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Why did some industrialists in nineteenth-century Europe prefer hand labour over machines?
Some industrialists in nineteenth-century England preferred hand labour over machines because there was no labour shortage in the market, and as a result, there was no problem of high wage costs either. Industrialists did not wish to replace hand labour with machines that would require large capital investment. Also, in industries where the production and amount of labour required were dependent on the seasons, hand labour was preferred for its lower costs. Apart from this, many goods could only be manufactured by hand. Machines could provide mass quantities of a uniform product. But the demand was for intricate designs and shapes; this required human skill, and not mechanical technology. Handmade products also stood for refinement and class status. It was commonly believed that machine-made goods were for export to the colonies.
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How did the East India Company procure regular supplies of cotton and silk textiles from Indian weavers?
After establishing political power, the East India Company successfully procured regular supplies of cotton and silk textiles from Indian weavers via a series of actions. These actions were aimed at eliminating competition from other colonial powers, controlling costs and ensuring regular supplies of cotton and silk goods for Britain. Firstly, it appointed gomasthas or paid servants to supervise weavers, collect supplies and examine textile quality. Secondly, it disallowed Company weavers from dealing with other buyers. This was ascertained by a system of giving advances to the weavers for procuring raw materials. Those who took these loans could not sell their cloth to anyone but the gomasthas.
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Imagine that you have been asked to write an article for an encyclopaedia on Britain and the history of cotton. Write your piece using information from the entire chapter.
Britain and the History of Cotton
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, merchants would trade with rural people in textile production. A clothier would buy wool from a wool stapler, carry it to the spinners, and then, take the yarn to the weavers, fuller and dyers for further levels of production. London was the finishing centre for these goods. This phase in British manufacturing history is known as proto-industrialisation. In this phase, factories were not an essential part of industry. What was present instead was a network of commercial exchanges.
The first symbol of the new era of factories was cotton. Its production increased rapidly in the late nineteenth century. Imports of raw cotton sky-rocketed from 2.5 million pounds in 1760 to 22 million pounds in 1787. This happened because of the invention of the cotton mill and new machines, and better management under one roof. Till 1840, cotton was the leading sector in the first stage of industrialisation.
Most inventions in the textile production sector were met with disregard and hatred by the workers because machines implied less hand labour and lower employment needs. The Spinning Jenny was one such invention. Women in the woollen industry opposed and sought to destroy it because it was taking over their place in the labour market.
Before such technological advancements, Britain imported silk and cotton goods from India in vast numbers. Fine textiles from India were in high demand in England. When the East India Company attained political power, they exploited the weavers and textile industry in India to its full potential, often by force, for the benefit of Britain. Later, Manchester became the hub of cotton production. Subsequently, India was turned into the major buyer of British cotton goods.
During the First World War, British factories were too busy providing for war needs. Hence, demand for Indian textiles rose once again. The history of cotton in Britain is replete with such fluctuations of demand and supply.
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Why did industrial production in India increase during the First World War?
Industrial production in India increased during the First World War because British mills became busy with tending to war needs. Manchester imports decreased, and Indian mills suddenly had a huge home market to supply. Later, they were also asked to supply war needs such as jute bags, cloth for army uniforms, tents, leather boots, saddles and other items. There was so much demand that new factories had to be set up even when old ones ran on multiple shifts. Industrial production boomed with the employment of new workers and longer working hours.
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