Family and Business in the Industrial Revolution


Current Research: Professor Hannah Barker

Family and Business in the industrial revolution: men and women of the trading classes in North-West England, 1760-1820

I’m currently writing a book based on an ESRC-funded project. ‘Family and business’ which I hope will provide a novel analysis of small business families in north-west English towns between 1760 and 1820. By focusing on the internal dynamics of family life it will question the extent to which family members were unified in their objectives, and in so doing, it will challenge the notion of ‘family strategy’ which is widely used by social and economic historians, as well as by sociologists and economists. Urban centres in north-west England experienced particularly marked economic and demographic growth in these decades, whilst the businesses run by lower middling families proliferated here at an especially rapid rate: both benefiting from, and helping to promote urban social, cultural and economic transformations. Despite their significance to urban societies, historical research into the lower middle classes during early industrialisation has been limited and we know surprisingly little about them. This book therefore aims to fill a significant gap in our knowledge. Using court records, probate material, business records, family correspondence and diaries, it will explore the ways in which power was divided, and the tensions that existed within family groups, as well as the impact that these had on decision-making and strategy and on relations with wider kin and community networks. Family and Business will add significantly to our understanding of a number of areas. In particular, it should force us to reassess some of our current interpretations of gender relations, family structure and urban business networks during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Editors Note: This is an archived blog post from 12/11/2009



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