Between the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution, four generations of the Stansfield family lived in Halifax—an upland parish in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Although its politics were calm, the century and a half between England's two great “revolutions” was not devoid of change in other respects. Significant social, economic, and cultural developments during this period laid the foundations for the ferment of the Industrial Revolution. The history of the Stansfield family is an excellent illustration of these changes, for there was a world of difference between the great-grandfather, Josias Stansfield, who was in his prime at the Restoration, and his great-grandsons, George and David Stansfield, who were in their primes a century later.
For his part, Josias was recognizably a man of the middling sort. A yeoman engaged in farming and small-scale textile production, his economic activities and his social standing place him in the ranks of families who fell between the few gentlemen who lived in the area and the mass of simple artisans and laborers who had to struggle just to survive. Josias's great-grandsons, George and David Stansfield lived in a different world. By the mid-eighteenth century, Halifax's textile industry was increasingly dominated by large-scale production of which George's large putting-out concern and David's substantial export business were typical. George and David's social position was also quite different. No longer merely comfortable, these two second cousins were among the wealthiest residents of their respective townships, and they had assumed an appropriately significant share of the political and social leadership in the parish.