July 25th 2022

PA.182 | Textiles, Technology Transfer, and Global Connections in the Early Industrial Revolution: John Holker's Textile Sample Book of 1752.

Parallel Sessions
11:30 - 13:00 - Recherche Sud - Room 0.015
The Lancashire-born textile expert and entrepreneur John Holker (1719-1786) has been described as 'the most important individual in the whole process of technology transfer in the eighteenth century'. As a young man at Manchester, Holker was partner in a textile finishing business. A member of Britain's Roman Catholic minority, he joined the doomed Jacobite insurrection of 1745 against the British monarchy. Escaping to France after the insurrection's failure, he became one of the key industrialists at Rouen in Normandy, rose to the top echelons of the Ancien Regime industrial bureaucracy, was granted French citizenship, and ended up receiving a title of nobility from Louis XV. In the 1770s and 1780s, Holker played a decisive role in the introduction of the key mechanical innovations of the early industrial revolution in textiles to France, in particular James Hargreaves' spinning jenny and versions of Richard Arkwright's spinning frame. Long before that, however, he was already pioneering the application of British process and product innovations in the French cotton and woollen textile industries. Holker's mission to bring British textile know-how to France began with a clandestine industrial espionage mission to England in the winter of 1751-2. The 115 textile swatches Holker brought back to France, assembled as a book (now in the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris) and accompanied by detailed technical and commercial descriptions, provide a rare insight into textile production in Britain on the very eve of the Industrial Revolution. The swatches originated predominantly in Lancashire. They include some of the earliest surviving examples of the types of cotton textiles - jean and thickset, cotton check and Manchester velvet - that drove explosive growth and mechanical innovation in the Lancashire cotton industry. Almost entirely dependent on imported raw materials, sourced globally - raw cotton from south-west Asia and, more importantly, the Caribbean; linen yarn from the eastern Baltic and Ireland - the swatches manifest the global reach of the early Industrial Revolution. The commercial information included in the book also maps out the markets for these textiles, extending across Europe and beyond, to Africa, the Caribbean, and North and South America. The Holker swatch book is exceptionally valuable because it brings together text and object, word and thing. It provides an unrivalled opportunity to explore the relationship between the materiality of a product and the way it was manufactured, marketed and consumed. For each of the 115 textiles, Holker provided notes on the origins of its raw materials, how it was made, its varieties and their prices, the markets in which it sold, and the uses to which it was put. In other words, for one of the leading sectors of the Industrial Revolution, the swatch book reveals, both materially and textually, the global resources - materials, labour, technology, markets - on which innovation depended. We discover that the British cotton textile industry, in the middle of the eighteenth century, was already not only dependent on inter-continental trade in raw materials, but that its markets were global in their reach. And because the swatch book was explicitly comparative, it has a great deal to tell us about France's Ancien Regime system of textile production, as well as about the role of textiles in both the French and British overseas empires. The session will consider the global implications of the Holker swatch book for understanding technological innovation at the start of the Industrial Revolution, markets for textiles and their raw materials, technology transfer, inter-continental trade, and industrial regulation. In addition, it will address the methodological challenges and opportunities that arise in using surviving textiles as material sources for economic history, with presentations by scholars from both universities and museums.
L - Industrial Organization
N - Economic History
N13 - Europe: Pre-1913
N63 - Europe: Pre-1913
O - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth
O14 - Industrialization • Manufacturing and Service Industries • Choice of Technology
O15 - Human Resources • Human Development • Income Distribution • Migration
Styles John
Ariane Fennetaux - Université de Paris
ANDREA CARACAUSI - University of Padua Italy
Sugiura Miki
Raw Materials for Holker’s Textiles: Sourced Globally, Processed in Lancashire
Ariane Fennetaux - Université de Paris
Holker and the English Origins of “Jeans”
Pascale Gorguet Ballesteros - Palais Galliera, musée de la mode de la Ville de Paris
Competing with India: Holker, Chemistry and Dyeing
Liliane Hilaire-Perez - Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS)
Colour, Imperial Markets and the Global Textile Trade in the Eighteenth Century
Beverly Lemire - University of Alberta
Holker, Inspector of Manufactures
Philippe Minard - École Normale Supérieure
Holker in his Global Context
Giorgio Riello
John Holker, Printed Textiles and the Politics of International Industrial Espionage
Styles John
Calenderers, Calendering and the Hot Press
Philip Sykas - Manchester Metropolitan University