Defoe’s account of ‘the populous and wealthy West Riding’ in 1724
A contemporary enquiry into a mysterious textile manufacturing success
– Dr Stephen Caunce
16 Apr 2024
The Leeds Library, 18 Commercial St, Leeds LS1 6AL
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Daniel Defoe’s horseback crossing of the Pennines from Rochdale led him through Halifax to Leeds, and both towns surprised and enthralled him. He declared that as he was ‘resolved to have a perfect knowledge of … the manufactures of England … which is so prodigious great in this quarter’, he took ‘singular satisfaction’ in undertaking a thorough investigation into the textile trade of both towns.
His results are full of insight for modern historians into how the apparently barren location had actually spurred its inhabitants to create a business system which involved most of the people in family production systems. They operated independently, and thereby collectively grew very prosperous.
Come and hear how Daniel Defoe’s observations and analysis of 300 years ago add to our understanding of this region.
Dr Stephen Caunce worked for Kirklees Museums in the 1980s, including twice running Red House when it was at a low ebb, and relaunched it as a community museum. He also worked at Beamish Museum, and what is now the National Coal Mining Museum. He then taught and researched at the Universities of Leeds and Central Lancashire until retiring in 2014.
His thesis led to two books (on East Yorkshire farm horsemen and on oral history research for local historians), and he has also published on Red House, Pennine farming, the Yorkshire woollen industry, northern identity and northern urbanisation.
He is currently working on a short book re-asserting the Industrial Revolution’s roots in the Pennines, and gives talks on a wide range of topics.
For further information, including the text of most of his non-book publications, see www.stephencaunce.com
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