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Title: The standard of living of worsted workers in Keighley during the nineteenth century
Author: Johnstone, Christine
ISNI:       0000 0001 3591 6746
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 1976
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The West Riding worsted industry grew rapidly from the late eighteenth century, in the wake of mechanisation in the cotton industry. Rapid urbanisation followed, with Keighley experiencing high population growth, particularly in the 1810's, the 1840's and the 1860's. The latter decade was very prosperous for the worsted industry because of the Cotton Famine. From the mid-1870's however, the industry entered a period of low profitability which hit Keighley especially badly since heavier worsteds were produced locally and after 1880 population growth decelerated. This study examines the standard of living of Keighley worsted workers in the light of these developments following the lines set down by Ashton, Gourvish and Neale. The components of the standard of living are real income (earnings and prices) and qualitative conditions. It is imperative that earnings (preferably net) are used, not wage rates. In this study, wage books have provided data on net earnings, including unusually extensive material relating to domestic workers. Much of the data comes from one firm but this firm was not untypical of Keighley firms generally. Paucity of data meant that local price indexes could be constructed only for the period 1845-1863, using workhouse material. However, where comparison with national indexes is possible, a marked similarity in trend can be noted. Hence one is less perturbed about using the latter for the whole period. Several local rent series provided supplementary information. The qualitative material suggests that urban conditions deteriorated to the 1850's and then improved only slowly. It also highlights the disastrous non-economic effects of the domestic workers' redundancy; the continuing economic exploitation of children; and the change to commercial, nontraditional leisure-time activities. Earnings had an important effect on living standards in the short term, prices and qualitative conditions in the long term. Except for the hand workers, most workers' living standards rose through the nineteenth century, especially those of women, but probably stagnated in the early twentieth century. The most dramatic improvements came between the 1860's and the 1890's, as boom conditions increased the demand for labour and then the economic depression reduced prices.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available