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16 - Why Was the Spinning Jenny Not Invented in India?

Science, Technology and the Industrial Revolution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 August 2022

Johan Fourie
Affiliation:
University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
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Summary

There was nothing special about James Hargreaves. Born in 1721 near Blackburn in Lancashire, he never learned to read. As he grew to adulthood his only job prospect was that open to other Blackburn men of his standing: he became a hand-loom weaver who turned yarn into fabric to make a living. From his meagre salary he supported his wife and thirteen children.

Eighteenth-century England was an important textile producer. To produce fabric from wool or cotton requires three steps: carding, spinning and then weaving. At the time, it usually took three carders to provide the roving for one spinner, and three spinners to provide the yarn for one weaver. To increase the amount of fabric, one needed to speed up the process early in the chain of production. And so, in 1764, the story goes, Hargreaves was working with a one-thread spinning wheel when it accidentally fell over.

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Our Long Walk to Economic Freedom
Lessons from 100,000 Years of Human History
, pp. 88 - 94
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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