The Handloom Weavers' Bones

Alice H. Amsden

in The Rise of “The Rest”

Published in print February 2001 | ISBN: 9780195139693
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199832897 | DOI:
The Handloom Weavers' Bones

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The fierce competition triggered after 1815 by Britain's technological revolution in textiles created havoc, and ultimately four defensive strategies among textile‐producing countries: at the high end of the capabilities scale, France exploited its traditional artisanship in hand spinning and hand weaving, and the USA adopted a mass production system similar to that of England, but produced coarse rather than line fabrics; at the low end of the capabilities scale, Mexico followed the USA into mass production. China, India and the Ottoman Empire tried to imitate France while simultaneously struggling to produce industrial yarn and cloth for mass consumption. Despite superficial similarities, the history of the rest's pre‐war textile industries could not have been more different from those of France, the USA, or Japan: the latter innovated their way out of trouble whereas the former did not. Whatever the strategy—mass production or artisan—and whatever the degree of economic openness—protectionist (as in Mexico and Brazil) or free trade (as in China, India and the Ottoman Empire)—the textile industries of the rest failed to become dynamic world players until after the Second World War. This chapter begins to explore the reasons behind the failure of the rest, and, to convey the extent of their skill deficit, the capabilities of France, the USA, and Japan are examined to the extent necessary to establish a benchmark.

Keywords: artisanship; Brazil; China; England; free trade; India; Japan; France; industrial revolution; industrialization; late industrialization; mass production; Mexico; newly industrialized countries; Ottoman Empire; protectionism; skill deficit; technology; textile industries; USA

Chapter.  8151 words. 

Subjects: Economic History

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