Isolated by dense forests, this north‐western area of England remained remote and desolate even at Domesday. Fully recognized as one of the English shires by 1194 and a county palatine since 1351, the palatine rights were subsequently vested in the sovereign as duke of Lancaster.
Cloth‐manufacturing was initially a subsidiary employment in the upland farms, encouraged by the soft water and mild, moist climate. The invention of machines for spinning (Hargreaves's spinning jenny, Arkwright's water frame, Crompton's mule) and development of steam‐power in the later 18th cent. encouraged exploitation of the coalfield and a move from a domestic to a factory system, with increasing concentration on the more easily worked cotton. Aided by improved communications and transport, and growth of Manchester as a business centre and Liverpool as an Atlantic port, the expansion in cotton enabled Lancashire to dominate the British textile industry. Commerce, cotton, chemicals, and engineering generated industrial development, massive growth in population, and local wealth, but at the expense of scarring the valleys. Glass, soap, and shipping still prospered, but as textiles and mining declined, unemployment, urban decay, and out‐migration accelerated. Cricket and association football retain passionate support, but, despite its regional distinctiveness, the county (shorn in 1972 of Merseyside, Greater Manchester, and its southern Lakeland fringe) continues to drift back to its former position on the periphery.
Subjects: British History.