Spinners and the Law: Regulating yarn standards in the English worsted industries, 1550-1800

John Styles

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6 Citations (Scopus)
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The Worsted Acts, passed between 1777 and 1791, established semi-official industrial police forces in nearly a third of the counties of England, charged with detecting and prosecuting fraudulent reeling of worsted yarn by hand spinners. The Acts have been interpreted as the response of late eighteenth-century employers to new and growing problems of labour discipline associated with the putting-out system. But frauds by spinners in reeling yarn were not new. They had characterised the worsted industry since its rapid expansion began at the end of the sixteenth century. Over the subsequent two centuries, employers addressed the problem repeatedly. How they tackled it depended
crucially on the way the different regional worsted industries were organised and on dramatic changes in the willingness and capacity of the state to regulate manufacturing.
The Worsted Acts emerge as the product of a distinctive eighteenth-century approach to industrial regulation, reactive and particularistic, but bureaucratically innovative
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-170
JournalTextile History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


  • legal history, gender, work, regulation, standards


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