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Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 7 months ago

Week 23: Emergence of Industrial Societies IDs


Protoindustrialization:  Precursor to the Industrial Revolution


Protoindustrialization is said to be the cause and paves the way for industrialization.  Protoindustrialization is based off of a trade cycle where merchants lent raw textile fibers, and sometimes equipment, to peasant families.  These familes then used their time to spin, weave, and prepare the finised cloth that was then collected periodically by the merchant.  The merchants paid the peasants a minimal fee and sold the products on national or international markets.  It also helped lead to a decline in the age at first marriage because it gave couples another means of income. These couples no longer had to secure sufficient land for their livelihood. Likewise, it encouraged increased family size, as more children meant more hands available for cottage production. However, unlike the artisan who owned his means of production, these families worked for a middleman who owned both the materials and the equipment.


Some advantages of this system included:

  1. The peasants could supplement their agricultural income and take advantage of the winter months when farming was impossible.
  1. Merchants could avoid the higher wages and often demanding regulations of urban labor; when the need arose, it was easier to reduce the number of workers.
  1. Merchants could acquire capital, which would later play a part in funding industrialization itself, and peasants acquired skills for the future.
  1. Young people could establish separate households earlier, thus facilitating population growth.
  1. Capitalists had greater flexibility, especially when demand for their goods flagged.


But there was one disadvantage: when demand rose, the system proved to be inefficient.  The merchant-capitalists found it difficult to induce the peasant-workers to increase their output. This dilemma eventually led to a factory system, in which all the workers were concentrated in one place under the supervision of a manager, and where water or steam power could easily be provided. Thus, proto-industrialization contributed to the Industrial Revolution through its advantages and limitations alike.


Here is a spinning wheel similar to one that would be used by a peasant in this system:


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