Why did the Manchester cotton industry fail to modernise by 1914?

Essay by muel May 2003

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Why did the Manchester cotton industry fail to modernise by 1914?

Manchester today is still labelled as the first modern city. Because of it's swiftness to industrialise during the 18th and 19th centuries. This industrialisation was, in the most part, due to the prolific cotton industry in the city. Manchester lay at the forefront of textile manufacturing not only in Britain and Lancashire but also the world. However, come the early 20th century Manchester failed to retain this position of prominence. The city had not modernised sufficiently to secure itself in the post industrialisation period. But what causes can be attributed to this failure to modernise and proportionately how significant were these causes?

In terms of technology Lancashire lost it's advantage in this area to the USA during the final decades of the 19th century. In 1917 only 19 per cent of spindles in Britain were of the 'ring' variety as opposed to 9 per cent in the States .

such deficiencies in machinery inevitably led to a decrease in efficiency. This can be attributed to demand for textiles levelling out after the relative boom of the past few decades. A decrease in revenue bought about by such decline suggests that this may have been a contributing factor in Lancashire's failure to maintain its position against America. But there must be more concrete explanations than this.

There is evidence to suggest that Lancashire spinning manufactures sought to improve the efficiency of their business in different areas to that of the Americans The subcontracting system allowed employers to achieve cheaper labour from their workers. But, also more emphasis was placed on the use of mules for spinning in Britain. The historian John Singelton argues that this was by far the most economical path for Lancashire mill owners . Lars Sandberg even...