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Title: A history of the Lancashire cotton industry between the years 1873 and 1896
Author: Smith, Roland
Awarding Body: University of Birmingham
Current Institution: University of Birmingham
Date of Award: 1954
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This essay analyses some of the more important incidents which make up the economic history of the Lancashire cotton industry during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and more particularly of the intervening years between 1873 and 1896, the period which long since assumed the title of the "Great Depression". The work is divided into two Parts; in Part I we shall begin by examining the changes in the pattern of overseas trade in Lancashire cotton" textiles between 1873 and 1896, followed by an analysis of the fall in wholesale market prices for cotton. textiles and changes in 'mill margins' (not profit margins. the difference between the two being made abundantly clear in the written text) for the Lancashire producers, which occurred during the same period. It appears - as part of the conclusions to this section of 'the work - that foreign competition to the export of United Kingdom cotton goods increased in intensity during the last quarter of the nineteenth , century, proving detrimental to the export opportunities for the United Kingdom cotton industry. Market opportunities were especially curtailed to the United Kingdom industry where the development of foreign textile industries was favourably assisted by the raising of tariff levels, or by some other form of restriction upon the free import of cotton .textiles •. Total quantities of United Kingdom yarn exports declined steadily after 1886, whilst the pace of expansion for United Kingdom piece good exports was severely curtailed compared with previous experience.However, foreign competition was intense only in those overseas markets where 'home' textile industries were growing rapidly in size and more pronounced among the coarse quality yarns or fabrics. As a result, and beyond the total quantity figures, considerable and important re-adjustments were taking place in the detailed regional distribution and in the quality of cotton textiles exported from the .United Kingdom. Lancashire producers and exporters began developing sales to overseas markets where the degree of competition from 'home' textile producers was less intense than elsewhere, and they concentrated increasingly upon the production of the finer and medium quality goods at the expense of the coarse quality goods. This latter re-adjustment particularly, had profound effects upon the wages and conditions of work for cotton operatives in the Lancashire mills. The second set of conclusions involves the changes in prices of cotton textile commodities after 1873. prices of all raw cotton qualities, yarn and cloth goods fell heavily after 1873 - although the pace of each separate price decline was different for each set of commodities; raw cotton prices, for instance, fell by more than fifty per cent. between 1873 and 1896, yarn prices fell less heavily, and cloth prices least of all.As regards mill margins per pound of yarn spun or per square yard of cloth produced ,the spinners and coarse cloth manufacturers suffered a noticeable reduction in their margins during the period 1873-1896 whether the fall be expressed in money or in real terms; ,the manufacturers producing the fine or medium quality goods· experienced only a slight fall. in the money level ,of their margins, and in real terms they were actually increased. The second Part of the essay examines some. of the tensions which were exerted within the Lancashire cotton industry by these changes in foreign market conditions and the fall in cotton textile prices after 1873; first, upon the business fortunes of four Public Companies in the Oldham cotton spinning industry, then upon the outlook of Lancashire businessmen meeting together in the Manchester Chamber of Commerce,- toward the problems of growing foreign competition and increasing restrictions upon international trade in cotton goods, and finally, to the bulk of this section, the effects of changing market conditions for cotton textiles upon the relationships of the employers with the employed in both the spinning and "leaving sections of the cotton industry. Finally, after elaborating the protracted joint negotiations between employers and union representatives in both the spinning and weaving industries which took place after 1873, the necessary conclusion is to discover how these negotiations and the Wage Agreements which often arose from them, affected the level of money earnings for the different sets of cotton workers. Thus the final Chapter of Part II will be concerned with tracing the changes in the level of wage rates and earnings for workpeop1e engaged in both the spinning and weaving sections of the cotton industry during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Each of these separate Chapters in Part II has been built up from original Manuscript sources - Company Balance Sheets, Employers' Association Minute Books, Trade Union Reports, Chamber of Commerce Proceedings, and similarly' important primary source materials. The broad conclusions derived from the different Chapter Studies have been gathered together in a final Chapter entitled "General Summary and Conclusions", and it is not intended here to - further embark upon their detailed content.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available