guilty of high treason. They were hanged, drawn, and quartered later that year.

This Pentridge rising, as it’s remembered, was among a myriad of stories from this period of working-class unrest.

Riots broke out across in East Anglia in 1816 and 1822, with agricultural workers destroying farming machinery and shouting for “bread or blood.”

In 1820, Radicals across Scotland staged an insurrection, led by a Glasgow committee claiming the formation a provisional government independent from that in England. 60,000 workers went on strike, while armed militias formed to march on the Carron Ironworks, once owned by our old friend, John Roebuck. (shout out Chapter 16!)

In 1830, agricultural workers across southern and eastern England rioted, beginning in Kent with the destruction of the new threshing machines which reduced the demand for field labor. These Swing Riots, as they’re remembered, also started targeting the Church of England because of forced tithes.

And a series of protests broke out in Wales during the late 1830s and early 1840s, as poor farmers struggled to pay road tolls in addition to high taxes, tithes, and inflated food prices. Dressing as women and calling themselves “daughters of Rebecca”, these men smashed the hated toll gates on the turnpikes.

Clearly the transition to technological and economic modernity was not going smoothly. If this was a path of progress it was certainly a bumpy one – violently bumpy.

It wasn’t just working-class Radicals who were concerned with the way this transition was playing out. A few empathetic business owners, scholars, and politicians were too. And they began to discuss how to build a better, more just society – how to address these social problems.

It was the dawn of socialism.

This is the Industrial Revolutions

Chapter 42: The Early Socialists

Before we begin, we’re going to need to define this term: socialism. Because, as you know perfectly well, it is a loaded one.

The Oxford Dictionary defines socialism as “a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”

That’s actually pretty broad, if you think about it. The words “owned or regulated by the community as a whole” means the term can be applied to pretty much any political / economic philosophy that isn’t 100% laissez faire. Other definitions of socialism may include other degrees and forms of collective ownership or distribution. And it’s fitting, really, because there is a huge range of socialist thought out there – from the social democrats, the co-op movement, etc. to democratic socialism, to revolutionary socialism, communism, even to anarchism.

The first uses of the word “socialism” were used to distinguish it from the individualist-motivated forces of the new capitalists and industrialists. Those writers who coined it believed someone ought to be looking out for society, and the social welfare, at large.

Funny enough though, one of the first socialists – if not the first – was actually a capitalist industrialist. His name was Robert Owen.

Born in Newtown, Wales in 1771, Owen was the son of shopkeepers whose experience in practical retailing, inventory, and other administrative skills probably rubbed off on him. Newtown at the time was a small market town in a rural, Welsh-speaking, picturesque part of the country. During Owen’s boyhood years, the Industrial Revolution was only beginning to have an impact on the local woolen and crafts industries.

Owen went to school up until about the age of 10. By all accounts he was a good student who loved reading, and his schoolmaster made him a monitor – essentially a classroom leader charged with helping teach his classmates. This concept of mutual instruction was a new one and one Owen would later adopt in his own schools.

But then he was pulled out of school and sent all the way to Stamford, Lincolnshire, where he apprenticed as a draper. After four years in apprenticeship, he made his way to London where he worked retail in a large haberdashery. The next move of his blossoming career came in 1788, when he was hired by a Manchester-based firm of silk merchants and drapers catering to the expanding middle class there.

So, at age 17, Owen moved to the epicenter of the Industrial Revolution. There he soon learned that the real action of the textile industry was in production. In 1790, he joined a partnership that made cotton spinning machinery, and then began spinning cotton too – some of the best yarn threads in the country, in fact.

But the real turning point of Owen’s career came in 1792 when he applied for a managerial job at the Bank Top Mill. Recently completed by the cottage industry merchant turned mass-manufacturing capitalist, Peter Drinkwater, the Bank Top Mill (or Piccadilly Mill, as it was also called) was a massive and modern four-story factory churning out cotton yarn. Not only was it built with the latest fire-proofing and lighting techniques in architecture, it was the first mill in Manchester to be powered directly by a Boulton & Watt steam engine.

That a 21-year-old former retailer got such an important and well-paying job turned more than a few heads. But Owen was amazed – possibly overwhelmed at first – by the responsibility of managing 500 men, women, and children working with these new and often dangerous technologies.

It was in 1793 that Owen joined the Manchester Literary & Philosophical Society, one of the many Enlightenment clubs that could be found up and down Great Britain. Its ranks included scientists, industrialists, and political reformers who wrote papers, presented them to the society, and discussed with one another. And it was within this setting Owen began developing his own philosophies.

Throughout the 1790s, Owen proved to be a genius capitalist, leaving Drinkwater to jump at a new partnership opportunity and build a new mill in Manchester. Then, in 1797 or 1798, he travelled to Scotland, on behalf of his fellow partners, to meet with customers. While there, he met fellow capitalist David Dale and toured his cotton mill at New Lanark.

David Dale’s story was remarkably similar to Owen’s. The son of a merchant in a small town in rural Scotland, Dale had gone through a textile apprenticeship and started rising through the ranks of firms as a clerk and agent. He was soon in business for himself, importing linens from the Continent. As his business grew, he expanded into banking as well.

Then, in 1784, our old friend, Sir Richard Arkwright, made a trip to Scotland to promote his new system of mass-producing cotton yarn. Prodded by a local MP, Arkwright and Dale met to discuss the development of such a cotton mill in Scotland. Walking up a hill outside the town of Lanark in Lanarkshire, they came upon a natural wonder – the Falls of Clyde. The only waterfall on the River Clyde, Arkwright immediately noted its strength, providing enough movement to power a mill using one of his water frames.

Construction of this mill started shortly thereafter, though Arkwright soon lost interest, leaving the enterprise almost exclusively to Dale. Soon this location would include four mills as well as a tunnel and aqueduct to divert water from the Clyde through a series of water wheels. And like Arkwright had at Cromford (shout out Chapter 5), Dale constructed a little community around the mill to house the workforce that was needed. He called the village “New Lanark.”

As Owen later described it…

“…a large house was erected, which ultimately contained about 500 children, who were procured chiefly from workhouses and charities in Edinburgh… a village was built and the houses were let at a low rent to such families as could be induced to accept employment in the mills… only persons destitute of friends, employment, and character were found willing to try the experiment… the community by degrees was formed under these circumstances into a very wretched society.”

But there were things Owen liked about the mill. For one thing, he appreciated the work Dale had put into it and may have seen potential for creating a model community from the get-go. For another thing, it was a good location and it was profitable. And for another thing, Owen fell in love with Dale’s daughter, Caroline. They were married in 1799 and, shortly thereafter, Owen and his partners bought New Lanark from Dale for the bargain price of £60,000.

The investors installed Owen as the managing partner of New Lanark. And that’s when things got interesting.

For years now, Owen had been unsatisfied with the conditions he observed in the new cotton mills of Great Britain. This came not only from his own experience, but also as a member of the Manchester Board of Health, which had gathered data on workers’ health conditions in the factories.

Among other things, Owen was worried about a growing divide of and hostility between the industrialist and working classes – between the forces capital and labor. The mill owners mistreated their employees and, in response, the employees stole, got drunk, and made things difficult.

As Owen described the population at New Lanark:

“…every man did that which was right in his own eyes, and vice and immorality prevailed to a monstrous extent. The population lived in idleness, in poverty, in almost every kind of crime consequently, in debt, out of health, and in misery.”

They also, apparently, got in a lot of arguments with each other about religion, which Owen found ridiculous.

Determined to turn things around in the village, Owen instituted some new measures.

First: Preventative (rather than punitive) measures to combat theft.

Second: Preventative (again, rather than punitive) measures to combat drunkenness.

Third: A prohibition on sectarian arguments and a guarantee of religious tolerance.

Fourth: Punitive fines for “irregular intercourse of the sexes.”

But then Owen also started doing things that raised the eyebrows of his partners.

He decided New Lanark would take no more children as “apprentices” from the poorhouses. From now on, only families would settle and work in New Lanark.

He prohibited work for children under the age of 10, insisting they go to the village school every day instead. This not only concerned his partners (since children worked for a lower wage than adults), it also upset the families who wanted their young children working for the extra income. Children between 10 and 18, meanwhile, had their work limited to 10 hours a day. To make up for it, he gave raises to the children over 10.

Owen spent a considerable amount of money improving the village too. The streets were repaved. The houses were improved. He also bought food, clothes, and fuel in bulk so he could sell them to his workers at discounted prices.

Now, partially this was because Owen was a genuinely good guy. But partially, it was good business. The reforms worked and the mills’ employees became much more productive. New Lanark continued to profit and profit handsomely.

Now, Owen also recognized this as material for some good PR, and was soon recognized as a social reformer throughout Europe. Well, that didn’t sit super-well with his fellow industrialists, including some of his own partners. In 1812, a group of them attempted a coup to oust him from his position at New Lanark. The effort failed. In true Logan Roy-form, Owen hit back, corralling new investors to lead an aggressive buyout of the detractors’ shares.

Now Owen was free to reform New Lanark as he saw fit – and to tell the world about it. In 1813, he published A New View of Society – a series of four essays “on the Formation of Human Character Preparatory to the Development of a Plan for Gradually Ameliorating the Condition of Mankind.”

In it, Owen explains his worldview in the vein of an Enlightenment philosopher. Central to this framework is Owen’s view of nurture over nature: That a man’s character is exclusively the product of his environment and upbringing. If we can properly train people to be good, and give them good conditions to live in, they will be good people to everyone else in turn.

“The happiness of self, clearly understood and uniformly practiced [a principle] which can only be attained by conduct that must promote the happiness of the community.”

In Owen’s burgeoning philosophy, individualism doesn’t work.

Owen is most passionate about education. Explaining how he insisted young children go to school rather than work, he argues that their parents were raised in a bad environment with little education. How are they going to give their kids a good environment or the tools of reasoning? No, take the kids away from their parents! (At least during the workday.) Stick ‘em in a classroom or on a playground (yes, Owen was a very early advocate for learn-by-play) and have them watched over by teachers who specialize in instilling good character through positive reinforcement.

But he’s not just calling on his fellow industrialists to follow suit, he’s calling for his principles to be adopted by government.

“the governing powers of all countries should establish rational plans for the education and general formation of the characters of their subjects… to train children from their earliest infancy in good habits of every description (which will of course prevent them of acquiring those of falsehood and deception.”

He also calls on government to disincentivize gambling (including the lottery) and the production and sale of spirits, to reform the Church, to ban emoluments, to reform the Poor Laws, and to create a massive, massive increase in public employment. As he saw it, large-scale public employment would create more efficiencies in the economy and increase the demand for labor (thus improving wages).

While promoting his views, Owen also advanced his new reforms at New Lanark, what he called the “New Institution”, which included a school, a church (which specifically taught Owen’s Deist views), and communal living arrangements. And while it’s easy to think of communal living as a hippie dippie “hey man, we’re all one with the earth” sort of thing, Owen actually looked at it from a mass production perspective. Like “Why should all the families in this village cook their own meals? That’s so inefficient! Why don’t we have a small handful of people prepare one big dinner for the whole community? Think of all the man-hours it frees up! That’s much more economical.”

And when it came to communal living, well, this is where Owen starts going off the rails.

In 1824, Owen and his son sailed to the United States to establish a new communitarian village. A few months later they arrived in the state of Indiana, where Owen purchased the town of New Harmony for $135,000. Now, New Harmony had been already been settled and built up by a weird German millennialist cult which was now moving to Ohio, and in their place, Owen offered a home to anyone willing to join this experiment in equality and communal living.

New Harmony filled up quickly, but it also faced a lot of challenges. It took just four years for the experiment to fail.

There are a lot of explanations for why it failed and, depending on your own political views, you might want to lean toward one reason or another. But here’s a few things to know.

Owen struggled to get support from the Americans who weren’t as experienced with the inequalities Owen was trying to tackle and who didn’t much appreciate his Deism. And without that support, Owen didn’t have the resources to build New Harmony into the futuristic Utopia he envisioned.

The residents of New Harmony also struggled to adjust to the new lifestyle. One such resident was Josiah Warren, who argued that the forced conformity of the society, and the lack of private property, was to blame. He would later publish a weekly individualist-anarchist newspaper called The Peaceful Revolutionist. Others couldn’t quite leave the class distinctions of the old world behind. Upper-class people mingled with upper-class people and working-class people mingled with working-class people. The two groups found they didn’t have much in common, culturally, and didn’t get along.

Owen argued that the leaders of the community weren’t following his ideas close enough. Owen’s son argued that many of the town’s occupants were lazy.

Whatever the case may be, Owen packed up in 1829 and went back to the UK.

And yet, after he left, more than a hundred Owenite and Owenite-inspired communities spread across the U.S. I mean, all of them failed, but clearly there was something compelling about his philosophy to the people of the time.

Among the Owenite-inspired communities were those of the Icarians, a movement founded by French philosopher Étienne Cabet.

Born in Dijon in 1788, Cabet was a lawyer and teacher who served as a minor leader in the July Revolution of 1830. He then became a politician in the early years of the July Monarchy but, despite some initial success, it soon became clear that he was way too radical for the liberal regime of Louis Philippe. After some accusations of treason, he fled to England, where he began sketching out his philosophy.

After returning to France in 1839, he published a novel, The Travel and Adventures of Lord William Carisdall in Icaria, a fictionalized account of an explorer finding a perfect society. (Hmmm, where have I heard that before?) In Icaria, democratic elections are held for a governing body which tightly controls the community to guarantee economic and social equality.

Shortly before the end of the First Industrial Revolution, Cabet decided to put these ideas into practice and establish his own Utopian community in America. Leading 69 Icarian settlers who elected him dictator for 10 years, Cabet landed in New Orleans and made his way to Texas, where they attempted settling a million acres with log cabins in 3 months. It didn’t work.

So instead, they made their way to Nauvoo, Illinois where they purchased the former Mormon settlement founded by Joseph Smith. But as dictator, Cabet never had as much power as he needed – governing a community that grew to about 1,800 – and, again, the followers struggled to adapt to the new communal lifestyle he envisioned.

After a dispute in 1856, Cabet left Nauvoo with 180 of his most loyal Icarians and moved to St. Louis, but he died shortly after that same year. The Icarian movement continued though, with one such community – in Corning, Iowa – surviving until the end of the 19th Century.

Owen and Cabet were practitioners of what came to be known Utopian socialism – the first school of this new ideology. This was in part because of the Utopian experiments these guys were trying and in part an effort by later Marxists to dismiss the earlier school as naïve, compared to what they called their “scientific” socialism.

But the Utopian school also had many theorists who weren’t practitioners. And in their differences of thought we see the many branches of this ideology begin to form.

Okay, let’s say for a second you are trying to build a Utopian society. How do you do it?

Would it make things easier for you if you were put in charge? King of the Utopians? Master of the Owenites? Dictator of the Icarians?

A society that can prosper while practicing equality and achieving tranquility must require everyone to be on the same page, right? But how do you accomplish that?

Way back in Chapter 1, I talked about how social cooperation has always required myths. Whether it’s the myth of money, religious myths, or the myth of law, you need your society to believe in the same basic myths in order to regulate behavior.

Okay, well, the myth of money isn’t super-helpful in a socialist Utopia. Money is sort of the thing you feel icky about if you’re the kind of person joining a Utopian community. Religious myths, meanwhile, are really useful in Utopian societies, but they’re a lot harder to promote in a “Rationalist”, post-Enlightenment world, with greater tolerance for people to believe in a broad array of such doctrines. The burden is really on the myth of law. You’re going to need a strong political power that can govern people, the economy, etc.

Except, isn’t freedom also an important idea in this post-Enlightenment world? Does dictatorship really fit in our idea of Utopia? Or is it more characteristic of a Dystopia?

Almost from the beginning, the Utopian school of socialism was split into two distinct, if rarely defined camps. At the heart of it was this question of power dynamics in a Utopian society.

The first camp I will call the “Centralists” – those who prioritize the success of the society over the freedom of the individual. Owen and Cabet were definitely Centralists.

And if Robert Owen was the bridge from the practice of capitalism to the practice of socialism, then the bridge from the theories of capitalism to the theories of socialism was the Genevan historian and political economist Jean Charles Leonard Simonde de Sismondi.

Born in 1773, Sismondi grew up during the height of the Enlightenment in Geneva, where and when guys like Voltaire and Rosseau were such a big deal. From an early age, it was clear that Sismondi was a genius, but his parents were determined he should go into commerce rather than scholarship. As a young adult he clerked for a bank in Lyon as the French Revolution broke out. When the Revolution turned to bloody chaos, he fled to England before returning to Geneva.

At some point during these years he read Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and became intensely interested in political economy. He published his first economic treatise in 1803 which, for the most part, followed Smithian orthodoxy.

But as the years passed and the Industrial Revolution progressed, Sismondi became more dissatisfied with the liberal Classical school of economics, especially the optimism of Jean-Baptiste Say. In 1819 he published his New Principles of Political Economy (followed up by his 1837 Studies in Political Economy) in which he argued that Say’s Law – remember, that’s the idea that there’s not going to be an excess of supply in the market – was flawed.

As Sismondi saw it, with such an unequal distribution of income as was developing, how could you argue there was an efficient equilibrium in the free market? He argued too much emphasis was being put on the creation of wealth rather than the creation of happiness. As he put it, “A certain kind of equilibrium, it is true, is reestablished in the long run, but it is after a frightful amount of suffering.”

Instead, Sismondi argued that some of the new wealth being created should be redistributed – not from capitalist to landowner, but from capitalist to worker. He believed laissez-faire policies were only going to further the disparities of wealth as industrialists used new technologies to force lower wages on their employees.

Sismondi believed the ideal economy would be dominated by small farms and artisan craftsmen. Any new wealth generated by new technology would be redistributed equitably and contributed to a social safety net.

Now, this stood a bit in contrast to Owen, who believed that modern industry was central to the formation of a fair, new, Utopian world. It also stood in contrast to the most famous of these early socialist theorists: Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon.

Henri de Saint-Simon was born into the French aristocracy in Paris in 1760. As a young man, he joined the Marquis de Lafayette and fought in George Washington’s army in the American Revolution. After returning to France he studied engineering and hydraulics. Saint-Simon was a supporter of the French Revolution from the get-go – a radical one at that – but because of his noble birth he was locked up during the Reign of Terror.

The next 20 years of his life were pretty weird. He was basically broke the whole time while trying to keep up the appearances of an Enlightened aristocrat. But from 1814 to his death in 1825, Saint-Simon published a series of works that re-envisioned everything about how society should be run.

Central to this Utopian vision was a strong hierarchy of power – based not on democratic whims or aristocratic traditions, but on strict meritocracy – combined with unyielding scientific and technological progress. The efficiency of the factory, he argued, should be extended to all aspects of society. While he believed in low taxes and limited government regulation, he nevertheless saw central planning of an economy’s production and distribution as the key to the future. Such a society would respect hard work and respect those leaders with the experience and intelligence to organize such a system.

Another Centralist was the Prussian economist and politician Johann Karl Rodbertus. Born in Greifswald in 1805, Rodbertus studied the law and served in the judiciary before being elected to the Prussian National Assembly. From the 1830s to 1850s, he published serval works that outlined his philosophical, political, and economic ideas.

Rodbertus was a Romantic and his politics were relatively moderate. But he was a strong critic of capitalism, arguing that growing income inequality wasn’t just evidence of exploitation – like the Ricardian Socialists were saying (shout out Chapter 28!) – it also set the economy up for crisis-level contractions. He believed government needed to intervene, regulating industry to the point of setting prices and wages.

But to other socialists, government wasn’t the solution to capitalism’s flaws. Rather, government and capitalism were two different forms of the same problem.

Among the most notable of these “Decentralist” thinkers (as I’m calling them) was the French philosopher Charles Fourier. Born in Besançon in 1772, Fourier came from a fairly well-to-do middle-class family. After his parents died, he received a sizeable inheritance that allowed him to do a little tour of Europe. But despite higher aspirations, he was stuck doing middle-class jobs for the rest of his life – as a traveling salesman and a merchant clerk..

Fourier kept his head down during the French Revolution and published most of his writings after the fall of Napoleon. It’s not clear how much of his earlier writings really influenced the ideas of his later writings, but we can sketch out his worldview like this…

Man, in a state of nature, is born good. This is heavily influenced by Rosseau’s idea of the noble savage. And, Fourier argues, the history, the institutions, and the civilization built around man have perverted his incentives for how to behave. If it weren’t for the government, the merchants and bankers, the church, the family, the bosses, then people could freely understand their own wishes. And then it would only be natural for them to organize themselves in a more harmonious way.

In this harmoniously organized society, he figured, the waste and parasitism that is commerce would cease to be. People would only consume the essentials. And if consumption was made that simple, then production could be reorganized in a much more pleasant way. Work could be coordinated in small communities, giving everyone the labor they were able to do and wanted to do. Exploitation of labor would cease.

He called these communal associations “phalanxes” and even envisioned huge complexes called “phalansteries” where the members could live and work. Now, incomes in a phalanx would be determined by the type of work done – this inequality would provide some incentive for people to do the more challenging or less desirable jobs. But, he believed, the system would still be much more equitable than anything else and wouldn’t allow for poverty.

And, much in the Utopian spirit of the age, several Fourierist communities sprung up in France and the United States.

Another guy I’d describe as a Decentralist was the English writer William Godwin. Born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire in 1756, he came from a middle-class family of hardcore religious Dissenters. His father was a Calvinist minister and Godwin followed into that same profession. However, he probably wouldn’t have been very good at that job because, at some point, he realized he was an atheist. Instead, Godwin moved to London where he began a writing career.

For about half a century, Godwin wrote a mix of fiction and non-fiction, including novels, essays, and biographies. Among the last was of his late wife, the writer Mary Wollstonecraft – a genius in her own right who I think it would be fair to call the intellectual catalyst for feminism.

A friend of Robert Owen, Godwin was a critic of conservatives – writing counterpoints to the works of Edmund Burke and Thomas Malthus – as well as liberals. In his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, he tapped into the utilitarian philosophy of Bentham and Mill to criticize John Locke’s defense of private property. Godwin argued that one’s right to property is limited to his needs of property. No one has the right to maximize his own pleasure at the expense of someone else’s. So, if the extent to someone’s private property is greater than necessary, while someone else lacks the private property they need to be satisfied, then the ownership is unjustified and illegitimate.

But, like Fourier, Godwin believed that man was a rational creature who was generally good – even capable of perfectibility. To Godwin, social justice and individual liberty were two sides of the same coin. Abolishing oppression required the elimination of both excess property and the existence of the state.

The works of Fourier – and no doubt Godwin too – had a huge impact on the final theorist I’m going to tell you about: the so-called “Father of Anarchism”, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

Born in 1809, Proudhon came from Besançon, just like Fourier. His father was a brewer and barrel-maker, and the young Proudhon worked in the brewery rather than going to school. He did learn to read though and managed to get into a local school as a teenager.

When he turned 18, he began an apprenticeship at a print shop. It was during these years he met a writer who was publishing a book with that printer – Charles Fourier. Their conversations had a profound impact on Proudhon, who later pursued his own career as a philosopher and writer.

Throughout the 1840s, Proudon published several works outlining his worldview. Like Godwin, he argued for the abolition of excessive private property, but also argued against State invention, as an affront to individual liberty. And like Fourier, he envisioned a system where individuals could freely organize a just and cooperative economy through associations.

As he put it in his 1848 Election Manifesto of Le Peuple:

“We do not want expropriation by the State of the mines, canals, and railways: it is still monarchical, still wage-labour. We want the mines, canals, railways handed over to democratically organized workers’ associations, operating under State supervision, in conditions laid down by the State and under their own responsibility. We want these associations to be models for agriculture, industry and trade, the pioneering core of that vast federation of companies and societies woven into the common cloth of the democratic and social Republic.”

I suppose we might want to touch on anarchism more later on, so let’s leave it there for now.

While this array of mostly-aristocratic-or-bourgeois intellectuals were formulating theories and experiments of socialist Utopias, actual working-class Radicals in Britain were beginning to lay the foundations of a real socialist movement.

In London, 1838, a committee of six Members of Parliament and six working men drafted a document to revolutionize British democracy. Among the working men on the committee was our friend from last time, William Lovett – the rope-maker-turned-carpenter – representing the London Working Men’s Association. As they saw it, the Great Reform Act of 1832 had not gone far enough to represent the working class.

The document they drafted called for six key reforms:

Universal suffrage for men over the age of 21

Removing the requirement that Members of Parliament be property owners

Annual Parliaments (in other words, annual national elections)

Equal division of electoral districts – expanding on the progress made in the Reform Act by cleaning up rotten boroughs

Salaries for Members of Parliament so that working men – not just the wealthy – could afford to serve in government

Secret ballot voting to eliminate some of the corruption problems I mentioned in Chapter 40

They called this document “The People’s Charter”. Over the next year, the Chartists (as they were called) organized public meetings across the country, gathering over 1.2 million signatures for a petition calling on Parliament to adopt the Charter.

In May 1839, the petition was at last presented to Parliament. They voted to reject it. Riots broke out across the country.

The Chartism movement persisted though, and – along with the 10 Hour Movement to limit child labor in the factories – it was the focal point of working-class politics in Britain throughout the 1840s. Two more petitions were organized. Eventually, most of the six points were adopted, though not until the 1860s and 70s.*

* Even that’s an oversimplification. While the franchise was first extended to some working-class voters in the 1860s, for example, universal adult male suffrage would have to wait until the 20th Century.

Populist political movements had existed throughout history, of course, but something about this one was different. It was organized, but its tactics non-violent radical in its aims, but measured in its approach.

In this way, the Chartist movement differed from other radical movements on the Continent during the 1840s, movements that led to revolutions in 1848. And the associational experience of the Chartist leaders is a big reason why.

It began about a century earlier with the Methodists (shout out Chapter 17!) who recruited members from poor backgrounds, gave them some education, and put them into leadership roles within the religious movement.

In the 1790s, working-class Enlightenment societies began to appear, such as the London Corresponding Society. Started by a shoemaker named Thomas Hardy, who believed the limits to voting rights were responsible for all the greed and corruption of politicians, the LCS began as a small group of friends who met once a week to discuss a new book. Those discussions were usually along Radical political lines. It soon grew into a nationwide organization with dozens of branches, scaring the pants off the government, which then blamed it for some assassination attempts on the King. In 1794, the LCS’s leaders were put on trial for treason and, the next year, it and similar organizations were suppressed.

But working men meeting to discuss books didn’t die with the LCS, it continued in the form of mutual improvement societies, which I mentioned last week. Not only did they provide some basic educational opportunities for the working class, they gave their members intellectual stimulation and encouraged them to explore their own political thoughts.

Among the members of the LCS was a struggling leather breeches-maker named Francis Place. Place demonstrated strong organizational and leadership skills and rose through the ranks of the LCS. He had developed these skills as a member of the Breeches Makers Benefit Society.

Benefit societies – also called mutual insurance societies or friendly societies – were members-based insurance pools for workers in various industries. So these breeches-makers would pay weekly dues to the society, and if they got sick and had to miss work, or if they got laid off, or if they got seriously injured on the job, the society would help them get by. (Employers sure weren’t doing that yet.) To these ends, the society also held meetings to elect stewards.

Two years into Place’s membership, the Breeches Makers Benefit Society stepped out of its normal bounds. They decided to strike for better wages. Place was suddenly elevated into a leadership role and, although the strike was unsuccessful, he gained important experience from it.

Blacklisted from work making leather breeches, then, Place transitioned into making wool breaches. Within a few years of it, some of his co-workers approached him to help them raise a strike fund. He agreed, becoming the secretary of their friendly society and a “confidential manager” of their money. Not long after, a group of carpenters approached him and asked him to do the same for them. And then a group of journeymen plumbers.

The idea of the labor strike has existed since antiquity. Artisans at Egypt's Royal Necropolis walked off the job, demanding better compensation, in the 12th Century BCE. In the ancient Roman Republic, when the Plebs felt mistreated by the Patricians, they would simply up-and-leave the city, until the Patricians realized they needed them. Peasant revolts popped up during the Middle Ages, where serfs refused to work until the rents were reduced, usually cutting off a few heads in the process. And in the 1760s, when wages were cut at the London docks, the sailors demonstrated by going ship-to-ship and “striking” the sails – that is, taking them down. (And that is believed to be the etymology for how we use the word “strike”.)

And while the British couldn’t exactly force their people to work, they could prohibit the end-goal of labor strikes – the collective bargaining agreement – by prohibiting the practice of collective bargaining. And that’s exactly what they did. In 1799 and 1800, Parliament passed two bills known as the Combination Acts, banning contracts between employers and bargaining units.

While the Combination Acts didn’t successfully stop all worker mobilization or even strikes, they did successfully keep the lid on the labor movement for over two decades. Finally, in 1824, they were repealed. A huge wave of strikes across the country followed and, the next year, a new Combination Act was passed, limiting these “combinations” strictly to bargaining on the basis of wages and hours – not working conditions or anything else. It also prohibited methods for encouraging workers to participate in the strike, including – critically – a ban on pickets.

But thanks to the 1824 bill, another kind of organization for working-class empowerment developed – the labor union. Okay, in Britain they say “trade union” and, since that’s the geographic focus here, I’ll say it too for now.

Trade unionism grew in Britain in the 1830s and 40s despite a difficult legal environment.

Thomas Dunning was a self-taught shoemaker in Nantwich, where he joined a 500-member-large shoemakers union – the Cordwainers’ Club – in the 1830s. Then some local magistrates threatened to prosecute the union’s leaders for violating the ban on secret oaths – which you’ll remember was a law that came out of the Luddite uprisings (shout out Chapter 24!) and is how officials prosecuted the Tolpuddle Martyrs (shout out Chapter 6!).

As a result, the leadership of the Cordwainers’ Club skipped town, and Dunning stepped up to fill their shoes. Working closely with the union’s lawyer, Dunning was able to get the charges dropped. It left the union in serious financial difficulty, with all the legal fees they had to pay. But between the legal battle and the subsequent raising of funds, Dunning gained valuable experience in law and finance.

It’s no wonder why Dunning later joined the Chartists. Only by reforming the political order did workers have a chance at changing the laws – the ban on secrets oaths the ban on picketing – that made union organizing so difficult. And thanks to experienced leaders like Dunning, the Chartists were able to organize effectively.

The Methodists, the mutual improvement societies, and labor unions were all examples of associations that empowered the working class to then turn to political action with the People’s Charter. But among the things that set the unions apart was their role in the advancement of socialism.

With all the difficulties they faced in the First Industrial Revolution, many unions understood they would be a more powerful force if they could be organized and coordinated together. In 1829, a union of Lancashire cotton-spinners invited spinners’ unions across the UK to send delegates to a national convention on the Isle of Man. There they elected executive committees and agreed to hold the convention annually.

The new Secretary General of this new General Union of Cotton Spinners was the Irish-born spinner and experienced labor agitator John Doherty. And he envisioned an even bigger organization – the National Association for the Protection of Labour. This would be a UK-wide union of unions, representing all wage-earning workers of all trades. It came together in 1830, counting about 130 unions, but soon fell apart under the weight of its ambition.

Next came the Operative Builders’ Union – a collection of unions representing joiners, masons, bricklayers, plasterers, plumbers, painters, and other construction workers. By 1834 it represented nearly 6,800 workers. That year, they attempted to form a new union of unions – the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union – with the help of none other than Robert Owen.

By this point, Owen had returned from America and became a major supporter of trade unions, believing “labour is the source of all wealth” and that the producers of wealth could retain it for themselves if they stuck together.

Now, the Grand National also fell apart. But with Owen’s considerable public persona behind it, trade unionism grew significantly. And under his influence, union leaders became more collectivist in their outlook as they too reimagined the ways society could be organized.

Among them was our friend, William Lovett. He was a labor leader. He was a prominent Chartist. And as an Owenite, he also became a big believer in co-operatives. Co-ops were a natural extension of Owenism that picked up among his followers. Lovett joined the First London Co-Operative Trading Association in the late 1820s. Members like him would pay a small weekly sum to the co-op. The co-op would then stock up on all kinds of shop items that working families relied on. The profits earned would go back into the general fund.

In fact, Lovett became a storekeeper at the co-op, believing these kinds of associations…

“formed the first step towards the social independence of the labouring classes… that the gradual accumulation of capital by these means would enable the working classes to form themselves into Joint Stock associations of labour, but which (with industry, skill and knowledge) they might ultimately have the trade, manufactures and commerce of the country in their own hands.”

Lovett went on to admit he had been overly optimistic in these expectations. But despite the ways this particular co-op fell short, the co-operative movement – like the trade unions and other associational outlets – had introduced many workers to the world of social organization. In the process they learned a lot about politics, law, public communication, financial management, publishing, and leadership.

Now, not all the Radicals of the First Industrial Revolution saw eye-to-eye on everything. Not all trade unionists were interested in the politics of Chartism. Others, like the Chartist and Methodist preacher Joseph Barker, were so dismayed by the way socialists spoke about religion, they became suspicious of socialism. And being part of the Ten Hours Movement didn’t automatically make you interested in, say, the Co-Operative Movement or Owenism.

But, overall, the Radicals were a big melting-pot of thought for working-class empowerment. Without the other ingredients in the pot, it’s difficult to imagine the early socialists being anything more than a bunch of upper-class philosophers screaming into an historical void. Without the rise of the working-class, the rise of socialism would have never been practical.

And without the Industrial Revolution, the rise of the working class wouldn’t have been practical. It’s not like there was a coherent political movement of agricultural workers or servants during this period. There were a few uprisings in the countryside that I mentioned at the start of this episode – just like the peasant revolts of old – but no organized, non-violent efforts no petition drives no great speeches no collective bargaining efforts no establishment of co-ops no mutual improvement societies.

These things were happening in the cities and mill towns, among skilled tradesmen and industrial workers. The economic growth that accompanied industrialization correlated strongly with the independence of those laborers who were making it all possible.

William Aiken had entered the mills in Manchester as a child, calling it the “saddest picture of child suffering, of cruelty, of avarice, that can be found in the annals of any human industry in the world.” But he worked his way up to become an overlooker in his mill, managing his co-workers and earning a good salary, until he was forced to quit for supporting the Ten Hours Bill.

Many later socialists believed the Industrial Revolution was an age of dark exploitation. But Aiken believed it was a time of “wonderous improvements”, both technological and social. The dark days were over. “All that has changed now, thanks to the exertions of the working men themselves.”

And while this period of tremendous economic transition was giving rise to a newly empowered Proletariat, it was also bringing about the slow decline of one of history’s most powerful social groups: The Gentry - next time on the Industrial Revolutions.

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Main keywords of the article below: production, emerged, revolution, eighteenth, mode, result, late, ’, capitalist, factory, england, industrial, century, system, s.

KEY TOPICS
The factory system is a mode of capitalist production that emerged in the late eighteenth century as a result of England ’ s Industrial Revolution. [1] The factory system was first adopted in Britain at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century and later spread around the world. [2] The factory system was a new way of making products that began during the Industrial Revolution. [3]

One of the best known accounts of factory worker's living conditions during the Industrial Revolution is Friedrich Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. [2]

The factory system evolved in England in the eighteenth century as part of the Industrial Revolution. [4] The factory system developed as part of the Industrial Revolution and generally replaced the cottage industry. [5] The Factory System Positive: Mass Production Prior to the Industrial Revolution, all of the things we have today, (such as clothes and blankets), were hand woven and took long periods of time to produce. [6] The rise of the factory system during the Industrial Revolution in Europe, where mechanization or automation and mass production were the pillars of productivity, was the start of the modern day organization. [7] The chief organizational breakthrough of the Industrial Revolution was the " factory system " where work was performed on a large scale in a single centralized location. [8]

Another, though more sober, opponent of the factory system describes the position thus: "The whole affair assumed at this time the character of a political party question, the Tories for the greater part still smarting under their defeat on the reform question, and endeavouring with delight to bring to the surface everything likely to damage, in the eyes of the public, the industrial middle class." [9] The factory system has thus changed substantially over 200 years, in response to new industrial processes, changing sources of power and transport, and new social needs. But it provides, typically, the modern workplace, symbolizing life in industrial society. [1]

In the same way the moral welfare of children was probably safer in the factory than in the home before the social and moral changes, which the new industrial system made possible, had matured. [9]

Factory system (industrial revolution) Slideshare uses cookies to improve functionality and performance, and to provide you with relevant advertising. [10]

The resulting system, in which work was organized to utilize power-driven machinery and produce goods on a large scale, had important social consequences: formerly, workers had been independent craftsmen who owned their own tools and designated their own working hours, but in the factory system, the employer owned the tools and raw materials and set the hours and other conditions under which the workers laboured. [11] A rise in the British population not only increased demand for goods, but also created a large pool of laborers who would eventually work for a wage after the development of the factory system. [1] Whereas in preindustrial societies, all members of the family were involved in production work, the advent of the factory system created a gendered division of labor for middle- and working-class families, whereby men went to work for a wage and women were relegated to household work. [1] There has been tremendous resistance to the organization of work and social life under the factory system of production. [1] While this mode of production began with the cotton and textile industries, it was the development of the steam engine that fully established the shift from craftspeople and localized production into production under the factory system. [1] Whereas work under preindustrial forms of organization was often exploitative, particularly under systems of slavery and feudalism, the development of the factory system as a defining feature of capitalism created alienated work for the first time. [1] Before the factory system products were made one at a time by individual workers. [3] The factory system used powered machinery, division of labor, unskilled workers, and a centralized workplace to mass-produce products. [3] Whereas many workers had inhabited rural areas under the domestic system, the factory system concentrated workers in cities and towns, because the new factories had to be located near waterpower and transportation (alongside waterways, roads, or railways). [11] The factory system replaced the domestic system, in which individual workers used hand tools or simple machinery to fabricate goods in their own homes or in workshops attached to their homes. [11] The main advance in the factory system in the latter part of the century was that of automation, in which machines were integrated into systems governed by automatic controls, thereby eliminating the need for manual labour while attaining greater consistency and quality in the finished product. [11] The factory system was a new way of organizing labour made necessary by the development of machines which were too large to house in a worker's cottage. [2] The factory system was not only the foundation for the development of capitalism it also radically shifted many aspects of social organization and daily life. [1] That the apparent benefits wrought by the early Factory Acts are largely illusory is suggested by the steady improvement which was undoubtedly taking place before 1833, partly as a result of the development of the factory system itself. [9] He was struck with the fact that the impressions he obtained from these publications were very different from those which certain modern works on the early factory system had given him, namely, A History of Factory Legislation by Hutchins and Harrison and The Town Labourer and Lord Shaftesbury by J.L. and Barbara Hammond. [9] There are several interconnected factors beyond technological innovation that created the factory system in England in its particular moment in history. [1] Wing did argue definitely that these reports abundantly confirmed the evidence given before Sadler's Committee ( Evils of the Factory System There were speculations among some doctors as to the purifying qualities of smoke, gas, emanations, etc. (Philip Caskell, The Manufacturing Population of England, p. 265). [9] Factory system, system of manufacturing that began in the 18th century and is based on the concentration of industry into specialized--and often large--establishments. [11] The use of waterpower and then the steam engine to mechanize processes such as cloth weaving in England in the second half of the 18th century marked the beginning of the factory system. [11] It is improbable, even in the early days of the factory system, when work-house apprentices made up the greater part of child labor, that the picture of horror which Sadler and Fielden drew could have been in the least typical. [9]


During the Industrial Revolution, women and children became an important part of the workforce. [3] Many factories during the Industrial Revolution had dormitories on site where the workers lived. [3]

Industrialization and emergence of the factory system triggered rural-to-urban migration and thus led to a rapid growth of cities, where during the Industrial Revolution workers faced the challenge of dire conditions and developed new ways of living. [12] Throughout the Industrial Revolution, both critics and champions of the factory system debated over the safety of factories. [13] Without Arkwright, the industrial revolution, and the modern factory system that build many of our goods would be impossible. [14] The start of the factory system was said to have begun in England during the 18th century, the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. [14]

The Industrial Revolution featured the construction of machines, systems and factories that allowed goods to be manufactured at a faster rate with a lower cost. [7] The Lowell System, which is also sometimes called the Waltham-Lowell System, was first used in the Waltham and Lowell textile mills during the industrial revolution. [15] Samuel Slater and the Slater Mill Historic Site Samuel Slater is sometimes called the "Father of the American Industrial Revolution," because he was responsible for the first American-built textile milling machinery in Rhode Island. [16] The start of the American Industrial Revolution is often attributed to Samuel Slater who opened the first industrial mill in the United States in 1790 with a design that borrowed heavily from a British model. [8]

The Industrial Revolution had begun in Britain during the mid-18th century, but the American colonies lagged far behind the mother country in part because the abundance of land and scarcity of labor in the New World reduced interest in expensive investments in machine production. [8] The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain is recognized as a period of great industrial capitalism, machine development, and emergence of the working class.1 The growth of factories began shortly after Richard Arkwright patented the spinning frame in 1769.2 Factories allowed for hundreds of unskilled workers to find jobs running machines and drastically changed their lifestyles as jobs moved away from rural areas. [7] Negative: Child Labor Positive: Middle Class Triumph The Industrial Revolution gave witness to the triumph of the middle class over the nobility as the creation of the factories and mills gave the ordinary worker more chances for employment then ever before. [6] Negative: Poverty Poverty was a major factor in the Industrial Revolution due to the unfair treatment of the workers by the owners of factories and mills. [6] The factories and mills in the Industrial Revolution had their share of positives and negatives. [6] Dramatically increased production, like that in the New England's textile mills, were key parts of the Industrial Revolution, but required at least two more elements for widespread impact. [8] Before the start of the Industrial Revolution, which began in the 1700s, the production of goods was done on a very small scale. [5] The cottage industry is the term that historians use to identify production that was completed before the start of the Industrial Revolution. [5] The textile industry was based on the development of cloth and clothing, and was the main industry that benefitted from the early developments of the Industrial Revolution. [5] The iron and textile industries, as well as the development of the steam engine, played crucial roles in the Industrial Revolution, along with transportation, communication and banking. [7]

The rise of wage labor at the heart of the Industrial Revolution also exploited working people in new ways. [8] The Industrial Revolution brought about the birth of two classes: The middle class and the working class. [7] The treatment of children in some factories prompted the need for laws to prevent the abusive child labor practices during the Industrial Revolution. [17] Samuel Slater -- Father of the American Industrial Revolution Learn about Samuel Slater's training in England and how he helped develop the American milling industry. [8] While he introduced a vital new technology to the United States, the economic takeoff of the Industrial Revolution required several other elements before it would transform American life. [8] While many people were trying to carve out a new existence in states and territories continually stretching to the West, another group pioneered the American Industrial Revolution. [16] Since child labour was already a pervasive problem during the 17th century in Britain, the industrial revolution simply just made child labour even more overflowed. [7] There was a big change in the way goods were produced during the Industrial Revolution. [17] Although there was much turmoil and suffering in that time, the Industrial Revolution was the point that began the ushering in of the modern age. [6]


A factory system has four main characteristics mechanized equipment, workers under one roof, division of labor, and supervision of employees.3 The technological advances of cotton jennies, water frames, and steam power quickly grew too large to fit into households leading to factories replacing the once domestic system.3 Once factories were in place, people in rural areas who were unable to find work took jobs in the factories. [7] The factory system is a term that historians use to refer to the development of centralized factories or mills that produced goods on a mass scale. [5] The development of the factory system involved the creation of large factories in city-centers. [5]

The introduction of the factory system helped other countries with varying economic conditions to create more of their own goods and not have to depend on other countries for them. [17] The factory system created a way to make a large quantity of goods in a short amount of time, but there were problems with the system. [17] Using a good factory system can help to get your new product out faster to your perspective customers on time. [4] The creation of goods for households and farms via the factory system allowed people to accomplish tasks faster. [17] Entrepreneurs and inventors sought ways to increase production, which ultimately led to the creation of the factory system. [5]

While Samuel Slater made the machine part of the factory system, he was more famous for bringing the revolution to america. [18] One of the best-known accounts of factory worker's living conditions during the Industrial Revolution is Friedrich Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. [12] The Industrial Revolution and the factory system changed life in the United States. [19] The factory system, a product of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, began to divide the craftsmen's trades into specialized tasks. [20] Arguably, factory systems developed during the Industrial Revolution are responsible for the creation of capitalism and the modern cities of today. [21] If one looks at the two revolutions instead from the standpoint, not of technological history, but of a "New Institutional" history, the agricultural revolution becomes primarily the story of enclosures and the industrial one the story of the coming of the factory system and, eventually, of the joint-stock corporation. [22] The factory system, fueled by technological progress, made production much faster, cheaper, and more uniform, but also disconnected the workers from the means of production and placed them under the control of powerful industrialists. [12] Other industrialists and industries followed, introducing novel practices that advanced the factory system, including mass production using interchangeable parts or modern materials such as cranes and rail tracks through the buildings for handling heavy items. [12] Together with the concept of interchangeable parts, the factory system (sometimes called the American system) was born. [23] The factory system was a new way of organizing labor made necessary by the development of machines, which were too large to house in a worker's cottage. [12] Under the factory system, workers were easily replaceable as skills required to operate machines could be acquired very quickly. [12] Others criticized the entire wage-labor factory system as a form of slavery and actively condemned and campaigned against the harsh working conditions and long hours and the increasing divisions between workers and factory owners. [24] Debate arose concerning the morality of the factory system, as workers complained about unfair working conditions. [12]

The earliest factories under the factory system developed in the cotton and wool textiles industry. [12] The factory system revolutionized manufacturing because it allowed products to be made faster than ever. [13]


In the latter half of the Industrial Revolution, women who worked in factories or mills tended not to have children or had children that were old enough to take care of themselves, as life in the city made it impossible to take a child to work (unlike in the case of farm labor or cottage industry where women were more flexible to combine domestic and work spheres) and deprived women of a traditional network of support established in rural communities. [12] The Industrial Revolution concentrated labor into mills, factories and mines, thus facilitating the organization of combinations or trade unions to help advance the interests of working people. [25] During the Industrial Revolution, laborers in factories, mills, and mines worked long hours under very dangerous conditions, though historians continue to debate the extent to which those conditions worsened the fate of the worker in pre-industrial society. [12] The concentration of workers in factories, mines, and mills facilitated the development of trade unions during the Industrial Revolution. [12] The Lowell mills were the first hint of the industrial revolution to come in the United States, and with their success came two different views of the factories. [24] It's tempting to say that those who argue that today's schools are fashioned on nineteenth century factories have never read much about the Industrial Revolution. (Frederick Engels' The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844 is in the public domain and available via Project Gutenberg, for what it's worth.) [26] Friedrich Engels in The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 spoke of "an industrial revolution, a revolution which at the same time changed the whole of civil society." [25] To be a capital-owning millionaire was an important criterion of the middle class during the Industrial Revolution although the period witnessed also a growth of a class of professionals (e.g., lawyers, doctors, small business owners) who did not share the fate of the early industrial working class and enjoyed a comfortable standard of living in growing cities. [12]

The rapid expansion of industrial society during the Industrial Revolution drew women, children, rural workers, and immigrants into the industrial work force in large numbers and in new roles. [12] The Victorian era (overlapping with approximately the last decade of the Industrial Revolution and largely with what is known as the Second Industrial Revolution) in particular became notorious for the conditions, under which children were employed. [12] The Industrial Revolution was a major shift of technological, socioeconomic, and cultural conditions that occurred in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century in some Western countries. [25] One question of active interest to historians is why the Industrial Revolution started in eighteenth century Europe and not in other parts of the world in the eighteenth century, particularly China, India, and the Middle East, or at other times like in Classical Antiquity or the Middle Ages. [25] As collective bargaining and early worker unions grew with the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the government began to clamp down on what it saw as the danger of popular unrest at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. [12] Living conditions during the Industrial Revolution varied from the splendor of the homes of the owners to the squalor of the lives of the workers. [25] Pre-industrial society was very static and often cruel--child labor, dirty living conditions and long working hours were just as prevalent before the Industrial Revolution. [25] With hard work and perseverance, he worked his way up to become one of the wealthiest man in England and a pioneer to the start of the Industrial Revolution. [14] It was originally applied to Manchester, England, because of its status as the international center of the cotton and textile trade during the Industrial Revolution. [12] In industrialized areas, women could find employment on assembly lines, providing industrial laundry services, and in the textile mills that sprang up during the Industrial Revolution in such cities as Manchester, Leeds, and Birmingham. [12] The textile industry, central to the Industrial Revolution, serves as an illustrative example of these changes. [12] The onset of the Industrial Revolution marked a major turning point in human social history, comparable to the invention of farming or the rise of the first city-states almost every aspect of daily life and human society was, eventually, in some way influenced by it. [25] During the Industrial Revolution, the life expectancy of children increased dramatically. [25] Child labor became the labor of choice for manufacturing in the early phases of the Industrial Revolution because children were paid much less while being as productive as adults and were more vulnerable. [12] Child labor existed long before the Industrial Revolution, but with the increase in population and education, it became more visible. [12] With the onset of the Industrial Revolution in Britain in the late 18th century, there was a rapid increase in the industrial exploitation of labor, including child labor. [12] Although child labor was widespread prior to industrialization, the exploitation of child workforce intensified during the Industrial Revolution. [12] Second Industrial Revolution : A phase of rapid industrialization in the final third of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. [12] This proved to be a wide-ranging critique of industrialization and one that was echoed by many of the Marxist historians who studied the industrial revolution in the 20th century. [12]

The Industrial Revolution also created a middle class of industrialists and professionals who lived in much better conditions. [12] Kenneth Pomeranz, in the Great Divergence, argues that Europe and China were remarkably similar in 1700, and that the crucial differences which created the Industrial Revolution in Europe were sources of coal near manufacturing centers, and raw materials such as food and wood from the New World, which allowed Europe to expand economically in a way that China could not. [25] Others, however, have noted that while growth of the economy's overall productive powers was unprecedented during the Industrial Revolution, living standards for the majority of the population did not grow meaningfully until the late 19th and 20th centuries and that in many ways workers' living standards declined under early capitalism. [12] Child labor, dangerous working conditions, and long hours were just as prevalent before the Industrial Revolution. [12] The system of production which came into being as a result of this "Industrial Revolution" is now known as "Factory System". [27] This industrial spy became the father of the American factory system. [28] As you read, the factory system was the first step in American industrialization. [19] I can explain the American factory system and describe how it developed and led to U.S. Industrialization. [19] The factory system was the first stage of U.S. industrialization. [19] Within five years Arkwriglu’s mills were cmploying over 5,000 workers, and England’s factory system was launched. [29] When the factory system began, women were the primary workers. [19] In this small group activity, you will work together to complete the graphic organizer below by comparing and contrasting the cottage system and the factory system of production. [19] The factory system started when businessmen began hiring groups of people to produce goods using machines in a large building or factory. [19] The cottage industry eventually gave way to a new way of producing goods called the factory system. [19] Slater, like other pioneer mill-owners dealing with small working forces, was able to maintain a paternalistic attitude toward the young persons in his charge until the coming of the factory system and absentee ownership, child labor was not the evil it later became. [29]


Historians disagree about whether life improved for the working class in the first phase of the Industrial Revolution, from 1790 to 1850. [30] For many skilled workers, the quality of life decreased a great deal in the first 60 years of the Industrial Revolution. [30] This resulted in a very high unemployment rate for workers in the first phases of the Industrial Revolution. [30] When the industrial revolution first came to Britain and the U.S., there was a high demand for labor. [31] Specifically, it does not help us explain (1) why, since the industrial revolution, manufacturing is normally conducted in factories with a sizeable workforce concentrated to one workplace, or (2) why factories relatively seldom house more than one firm, or (3) why manufacturing firms are "capitalistic" in the sense that capital hires labor rather than vice versa. [22] Labor movements in the United States developed momentum from the late 19th century in response to poor working conditions that developed during the Industrial Revolution. [21] You will learn about the effects of the Industrial Revolution on living and working conditions, urbanization (the growth of cities), child labor, public health, working class family life, the role of women, the emerging middle class, and economic growth and income. [30] Considerations of this sort do not give one grounds for blundering into the much controverted subject of the development of standards of living during the Industrial Revolution in Britain. [22] The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain and quickly spread throughout the world the American Industrial Revolution, commonly referred to as the second Industrial Revolution, started sometime between 1820 and 1870. [21] Cheaper steel prices encouraged the development of infrastructure such as railroads and bridges during the American Industrial Revolution. [21] In the time of the Industrial Revolution, the children of the families who moved to the crowded cities had their work situation go from bad to worse. [31] Production efficiency improved during the Industrial Revolution with inventions such as the steam engine, which dramatically reduced the time it took to manufacture products. [21] The Industrial Revolution was a time in the early late 1700s and early 1800s when the invention of new machines led to industrialization. [19] In the first sixty years or so of the Industrial Revolution, working-class people had little time or opportunity for recreation. [30] Although the Industrial Revolution occurred approximately 200 years ago, it is a period in time that left a profound impact on how people lived and the way businesses operated. [21] Now that we have looked at how and why the Industrial Revolution occurred, it's time to consider its effects on people. [30]

The Industrial Revolution began in England with the textile industry. [19] After 1840 or 1850, as England entered the second phase of the Industrial Revolution, it appears that real wages began to increase. [30] Wages and Hours: Children as young as six years old during the industrial revolution worked hard hours for little or no pay. [31] The Industrial Revolution provided an incentive to increase profits, and as a result, working conditions in factories deteriorated. [21]

Factory workers typically lived within walking distance to work until the introduction of bicycles and electric street railways in the 1890s. [2] By the second half of the 20th century, enormous increases in worker productivity--fostered by mechanization and the factory system--had yielded unprecedentedly high standards of living in industrialized nations. [11] Workers and machines were brought together in a central factory complex specially designed to handle the machinery and flow of materials. [2] Centralized workplace - Rather than have individual workers spread out in their homes and workshops, the factory was a large central place where many workers came together to make products. [3] Some industrialists themselves tried to improve factory and living conditions for their workers. [2]

For instance, the Harmnonds twice repeat Fielden's statement that he had found from actual experiment that the factory child walked twenty miles a day in the course of his work in the mill. [9] Not only did higher wages cause them to prefer factory work to other occupations, but, as some of the reformers admitted, when one factory reduced its hours, it would tend to lose its operatives as they would transfer their services to establishments where they could earn more. [9] Many of the new unskilled jobs could be performed equally well by women, men, or children, thus tending to drive down factory wages to subsistence levels. [11] It was the home life of children, prior to their factory days, which primarily led to such physical degeneracy as there was, and Gaskell emphasized this view. [9]

Use of Unskilled labor - Before the factory some systems had many products such as shoes and muskets were made by skilled craftsmen who usually custom-made an entire article. [2] The link of the wage system to factory production created not only a different work process and a gendered division of labor, but also a new form of work. [1]

There is reason to believe that the form that factory development abroad assumed was due, in no small degree, to imitation, direct or indirect, in Great Britain, and factory legislation the world over was framed on the British model. [9] In the Second Report of the Factory Commission (1834) we notice the words "independence," or "independent," used over and over again, by employer witnesses living in all parts of the country (over five hundred put in evidence), as being the most obvious ones to use in describing the attitude of the operatives. [9] Ideally, the modern factory was a well-lit, well-ventilated building that was designed to ensure safe and healthy working conditions mandated by government regulations. [11] The effect of the Factory Acts upon production is a question which has not been squarely faced in modern treatises. [9] The support of the artisan class for the Factory Acts could be obtained only by persuading them that as a result they would get the same or more money for less work. [9] Men found it difficult to find work, as factory owners preferred to employ women and children. [32] John Fielden, a factory owner, admitted that a great deal of harm was caused by the children spending the whole day on their feet: " At a meeting in Manchester a man claimed that a child in one mill walked twenty-four miles a day. [32] Robert Owen hoped that the way he treated children at his New Lanark would encourage other factory owners to follow his example. [32]

It was easy to make an impression on the Tories, who for the most part not only were ignorant of the conditions in the factories but were predisposed to condemn the factory owners. [9] Even Lord Shaftesbury "declined an offer to guide him through the principal spinning establishments as gratuitous and unnecessary" (William Cooke Taylor, op. cit., p. 11), and Sir Robert Peel, a factory owner, was, according to Andrew Ure, but little conversant with the nature and condition of the cotton trade ( Philosophy of Manufactures, p. 6). [9]

Later, the operatives were brought to look upon children as competitors to themselves, and this possibly acted as an even stronger motive in the support of the Factory Acts, particularly when the idea of working children in shifts developed. [9]

As British industrial enterprises expanded in the 18th cent., recruiting more workers and investing in expensive tools and equipment, it became important to develop a more tightly organized and disciplined form of production than the traditional method of employing workers in small workshops or their own homes𠅊s in the 𠆍omestic system’ which had operated satisfactorily for several hundred years. [1] Forecasting as it did the trend of subsequent industrial development, judgments passed upon it will largely determine the attitude taken with regard to the modern industrial system. [9]

This system, whereby the owners of the factories could, through the labor process, transfer the value of the worker ’ s productivity into the value of a commodity, established the efficient yet exploitative mode of capitalist production that is still with us today. [1] Workers were paid either daily wages or for piece work, either in the form of money or some combination of money, housing, meals and goods from a company store (the truck system ). [2] The old system in which workers carried their parts to a stationary assembly point was replaced by the assembly line, in which the product being assembled would pass on a mechanized conveyor from one stationary worker to the next until it was completely assembled. [11]

The British Agricultural Revolution had been reducing the need for labor on farms for over a century and these workers were forced to sell their labor wherever they could. [2] They were thrust into the system of wage labor, fundamentally changing relationships between men and women. [1] This method of working did not catch on in general manufacturing in Britain for many decades, and when it did it was imported from America, becoming known as the American system of manufacturing, even though it originated in England. [2] The first use of an integrated system, where cotton came in and was spun, bleached dyed and woven into finished cloth, was at mills in Waltham and Lowell, Massachusetts. [2] Landowners were able to take advantage of the banking industry ’ s low interest rates to facilitate and finance the development of transit systems, created to move goods produced under this new system. [1] This system was enhanced at the end of the 18th century by the introduction of interchangeable parts in the manufacture of muskets and, subsequently, other types of goods. [11]

As a productive system it possesses three main types of efficiency gains for the owner or controller: economic, by allowing advantages of scale, while reducing the costs of distribution of raw materials and finished product technical, by making possible the deskilling of craft labour, and the use of machines and managerial, by increasing the scope for disciplined control of the effort bargain. [1]

Factory production became increasingly globalized, with parts for products originating in different countries and being shipped to their point of assembly. [11]

The first strike among textile workers protesting wage and factory conditions occurred in 1824 and even the model mills of Lowell faced large strikes in the 1830s. [8] In 1813, Frances Cabot Lowell, Nathan Appleton and Patrick Johnson formed the Boston Manufacturing Company to build America's first integrated textile factory, that performed every operation necessary to transform cotton lint into finished cloth. [16] The Lowell System was different from other textile manufacturing systems in the country at the time, such as the Rhode Island System which instead spun the cotton in the factory and then farmed the spun cotton out to local women weavers who produced the finished cloth themselves. [15] The system of producing goods made on a mass scale by machines in a factory which replaced goods made by individual craftsmen. [4]

Plus, many workers were injured by the machines and other hazardous conditions within a factory. [17] Americans were generally unwilling to work in factory conditions, preferring instead the economic independence of agricultural labor. [15] This Illinois Labor History Society page of primary documents also has text from Factory Rules from the Handbook to Lowell, 1848, "Massachusetts Investigation into Labor Conditions" and "Boarding House Rules from the Handbook to Lowell, 1848." [8] In what follows, I shall confine myself to a description of factory life in Lowell, Massachusetts, from 1832 to 1848, since, with that phase of Early Factory Labor in New England, I am the most familiar-because I was a part of it. -Harriet H. Robinson Learn More. [8] Lowell Mills Thus thirteen hours per day of close attention and monotonous labor are exacted from the young women in these manufactories. -from "A Description of Factory Life by an Associationist in 1846." [8] The mill girls responded by staging a strike and organizing a labor union called the Factory Girls Association. [15]

Slater ran small spinning mills, using copies of the English machinery, while Lowell developed new machines for his large factory and did spinning and weaving under power all under one roof. [15] The conservative Slater clung to his tried-and-true methods of production while Lowell leaped ahead with his modern factory using the machines of mass production. [15]

One of the problems Lowell faced in setting up his factory was finding workers. [15]

At first, these new factories were financed by business partnerships, where several individuals invested in the factory and paid for business expenses like advertising and product distribution. [16] What constitutes progress? Factory manufactured textiles led to cheaper clothing for the masses, but it also led to the first American sweatshops. [16] His vision of the American textile factory differed from what he saw in Great Britain. [15]

In 1790, Samuel Slater, a cotton spinner's apprentice who left England the year before with the secrets of textile machinery, built a factory from memory to produce spindles of yarn. [16] He opened a textile mill in Rhode Island that employed families who lived near the factory where they worked. [17] From the textile industry, the factory spread to many other areas. [16]

Three years later, John and Arthur Shofield, who also came from England, built the first factory to manufacture woolens in Massachusetts. [16] The first factory in the United States was begun after George Washington became President. [16]

The transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy took more than a century in the United States, but that long development entered its first phase from the 1790s through the 1830s. [8] The Lowell System was not only more efficient but was also designed to minimize the dehumanizing effects of industrial labor by paying in cash, hiring young adults instead of children, offering employment for only a few years and by providing educational opportunities to help workers move on to better jobs, such as school teachers, nurses and etc. [15] In Slater's mills, which set the pattern for Rhode Island, the English plan for employing whole families, including children who were very young, was adopted, and it led to the bringing of families into the industrial centres that were wholly dependent upon the mills and that suffered severely when there was no work. [15] 'So long as they can do my work for what I choose to pay them I keep them, getting out of them all I can.' This was not the enlightened industrial republicanism that Jefferson had envisioned and described rather it was the cynical materialism that Charles Dickens saw at work in England at the time. [15]

Lowell's industrial order 'came to dominate the cotton industry marked a radical departure from all that had gone before. [15]

This latter development is often termed the Market Revolution because of the central importance of creating more efficient ways to transport people, raw materials, and finished goods. [8] The technological revolution was a time of change and transformations from had tool and hand made goods to machinery that produced goods faster and better. [7]

After the American Revolution, women began to have a say in what went on during their everyday lives or the lives of their children and husbands. [7]

The system was designed so that every step of the manufacturing process was done under one roof and the work was performed by young adult women instead of children or young men. [15] The putting-out system, where jobs were subcontracted, slowly came to an end because work became centralized in factories. 3 Few industries continued on with domestic manufacturing such as the iron industry. [7]

A large number of young mill girls went on to become librarians, teachers, social workers, etc., thanks in large part to the education they received while working at the mill thus, the system did produce benefits for the workers and the larger society." [15] The Lowell system continued to fail when Irish immigrants, who started to flock to Massachusetts in 1846 to escape the famine in Ireland, sought work in the mills. [15] The Lowell System was a labor production model invented by Francis Cabot Lowell in Massachusetts in the 19th century. [15] The Lowell system created a new way to control the labor supply. [15]

"The Lowell System stood in sharp contrast to the prevailing system of textile manufacturing at the time, which was based on Samuel Slater's Rhode Island System. [15] This Lowell System was faster and more efficient and completely revolutionized the textile industry. [15]

By the 1850s, the Lowell system was considered a failed experiment and the mills began using more and more immigrant and child labor. [15]

While European factories relied upon large, landless, urban populations whose reliance on the wage system gave them few economic choices, land was readily available to most Americans who desired it. [15] With the help of this new manufacturing system, some countries were able to create goods to sell to people in other countries. [17] Lowell believed his system alleviated the deplorable working conditions he witnessed in England and helped him to keep a tight rein on his employees. [15]

This was done because factory owners needed a large population of people to employ in the factories. [5]

By 1840, the factories in Lowell employed at some estimates more than 8,000 textile workers, commonly known as mill girls or factory girls. [24] When you add together conected machines, more workers, elecrtic motors, assembly lines and, new to factories today, robots, you get a factory that churns out products in the fastest way possible, faster than anything anyone from 1793 could have dreamed of. [18] The whole idea of assembling masses of students (raw material) to be processed by teachers (workers) in a centrally located school (factory) was a stroke of industrial genius. [26] As Dorn notes, phrases like "the industrial model of education," "the factory model of education," and "the Prussian model of education" are used as a "rhetorical foil" in order make a particular political point not so much to explain the history of education, as to try to shape its future. [26] So too we've invented a history of "the factory model of education" in order to justify an "upgrade" to new software and hardware that will do much of the same thing schools have done for generations now, just (supposedly) more efficiently, with control moved out of the hands of labor (teachers) and into the hands of a new class of engineers, out of the realm of the government and into the realm of the market. [26] Khan's story bears many of the markers of the invented history of the "factory model of education" buckets, assembly lines, age-based cohorts, whole class instruction, standardization, Prussia, Horace Mann, and a system that has not changed in 120 years. [26] The "factory model" is also shorthand for the history of public education itself the development of and change in the school system (or purportedly the lack thereof). [26] The "Prussian model" superseded an education system that actually did look like a factory. [26] Sal Khan is hardly the only one who tells a story of "the factory of model of education" that posits the United States adopted Prussia's school system in order to create a compliant populace. [26] "What do I mean when I talk about transformational productivity reforms that can also boost student outcomes? Our K12 system largely still adheres to the century-old, industrial-age factory model of education. [26] Many education reformers today denounce the "factory model of education" with an appeal to new machinery and new practices that will supposedly modernize the system. [26] One of the most common ways to criticize our current system of education is to suggest that it's based on a "factory model." [26] It is an attack on the entire wage system but particularly focuses on how factory jobs affect the mill girls: ""She has worked in a Factory,’" Brownson argues, "is almost enough to damn to infamy the most worthy and virtuous girl." [24]

Another thing that Lowell is famous for is being the first employer in America (and possibly Europe too) to hire Women and children in his factory, mostly at smaller wages, but with benifits better than being a housewife. [18] It is these wages which, in spite of toil, restraint, discomfort, and prejudice, have drawn so many worthy, virtuous, intelligent, and well-educated girls to Lowell, and other factories and it is the wages which are in great degree to decide the characters of the factory girls as a class. [24]

Honoring workers of the 1930s, the photographic images on the stamps depicted three women--two identified as working in the textile and millinery trades and the third as a typist. (The men in the images are engaged in factory work, construction of skyscrapers, and working on the railroads.) [24]

RANKED SELECTED SOURCES(33 source documents arranged by frequency of occurrence in the above report)


6. Premonition of the American System

The excuse which is invariably offered for the misgivings of the gloomy men is “the condition of the times.” And, in truth, the post-Napoleonic period in Britain was one in which a prolonged sense of uncertainty preyed upon the nerves of every class. When the price of wheat dropped steadily (as in 1815–16 and in 1822), the landed squire took fright when the spread of the new textile machinery continued to put more and more country cottagers out of work, the spirit of the Luddites, who had smashed factory equipment all over the north of England in 1811–12, stalked abroad and when good times came, as in 1824–25, there were strikes which seemed all the more menacing because of the repeal of the anti-trade union Combination Acts. From 1839 to 1842, there was an unbroken stretch of depression combined with bad harvests then, after a slight interlude of recovery, the depression settled down again. It often seemed as though good times were lost forever.

The classic statement of conditions in the so-called “Hungry Forties” was made by Friedrich Engels in his The Condition of the Working Class in England. First published in Germany in 1845, this work made full use of the seamier side of the industrial revolution which had been preserved in the reports of Royal Commissions. Engels, a mill manager himself and the son of a mill owner, knew that the new power-driven machinery of Arkwright, Crompton and the rest of the great textile inventors had called a whole new population into existence, changing Lancashire from “an obscure, ill-cultivated swamp into a busy, lively region.” (The description is Engels’ own.) He knew, too, that Sir Humphry Davy had applied chemistry to agriculture “with success,” which was sufficient earnest that the new industrial population would be fed. Yet despite the plain fact that it was only in the industrial shires that wages stayed above the minimum wage-cum-living-allowance prescribed by the Speenhamland poor relief system, Engels concluded that every advance in the industrial arts must come at the expense of the working class.

Just how he reached this conclusion is not logically or statistically apparent in his frequently eloquent and moving pages indeed, the inconsistencies are such that even Engels himself, when he came to write a preface in his old age for the English edition of 1892, had drastically to alter the time-scale of his 1845 prophecy of immediate proletarian upheaval. But if Engels had made any real effort to document his thesis as of 1845, he would have had to refute the fact that, after the post-Napoleonic fall in prices, the real wage of the British laborer was considerably higher than it had been in Adam Smith’s time. Engels’ own description of an Arcadian pre-industrial England hardly tallies with the truth of such things as the death rate in the Eighteenth Century foundling homes or even with the fact that foundling homes were necessary in the first place. Nor does it tally with the fact that it was the condition of agricultural labor, not urban labor, which made the decision of the Speenhamland magistrates to “supplement the wage” seem necessary in the light of the new, fast-growing, humanitarianism.

In 1845 Engels had dramatically declaimed: “Is this a state of things which can last? It cannot and will not last. The workers, the great majority of the nation, will not endure it.” Yet even as Engels was saying that he had “never seen a class so deeply demoralized, so incurably debased by selfishness, so corroded within, so incapable of progress, as the English bourgeoisie,” this same middle class was busy responding to a whole congeries of humanitarian impulses. The English “bourgeoisie” abolished the slave trade, passed several reform bills, did away with the “rotten borough” system of parliamentary representation, and considerably modified its own “bloody code” of calling for the death penalty for petty shoplifting and all without prompting from the socialists.

In 1892 Engels admitted that a new epoch had come in the wake of the repeal of the Corn Laws and the discovery of gold in California and Australia. Employers no longer dealt in “petty thefts” they had learned to get along with trade unions by “petting and patronizing” them (as Engels put it) they had acquiesced in the factory acts which had put an end to child labor and the sixteen-hour day they had formed a coalition with the working classes in order to defeat the landlords in Commons. There was no gloom in Engels’ words of 1892 when he spoke of the “immense mass of productions of the twenty years from 1850 to 1870.”

In the face of all this evidence that his predictions had been hopelessly misguided, Engels still clung to his revolutionary millennialism: the crunch would come, he said, when the overseas lands—the colonies, the U.S.A.—were themselves industrialized. Then, said Engels, the doctrine of Free Trade would no longer serve to keep British capitalism afloat. Like John Stuart Mill, Engels continued to think of the cotton spinning revolution as unique and scarcely repeatable he made no allowance for the inventive mind which was to conjure up a score of similar technological revolutions in transportation (the automobile, the airplane), in chemistry (plastics, cheap fertilizers), in power (electricity, the atom), in steel-making (the open hearth process, the continuous strip mill), and in the wholly new science of electronics. Moreover, his failure to foresee the future was matched by his failure to see just how faulty his analysis of the “bleak age” of the Eighteen Thirties and Forties had been.

The truth is that the “bleak age” (as the Hammonds have described it in a book of that title) owed its depressing atmosphere not so much to the activities of the mill-owners as to the failure of the British State to end the repressive laws that kept the new productivity from spreading into the fields of housing and sanitation. The living conditions in Manchester and in the ring of towns around it (Bolton, Rochdale, Oldham, Preston, Ashton, and Staleybridge) may have been as deplorable as Engels (or America’s own Charles A. Beard) said they were but, as T. S. Ashton has recently pointed out, the prime reason for the lack of habitation in the Eighteen Twenties and Thirties was the 20-year cessation of building which had accompanied the Napoleonic struggles. Iron, needed for cannon to defeat “Boney,” was unavailable for drain pipe and wood from Scandinavia could not be had because of the prohibitive war duties. When peace came, the duties on building materials remained, adding a full third to the cost of a cottage moreover, the old window taxes of the Seventeenth Century lingered on to make the luxury of light and air too costly for the poor. With the State duties added into the rent, and with builders having to resort for a period to the black market for money because of misplaced usury laws, it is scant cause for wonder that the new industrial towns were largely jerry-built. In addition to State taxes on wood, brick, and other building materials, there were the local taxes. The builders themselves earned very little for their pains in putting up even the flimsiest of structures and most of the blame for the disease that was periodically epidemic in the towns should properly be visited on the state authorities which continued to tax the tile and brick needed for sewage disposal.

Aside from state oppression of the construction industry, there was the Eighteenth Century tradition of uncleanliness. Without seeing the import of his words, Engels offered the horrors of the Edinburgh and Dublin slums as examples of capitalist cupidity. Yet both Edinburgh and Dublin had been built before the industrial revolution, and when Engels was writing they were still largely untouched by the quickening industrial processes of the new day. As for London itself, its squalor clearly dated back to the period depicted by Hogarth. Before there was a large new middle class of industrialists and a progressive supporting class of skilled mechanics, the aristocrats used spices and perfumes to hide the plain evidence of their taste buds and nostrils, while the lower elements took to the sodden anesthetics of Gin Lane. It was Engels’ despised “bourgeoisie” which refused to put up with the pre-industrial conditions: the new middle classes took the lead in wiping out the breeding grounds of cholera epidemics by insisting on municipal sanitation in the latter half of the traduced Nineteenth Century. It was under Queen Victoria, and not in the time of her wicked Hanoverian uncles, that cleanliness, for the first time in English history, was rated next to Godliness.

As for conditions in Manchester and Liverpool, Engels had much to say about the influx of Irish peasants who brought their pigs to live with them in crowded industrial warrens. “The Irishman,” so Engels remarked in a characteristic burst of race prejudice, “loves his pig as the Arab his horse . . . he eats with it and sleeps with it.” No doubt the Irish did bring considerable “filth and drunkenness” with them into England, but the squalor which Engels noted derived, not from the industrial revolution as such, but from the generations of agricultural poverty that had become the norm in the rack-rented Irish land.

That estimable social historian, G. M. Trevelyan, complains that England lost its sense of architectural proportion in the Nineteenth Century. But since the esthetic blight extended to the habitations of all classes, the rich as well as the poor, the lapse in taste must be attributed to a general decline in sensibilities, not to capitalism as a system of exploitation. Indeed, the rage for the gimcrackery of the neo-Gothic was largely a promotion of the Romantics who yearned for an older, pre-capitalistic day. When the world eventually recovered from the Victorian penchant for a fake antiquity, it discovered that capitalist builders could be just as accommodating with the “modern” as they had been with turret, tower, and gingerbread ornamentation.

If Engels both misread the future and slandered the past and present in his Conditions of the Working Class in England, a far greater man than he made the same sort of error. Like Engels, Robert Owen was a mill operator who became beguiled by the promises of socialism. But where Engels’ socialism paraded itself as “scientific,” Robert Owen’s millennialism was frankly Utopian. Owen’s own industrial career spanned the Napoleonic and immediately post-Napoleonic periods in which Engels saw the businessman as a crude trickster who took his profit by practicing innumerable petty larcenies at the expense of the workers. Far from engaging in the sort of sharp practice which Engels regarded as universal, however, Owen proved over the course of a full generation that humane capitalism was eminently profitable. He did this in the depths of the “bleak age,” thus demonstrating that the “condition of the times” had nothing whatsoever to do with the viability of good capitalist principles.

Yet Owen had a positive mania for misreading his own genius. He completely lost his sense of direction when he ceased to be a capitalist doer and set himself up as a socialist theoretician and as the self-chosen patron saint of all those who believe the State can do things for people far better than they can do things for themselves.

In every way a paradox, this Welshman—who quit the profitable manufacture of cotton thread to sire such things as labor exchanges and the cooperative movement—betrayed the strangest incapacity to generalize from his own experience. In his business he believed in strict cost accounting, and in all manner of aids to incentive in his Utopian schemes he kept no books and trusted to universal benevolence. As an amateur of educational theory, he preached the gospel that “environment” creates character. Yet he himself was a walking proof that character owes little to surroundings and that it may triumph over the most unlikely circumstances.

As a boy, Owen had left his native mountains to apprentice himself to a linen draper, one James McGuffog of Stamford, in Lincolnshire. Later he worked for a haberdasher on Old London Bridge, getting up at dawn to receive customers at eight and quitting only after arranging and replacing goods on the shelves at one or two in the morning. This “ceremonious slavery” (Owen’s son’s description) was followed by a meteoric career in Manchester, where Owen became a capitalist at the age of nineteen, in partnership with a cotton machinery manufacturer. At the age of twenty Owen was a full-fledged mill manager. He had done it all for himself, without benefit of schooling save as he himself had supplied it.

Forgotten at all of the partisan rallies which periodically sing the praises of Owen, the collectivist, Owen, the labor leader, or Owen, the Fabian “planner,” is the fact of the man’s life as a practical businessman. Yet it was as a businessman, one of the best of his time, that he made his only really worthwhile discovery. In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, at his New Lanark mills at the falls of the Clyde in Scotland, Robert Owen carried out a great experiment—a distinctly capitalist experiment, conducted without recourse to State aid and within a framework of purely voluntary action.

In its own time, the experiment was so successful that it had thousands posting over the muddy roads of England and Scotland to look at what went on in Owen’s seven-story brick mills on the wooded banks of the Clyde. As his son, Robert Dale Owen, tells it, the net annual profits from one of Owen’s earlier partnerships averaged 15 per cent over a period of ten years later, under a new partnership, the mills earned a net of 50 per cent on the invested capital over a period of four years. But it was not only the money that impressed the 20,000 visitors who signed the guest books at New Lanark within the space of a decade it was the tangible proof that money could be made—and in quantity—without grinding the faces of the poor. The Grand Duke Nicholas, son of the Czar of all the Russias, was so entranced with New Lanark that he offered land in Russia on which to settle two million of England’s “surplus” population, the sole condition being that Owen himself would come and direct the immigrants at work. (The Grand Duke had presumably been reading Malthus on his way to Scotland.) Quakers praised Owen for his rare “inner light,” even though Owen was a vague Deist, if not close to an atheist, in his professed religious attitude. And the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, in pursuit of “the greatest happiness of the greatest number,” entrusted some of his money to Owen’s management as a partner. (Jeremy most emphatically wished to include himself among the “greatest number” when it was a case of distributing the “happiness” of an enterprise around.)

Yet for all of the linked profitability and decency of Owen’s experiment, no one seems to have drawn the logical conclusion from it, least of all Owen himself. What Owen had discovered in the years at New Lanark was nothing less than the way to make capitalism work. The discovery was certainly not his alone—other Nineteenth Century industrialists, now forgotten, knew as well as Owen that there was no long-term profit in the sheer exploitation of one’s help. One of those early industrialists who chose to flout what would soon he called the “iron law of wages” was David Dale, Owen’s father-in-law, who had originally built the New Lanark mills. A kindly and religious man who liked on occasion to hold forth in an independent Presbyterian pulpit, Dale followed the custom of his times in utilizing the labor of pauper children from the workhouses. We think this monstrously cruel today, forgetting that in the years before the cotton mill owners started contracting to take foundling labor, the paupers were left in the workhouses to perish wholesale from disease and starvation. Dale employed 500 children, 200 of them under the age of ten, and he apparently considered himself a humanitarian in doing so. Certainly he did his best to make his factory infinitely preferable to the foundling homes. At a time when other mill owners occasionally beat their child employees into line with leather thongs, Dale was a far more gentle “father.” He made a beginning at cleaning up the system of pauper apprenticeship, giving girls and boys different rooms to sleep in, allowing them time off for meals, and providing school instruction for anyone who wanted to learn reading, writing, and “ciphering” after supper.

Even as early as 1796 a tourist, visiting New Lanark, noted the transformation that had been carried out by David Dale. “The health and happiness depicted on the countenances of these children,” he wrote, “show that the proprietor of the Lanark mills has remembered mercy in the midst of gain. The regulations here to preserve health of body and mind present a striking contrast to those of most large manufactories in this kingdom . . . It is a truth that ought to be engraved in letters of gold, to the eternal honor of the founder of New Lanark, that out of three thousand children who have been at work in these mills throughout a period of twelve years, only fourteen have died and not one has suffered criminal punishment.” When one of David Dale’s buildings was destroyed by fire, Dale reassured his lamenting workmen by saying: “Dinna greet, my children. You’ve helped me to muckle siller by your labor and I can well afford to spend some of it in taking care of you till the mills built up and started . . . I’ll pay you all the same wages you’ve had till now.”

The motive of Dale’s voluntary “welfarism” need not have been primarily eleemosynary. Though distinctly relative to its time and place, and offensively “paternalistic” to modern ears, it paid off in cash and reputation. The New Lanark mills became known in distant Manchester as something new and better in cotton mill management. Hearing about it, Robert Owen, the boy wonder of Manchester, leaped at the chance on a visit to the North to see the New Lanark marvel for himself. In Glasgow, he met Dale’s daughter Caroline and, in his own cool fashion, fell in love with her. But it was not the girl’s hand he asked for on his first visit to the father. What Owen was after was nothing less than the old man’s mills.

Mr. Dale’s initial response was: “Why, you don’t want to buy them. You’re too young.” The young visitor’s characteristically beguiling effrontery, however, soon dissolved any reluctance after all, the old man was dealing with the youth who had had the perceptiveness to buy the first two bags of American Sea Island cotton ever imported into England and to judge that Robert Fulton, the steam boat man, was worthy of a small loan. As soon as Owen had found partners to put up the money for the purchase, Dale yielded up his factory. Later on the brash young man got around to asking for the daughter.

It was characteristic of Owen that he should consider his father-in-law’s own startling innovations in the handling of personnel to be inadequate. Owen stopped the importation of pauper apprentices and refused to employ any children under the age of ten. Though the Clydeside workers of the time were a “wretched society” (to use Owen’s own description), they responded to the ideas of their new employer once he had convinced them that he did not intend to tamper unduly with their personal lives. Owen won his rude Scots individualists to the idea of a company store when he offered them “pure whisky” for sale as well as cheap food and clothing. He added a second story to the workmen’s houses, cleaned up the town’s dung-heaps, paved the streets, and went into the coal business to keep his employees from being gouged on fuel. He offered medical attention to all, deducting one-sixtieth of a man’s wages to make this possible. At the same time he paid good wages and shortened the hours of work. In the mills, over each operative’s station, he hung a cube, with black, blue, yellow, and white sides. The position of the cube denoted an individual’s working behavior, black being turned outward for poor performance, blue for indifferent, yellow for good, and white for excellent. Nobody at New Lanark was punished for recalcitrance, nobody was ever spoken to harshly. (The only thing Owen grew visibly angry about was excessive drunkenness.) In the factory the “silent monitor” alone told the story and effected the necessary discipline.

Owen seems to have carried his partners along with him on most of his innovations. Inside the factory he anticipated many of the morale-building discoveries which are now associated with the name of Professor Elton Mayo and in taking an interest in his workmen’s homes as the original breeding grounds of efficiency, he was more than a century ahead of Henry Ford’s “sociological department.” But when Owen turned his mind to establishing a model school system for the village of New Lanark, he met with indignant protests. Owen had his own ideas about education he believed in “visual aids,” in teaching without the birch rod, and in adding dancing and music to the more conventional curriculum of the three R’s. In some respects he was an educational “progressive” in other respects he harked back to the “spirit, mind, body” roundedness of the ancient Greeks. Since he also believed in a measure of vocationalism, he insisted on special instruction for girls in knitting and sewing. And he was adamant about keeping even the ten- and eleven-year olds out of the factory and in school for part of the day.

These “advanced ideas” led to continual friction, and Owen, in a dramatic showdown, finally offered to buy out his partners or to sell them his own share of New Lanark. This was in 1809, ten years after he had first come to Scotland. When the partners decided they wanted to pull out, Owen offered the sum of 84,000 pounds for the property, or some 24,000 more than had been paid for it in 1799. When the books were examined, it developed that the business, in addition to paying 5 per cent on the original capital for ten years, had also earned 60,000 pounds. Moreover, New Lanark, in an early version of the “annual wage,” had managed to keep its workers on the payroll during a prolonged period of shutdown at a cost of 7,000 pounds. Owen’s justification for this was that he wanted to keep his well-trained help in New Lanark.

All the evidence attests to the profitableness of Owen’s methods. He raised the 84,000 pounds, entered into a new partnership—and later bought out his new partners at an auction which priced the mills at 114,000 pounds. New Lanark, in the midst of the post-Napoleonic upheavals, continued to be a money-making enterprise, and Owen continued to carry out his new-fangled notions about education and about luring productivity from workers by providing them with decent surroundings and good wages.

What should have been a valid generalization from all this? Clearly Owen should have deduced from his experience that the most effective way to reform an industrial society would be to persuade mill owners in general to follow the New Lanark prescription. At one point Owen did hit upon the basic postulate of modern “consumer capitalism” he noted, speaking of the working class, that “these, in consequence of their numbers, are the greatest consumers.” (Again, we have the anticipatory echo of Henry Ford.) Yet Owen couldn’t see that he had the elements of a universal system at New Lanark. Instead of preaching the gospel of improved unit efficiency via higher wages and shorter hours to the capitalists of Manchester, Owen, at the first hint of post-Napoleonic recession, took flight into the wild blue. He began thinking in socialist terms. He concocted the idea of his famous Villages of Cooperation—a system under which the State, or the county, would buy up land on which to settle the unemployed in government-sponsored enterprises. And instead of offering an increasingly efficient industrial system as the key to employment, he envisaged a “spade agriculture.”

Meanwhile Owen became a money crank as well as a socialist. He suggested that “labor notes” be substituted for money. (This was to have a curious echo in the 1929–33 depression in America, when the Technocrats came up with the notion of “erg-money” to be based on units of energy.) Owen also advocated price fixing, with the prices based on the units of labor power going into specific types of goods. This, he said, would wipe out “bargaining and speculation.” His ideas were grounded in a pre-Marxian labor theory of value which can be found in one section of Adam Smiths Janus-faced discussion of the origins of value. Owen scarcely noticed that he had himself described “manual labor, properly directed” (italics ours) as the source of all wealth. (He missed a point which must have been familiar to him as an industrialist, that good management, in improving the marginal utility of labor in a given factory, must make mince-meat of the idea that “units of labor power” can ever be made a static yardstick for a price-and-money system.) The fact that Owen thought very little of his own qualifying phrase, “properly directed,” was an insult to himself as the “proper director” of manual labor at the New Lanark mills. After all, the difference between New Lanark and other United Kingdom mills resided in a single thing—the superior management provided successively by David Dale and Robert Owen.

As Owen grew older he became more and more of a fuddled Utopian. He became bored with New Lanark. Instead of opening up a showcase branch of his Scottish mills in Manchester to show the British his superior methods, he gave up his flourishing business in cotton thread to found a socialist colony in America, at New Harmony, Indiana. He did this virtually on a whim when a British agriculturalist named Robert Flower informed him that a socialist community built by the Rappites, a group of Lutheran schismatics, on the far edge of American civilization, could be had for upwards of a hundred thousand dollars. “Well, Robert, what say you—New Lanark or Harmony?” asked Owen, turning to his son, young Robert Dale. When the son answered “Harmony,” the die was cast. Within a year, Owen had arranged for the purchase of the Rappite village on the Wabash and twenty thousand acres of land. By open invitation some eight hundred people quickly flocked in to fill the brick and frame buildings and the log huts constructed by the Rappites. The land around New Harmony was good enough, for much of it was a rich alluvial soil above the highest watermark of the Wabash. There were vineyards, a freestone quarry, and a large flour mill. As long as each inhabitant of New Harmony was paid in accordance with an estimate of the value of his services to the community, all went well. But Robert Owen, impatient for the millennium, suddenly decided that, to quote his son, “the Harmonites . . . should at once form themselves into a Community of Equality, based on the principle of common property.” A constitution was drawn up, and equal sharing instituted forthwith.

Five weeks were sufficient to complete a debacle which necessitated an Owenite dictatorship. Since Robert Owen disdained force (and, in any event, had no power to hold people in New Harmony against their will), the dictatorship solved nothing. Robert Dale Owen, the son, described the upshot: “Finally, a little more than a year after the Community experiment commenced, came official acknowledgement of its failure . . . Robert Owen ascribed too little influence to the anti-social circumstances that had surrounded many of the quickly collected inhabitants of New Harmony before their arrival there . . .”

The fiasco compelled Owen to inform the “Harmonites,” who must have been the most glorious collection of deadbeats ever assembled together in one place, that henceforward they must support themselves or leave town. Some of the more industrious idealists leased land from Owen and tried to carry on with smaller agricultural collectives. But in every instance the collectives failed. The lesson was lost on Robert Owen. He returned to England from the banks of the Wabash to put himself at the disposal of the British labor movement. He became the founder of “Owenism,” and, as such, he sired practically everything that is debilitating in modern British society. (The consumer cooperative movement is an exception: founded by the Rochdale “Owenites,” this movement based itself on careful cost accounting, competitive purchases, and good store management, quite in the tradition of Owen’s own “company store” at New Lanark.) Though Thomas Babington Macaulay, the Whig historian, described the aging Owen as “always a gentle bore,” Owenism eventually carried everything before it. Far more than Marx, Robert Owen is the creator of modern British socialism.

The irony of it all is that if Owen had only read and pondered the histories of the Jamestown and Plymouth colonies, he might have been saved the New Harmony fiasco and the subsequent plunge into all of his later British aberrations. In Jamestown, even though an official ukase declared that “he that will not worke shall not eate except by sicknesse he be disabled,” Captain John Smith could not keep the earliest Virginia colonists from starving. It was not until Governor Sir Thomas Dale finally discovered, in 1611, that “martial law did not grow corn,” that the incentives of private farming were permitted to save the situation. As Governor Dale learned by trying it out, the colonists, once they were in possession of their own land and free to work it, “took more pains in a day than they had in a week.” Some ten years later, in Plymouth, Governor Bradford, at his wits’ end because nobody in the Pilgrim community would work even to forestall starvation, decided in a similar extremity that every man must make provision for himself. Following Dales example, Bradford assigned every able-bodied person or family a portion of the land. “This,” so Bradford noted, “had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much come was planted than other waise would have bene by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deall of trouble, and gave farr better contente. The women now wente willingly into the feild, and tooke their little-ons with them to set corne, which before would aledg weaknes, and inabilitie whom to have compelled would have bene thought great tiranie and oppression.”

As Owenite socialism in England disdained the cumulative lessons of Jamestown, Plymouth, and New Harmony, Indiana, Americans who had probably never heard of the New Lanark experiment moved toward the creation of the very system which Owen himself had abandoned. Instead of calling it “New Lanarkism,” they called it “the American system of production.” American economists, skeptical of the “iron law of wages,” began preaching the idea that both wages and profits are paid out of production, and that, as unit efficiency increases and as sales are expanded through lower prices, there must be more and more income for everybody, whether worker, manager, or stockholder. A hundred years after New Lanark, Henry Ford, a practical mechanic who didn’t know enough about history to know whether it was bunk or not, was to carry New Lanarkism to its ultimate conclusion in high wages and mass selling at low prices.

For those who like to ponder the crazy turns of history, the sobering thing to remember is that the flag of modern “consumer capitalism” could have been nailed to the masthead of the industrialists even at the inception of the industrial system. But Owen, who had seen calicoes sold to Indian peasants for a pittance and who had the principles of consumer capitalism staring him in the face at his own mills, failed to realize the potential of what he had developed. Because of a man who lost his head and couldn’t read his own hand, the British Empire was doomed to travel all the way to the brink of ruin. As a final irony the intellectual deposit of Owenism—“Fabianism”—came ultimately to be admired in American universities. So “Owenism” made the bridge to America. But this was not to happen until many years after Fabianism had conquered in England.

Meanwhile the “American system” was to make its own history. Though hobbled by the Twentieth Century importation of Owenite ideas, it is still pouring forth its riches.


The Enlightened Capitalists: Cautionary Tales of Business Pioneers Who Tried to Do Well by Doing Good

An expert on ethical leadership analyzes the complicated history of business people who tried to marry the pursuit of profits with virtuous organizational practices—from British industrialist Robert Owen to American retailer John Cash Penney and jeans maker Levi Strauss to such modern-day entrepreneurs Anita Roddick and Tom Chappell.

Today’s business leaders are increasingly pressured by citizens, consumers, and government officials to address urgent social and environmental issues. Although some corporate executives remain deaf to such calls, over the last two centuries, a handful of business leaders in America and Britain have attempted to create business organizations that were both profitable and socially responsible.

InThe Enlightened Capitalists, James O’Toole tells the largely forgotten stories of men and women who adopted forward-thinking business practices designed to serve the needs of their employees, customers, communities, and the natural environment. They wanted to prove that executives didn’t have to make trade-offs between profit and virtue.

Combining a wealth of research and vivid storytelling, O’Toole brings life to historical figures like William Lever, the inventor of bar soap who created the most profitable company in Britain and used his money to greatly improve the lives of his workers and their families. Eventually, he lost control of the company to creditors who promptly terminated the enlightened practices he had initiated—the fate of many idealistic capitalists.

As a new generation attempts to address social problems through enlightened organizational leadership, O’Toole explores a major question being posed today in Britain and America:Are virtuous corporate practices compatible with shareholder capitalism?


Watch the video: The Story of Robert Owen (August 2022).