Anthony Cooke, The Rise and Fall of the Scottish Cotton Industry, 1778–1914: the ‘Secret Spring’, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010. Pp. xvi + 237. Hardback ISBN 9780719080821, £60.00.

  • Jim Phillips
  • Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, November 2010, Edinburgh University Press
  • DOI: 10.3366/jshs.2010.0108

the scottish cotton industry, 1778-1914

What is it about?

A study of the rise of the cotton industry in Scotland from its origins in the late eighteenth century to its decline before the First World War. The book includes chapters on the pre history of the industry; its expansion from 1778 to 1830 and its diversification and decline thereafter, with the notable exception of the Paisley cotton thread industry. There are also chapters on technology; on the (heavily gendered) workforce and on employers.

Why is it important?

The Scottish cotton industry played a major role in the early industrialisation of Scotland. The book includes discussion of the finishing trades such as bleaching and dyeing, which played an important role in Scotland but have been neglected by textile historians until very recently. Neglected but important areas such as the origins, wealth and political connexions of the Scottish cotton masters, are also discussed, with a pioneering analysis of their wealth based on wills and probate inventories. The cotton industry, with its dependence on export markets, laid down a template for the later development of export orientated heavy industry, such as shipbuilding and railway locomotives.


University of Dundee

This is the first full length book on the history and development of the Scottish cotton industry, which is surprising given the importance of the industry in the early industrialisation of Scotland. It is important in recording the experiences of industrialisation and in discussing the early decline of the industry and the way in which certain specialised niches, such as cotton thread manufacture and cotton belting, survived into the late twentieth century. The book argues that the cotton industry provided a template for the development of later manufacturing industry in Scotland such as steel making and shipbuilding in its dependence on export markets and reliance on credit.

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The following have contributed to this page: Mr ANTHONY JOHN COOKE

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