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The emigration of British lacemakers to continental Europe (1816–1860s)

  • Fabrice Bensimon (a1)

Abstract

Between 1815 and 1870, thousands of British artisans emigrated to the continent. Among them, hundreds of lacemakers from the East Midlands went to work in northern France, especially Calais. Thanks to the ‘bobbin-net’ technology, they had a competitive lead. By emigrating, they could sell in French markets without paying duties or smuggling costs. They maintained close connections with the East Midlands, where they bought machinery and cotton thread, hired their workforce, and obtained first-hand information on patterns and techniques. These migrant artisans played a decisive part in boosting continental industrialisation and in creating a unified zone of production in north-western Europe.

Entre 1815 et 1870, des milliers d'artisans britanniques ont émigré vers le continent. Parmi eux, des centaines de dentelliers de l'Est des Midlands sont partis travailler dans le nord de la France, en particulier à Calais. Grâce à l'invention technologique mécanisant la production (tulle dit bobin), ces dentelliers occupèrent une position dominante et sans rival. Emigrés, ils pouvaient vendre sur les marchés français sans payer de droits ni frais de contrebande. Ils maintinrent des liens étroits avec leurs Midlands, où ils achetaient leurs machines et du fil de coton, embauchaient du personnel et obtenaient des informations de toute première main sur les modèles, les motifs et les techniques. Ces artisans migrants jouèrent un rôle décisif dans le développement de l'industrialisation sur le continent européen et la création d'une zone de production unifiée dans le nord de l'Europe occidentale.

Zwischen 1815 und 1870, wanderten tausende britischer Handwerker nach dem Kontinent aus, darunter auch Hunderte von Spitzenklöpplerinnen, die aus den östlichen Midlands zur Arbeit nach Nordfrankreich gingen, vor allem nach Calais. Dank der Bobinet-Technologie hatten sie einen Wettbewerbsvorteil, und durch die Auswanderung konnten sie auf französischen Märkten verkaufen, ohne Zölle oder Schmuggelkosten zu zahlen. Sie hielten enge Verbindungen mit den östlichen Midlands aufrecht, wo sie Maschinen und Baumwollgarne kauften, ihre Arbeitskräfte anwarben und Informationen aus erster Hand über Muster und Techniken erhielten. Diese Wanderhandwerker spielten eine entscheidende Rolle für die Ankurbelung der kontinentalen Industrialisierung und die Herausbildung eines einheitlichen Produktionsgürtels im nordwestlichen Europa.

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*Corresponding author. Email: fabrice.bensimon@sorbonne-universite.fr

References

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1 Chapman, S. D., ‘The life and work of William Felkin (1795–1874)’, in Felkin, William, A history of the machine-wrought hosiery and lace manufactures (Newton Abbot, 1967), v–xxxviii; Chapman, S. D., ‘Felkin, William (1795–1874)’, Oxford dictionary of national biography (Oxford, 2004); Church, Roy A., Economic and social change in a Midland town: Victorian Nottingham 1815–1900 (London, 1966); Honeyman, Katrina, Origins of enterprise: business leadership in the industrial revolution (Manchester, 1982); Mason, Sheila A., Nottingham lace 1760s–1950s: the machine-made lace industry in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire (Stroud, 1994).

2 Ferguson, Samuel jr, Histoire du tulle et des dentelles mécaniques en Angleterre et en France (Paris, 1862).

3 Hénon, Henri, L'industrie des tulles et dentelles mécaniques dans le Pas-de-Calais, 1815–1900 (Paris, 1900).

4 Caron, Michel, Du tulle à la dentelle, Naissance d'une industrie (1815–1860) (La Sentinelle, 1997); Noël, Benoît, ‘Outsiders: petites entreprises et petits entrepreneurs anglo-calaisiens dans le marché français des tulles et dentelles mécaniques de la première moitié du XIXème siècle’, in Bruno, Anne-Sophie, Zalc, Claire, Actes de l'histoire de l'immigration 5 (2005), 161–80; Noël, Benoît, ‘Les Anglais et l'origine de la dentelle à Calais’, Revue du Nord 88, 364 (2006), 6788; Borde, Christian, ‘Les dentelliers de Calais sous le Second Empire: l'ouverture au monde’, in Bethouart, Bruno, Napoléon III, Boulogne et l'Europe, Les cahiers du Littoral 2 (2002), 205–17.

5 Arthur Redford, Labour migration in England: 1800–1850, 2nd edn rev. by W. H. Chaloner (Manchester, 1964 [orig. pub. 1926]); Baines, Dudley, Migration in a mature economy: emigration and internal migration in England and Wales, 1861–1900 (Cambridge, 1985); Pooley, Colin and Turnbull, Jean, Migration and mobility in Britain since the eighteenth century (London, 1998).

6 E. G. Ravenstein The laws of migration’, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society 48 (1885), 167–235.

7 Erickson, Charlotte, Leaving England: essays on British emigration in the nineteenth century (Ithaca, NY, 1994); Richards, Eric, Britannia's children: emigration from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland since 1600 (London, 2004); Belich, James, Replenishing the earth: the settler revolution and the rise of the Anglo-world, 1783–1939 (Oxford and New York, 2009); Harper, Marjory and Constantine, Stephen, Migration and empire (Oxford, 2010).

8 Moch, Leslie Page, Moving Europeans: migration in Western Europe since 1650 (Bloomington and Indianapolis, 2003); Bade, Klaus, Migration in European history (Oxford, 2003); Hoerder, Dirk, Cultures in contact: world migrations in the second millennium (Durham and London, 2002).

9 Henderson, W. O., Britain and Industrial Europe 1750–1870: studies in British influence on the Industrial Revolution in western Europe (Liverpool, 1954); Pollard, Sidney, Peaceful conquest: the industrialization of Europe, 1760–1970 (Oxford, 1981).

10 Harris, J. R., Industrial espionage and technology transfer: Britain and France in the eighteenth century (Aldershot, 1998); Morieux, Renaud, The Channel: England, France and the construction of a maritime border in the eighteenth century (Cambridge, 2016).

11 Bruland, Kristine, British technology and European industrialization: the Norwegian textile industry in the mid-nineteenth century (Cambridge, 1989); Fremdling, Rainer, ‘The puddler: a craftsmen's skill and the spread of a new technology in Belgium, France and Germany’, Journal of European Economic History 20, 3 (1991), 529–67; Bret, Patrice, Gouzévitch, Irina and Pérez, Liliane eds., ‘Les techniques et la technologie entre la France et la Grande-Bretagne XVIIe-XIXe siècles’, Documents pour l'histoire des techniques 19 (2010).

12 Sharpe, Pamela and Chapman, Stanley D., ‘Women's employment and industrial organisation: commercial lace embroidery in early nineteenth-century Ireland and England’, Women's History Review 5, 3 (1996), 325–50.

13 Chapman, Stanley D., ‘The first generation of Nottingham lace makers: the restriction of Hours Deed of 1829’, in Bailey, J. B., Nottinghamshire lace makers: the first generation of Nottingham lace makers. Including 700+ names of lace machine owners in 1829 (Melton Mowbray, 2003), 4. The 1829 list is kept in the Nottinghamshire archives, p. 4. It is also studied by Honeyman (Origins of enterprise, ch. 8).

14 Chapman, ‘The first generation of Nottingham lace makers’, 2. The archive ‘Signatures to agreement for the execution of a restriction of hours’ deed. Signatures to agreement for execution of restriction of hours deed in bobbin net trade in Nottingham, etc.; with explanatory note, 1829’ is at the Nottinghamshire Archives (shelf mark M/351).

15 Epstein, James, ‘Some organisational and cultural aspects of the Chartist movement in Nottingham’, in Epstein, James and Thompson, Dorothy eds., The Chartist experience: studies in working-class radicalism and culture, 1830–60 (London, 1982), 221–68.

16 Thompson, E. P., The making of the English working class (Harmondsworth, 1968 [orig. pub. 1963]), 541, 851.

17 UK Parliamentary Papers (hereafter PP), Select Committee on Postage, vol. I, 1837–1838, 221, q. 9250.

18 Chapman, S. D., Henson's history of the framework knitters, reprint with a new introduction (London, 1970).

19 PP, Royal Commission on Children's Employment in Mines and Manufactories, Second Report (Manufactures), Appendix, 24 February 1841, q. 838.

20 Borde, Christian, ‘Le contrebandier, le tulliste et le négociant: Calais, relais européen de l'industrie dentellière, 1802–1832’, in Curveiller, Stéphane and Buchard, Laurent, Se déplacer du Moyen âge à nos jours (Calais, 2009), 291302.

21 See Jitka Janků, Historie textilní výroby v Letovicích [The history of textile production in Letovice] (Brno, 2015).

22 PP, Select Committee on Artisans and Exportation of Machinery, 1824, evidence of Mr Alexander, 2 March, 107 and Gravener Henson, 28 March, 283.

23 For example, ‘Female smuggling’, Nottingham Review (hereafter NR), 11 July 1834, 4.

24 Todd, David, Free trade and its enemies in France, 1814–1851 (Cambridge, 2015), 34–5.

25 On the tariff policy of the July Monarchy, see Todd, ibid., in particular ch. 4.

26 ‘The lace trade [Letter from “an Old Townsman”, Calais, June 26, 1834]’, NR, 11 July 1834, 2.

27 ‘Exportation of machinery’, NR, 4 October 1833, 1.

28 Select Committee on Artisans and Machinery, evidence given by Gravener Henson, 275.

29 NR, 3 June 1831.

30 Felkin, A history of the machine-wrought hosiery, 353.

31 Ibid.; Chapman, ‘Introduction’, Henson's history, xvii.

32 Roy A. Church and D. D. Chapman, ‘Gravener Henson and the making of the English working class’, in E. L. Jones and G. E. Mingay eds., Land, labour and population in the Industrial Revolution (London, 1967), 153.

33 Select Committee on Postage, 1837–1838, vol. II, 217, q. 9192.

34 ‘Hosiery and lace trades’, Nottingham Journal (hereafter NJ), 17 June 1842, 3.

35 ‘Exportation of machinery’, NR, 13 September 1833, 3.

36 NJ, 23 September 1842.

37 NJ, 17 June 1842.

38 Mason, Nottingham lace, 61.

39 PP, Report of the Select Committee on Postage, 1837–1838, vol. II, 207, q. 9091.

40 Baines, Migration in a mature economy, 280.

41 ‘The lace trade’, NR, 11 November 1836, 3.

42 Colin Pooley, ‘Placing labour migration in context: motives and meanings of population movement in nineteenth-century Europe’ (unpublished paper for ‘British Labour and Migration to Europe during Industrialisation’, University College London, 7 July 2017).

43 Noël, ‘Outsiders’, 164.

44 Archives municipales de Calais, 1ETP3130, 1819–1985: Tulles et dentelles: notes historiques, recensements des fabricants et métiers, 1819–1960. Situation de l'industrie: Recensement des fabricants et des métiers, 1828; J. B. Bailey, Nottinghamshire lace makers.

45 Select Committee on Artisans and Machinery, evidence given by Gravener Henson, 23 March 1824, 278.

46 NR, 24 August 1827, 2.

47 Report of the Select Committee on Postage, 1837–1838, vol. II, 216, qs. 9181–2, 9189.

48 Baines, Migration in a mature economy; Berthoff, Rowland, British immigrants in Iindustrial America, 1790–1850 (Cambridge, MA, 1953).

49 Baines, Migration in a mature economy, 279.

50 ‘Hosiery and lace trades’, NJ, 15 July 1842, 3.

51 For example, ‘DIED. At her father's house in Milton-Street, in her 25th year, Caroline, the wife of Thomas Mather, now of Calais, leaving two children the loss of an affectionate mother’, NR, 2 October 1840, 4.

52 See Harzig, Christiane and Hoerder, Dirk, Gabaccia, with Donna, What is migration history? (Cambridge, 2009); Brettell, Caroline and Hollifield, James F. eds., Migration theory: talking across disciplines (London, 2000).

53 Archives municipales de Calais, série D n° 246, 37.

54 ‘Pedestrianism’, NR, 29 April 1842, 4.

55 ‘DIED. At her father's house in Milton-Street, in her 25th year, Caroline …’, NR, 2 October 1840, 4.

56 ‘MARRIED. At St Mary's church, Dover, on Monday last, Mr Thomas Brownlow, of New Basford, to Miss Mary Ann Ostick, of Calais; also at the same time and church, Mr George Burgin, of Codnor, Derbyshire, to miss Ahtuanette, of Calais…’, NR, 18 December 1840, 5.

57 Vion, Albert, ‘Aspects de la vie calaisienne aux XIXe siècle: la communauté britannique’, Bulletin historique et artistique du Calaisis 80 (December 1979), 525.

58 Richardson, Christopher, A city of light: socialism, Chartism and co-operation – Nottingham 1844 (Nottingham, 2013).

59 See The National Archives, UK (hereafter TNA) HO 79/3/21, 31–2: Letter from J Beckett to Lewis Allsopp, Nottingham, 21 April 1817; E. P. Thompson, Making, 628, n. 1.

60 Nottingham Mercury, 23 September 1825; a clipping of the article was translated in the correspondence.

61 Archives nationales, France, F7/9786.3.

62 Archives départementales du Pas-de-Calais (hereafter AD 62) M 7427 Loges maçonniques. Figure 6: ‘Diplôme. Ancien Ordre Impérial union des Odd Fellows de France rite de Nottingham’. AD 62, 1 J 1652 1 Loges maçonniques; M 7427 Loges maçonniques. See also William Mauffroy, ‘Les Odd Fellows de Saint-Pierre-lès-Calais ou la première rencontre de la mutualité et du mouvement ouvrier dans le Pas-de Calais au XIXe siècle’, Bulletin de la commission départementale d'histoire et d'archéologie du Pas-de-Calais 15 (1997), 265–82.

63 Epstein, ‘Chartist movement in Nottingham’. On Calais, see Northern Star (hereafter NS), 6 December 1845, 4.

64 Source: TNA, National Land Company Register, BT 41/136/790. See also NS, 6 December 1845; 1846: 24 January, 7 and 14 February, 4 and 25 April, 11 July, 1 August, 24 October, 21 November, 5 and 12 December; 14 August 1847; 1 January 1848; 1849: 23 January, 17 February, 20 February, 10 March, 13 March, 3 April, 29 May, 15 September.

65 See NS, 2 April 1848, 5. See also ‘James Guilward, Calais, £2 12 6 d in receipts of the Chartist Co-Operative Land Society’, NS, 6 December 1845, 4.

66 NS, 24 January 1846, 1.

67 NS, 20 February 1847.

68 ‘To the working men of England’, NS, 15 September 1849, 1.

69 TNA FO 146/350, Letter of the consul in Calais to Palmerston, Foreign Secretary, 21 March 1848.

70 L'industriel calaisien (15 April 1848), 3; PP, Colonial Land and Emigration Office, 27 April 1848, Papers relative to emigration to Australian colonies, 47 (1847–1848), 100.

71 Colonial Land and Emigration Office, Letter to the members of the British Government, 21 March 1848, 97.

72 See Todd, Free trade and its enemies, ch. 4.

73 See Pierre-Jacques Derainne, ‘Le travail, les migrations et les conflits en France: représentations et attitudes sociales sous la Monarchie de Juillet’ (unpublished PhD dissertation, université de Bourgogne, 1999); Bensimon, Fabrice, ‘British workers in France, 1815–1848’, Past & Present 213 (2011), 147–89.

74 ‘English mechanics from France’, NR, 31 March 1848, 4.

75 TNA FO 27/817.

76 PP, Papers relative to emigration to Australian colonies, 47 (1847–1848), 97–8.

77 TNA FO 27/813.

78 Haines, Robin F., Emigration and the labouring poor Australian recruitment in Britain and Ireland, 1831–60 (London, 1997), 207.

79 Frost, Ginger S., Living in sin: cohabiting as husband and wife in nineteenth-century England (Manchester, 2008).

80 Gillian Kelly, Well suited to the colony (Queanbeyan, 1998).

81 ‘The Anglo-French emigrants’, NR, 16 August 1850, 4.

82 Borde, Christian, ‘Les dentelliers de Calais sous le Second Empire: l'ouverture au monde’, in Bethouart, Bruno, Napoléon III, Boulogne et l'Europe, les cahiers du Littoral 2 (2002), 205–17.

83 http://www.societe-histoire-grand-couronne.fr/article-et-si-la-robe-de-kate-middleton-etait-nee-a-grand-couronne-75088794.html. That Levers was in Grand-Couronne was known in Nottinghamshire – ‘he is now at Grande Carron’, Gravener Henson testified to the 1824 Select Committee, 23 March 1824, 274.

84 The lacemaker's story: Loughborough, Luddites and long journeys. Souvenirs of an exhibition by Audrey Carpenter, John Carpenter and Tony Jarram, Friends of Charnwood Museum, Charnwood Museum, Loughborough, 2007.

86 Mokyr, Joel, The gifts of Athena: historical origins of the knowledge economy (Princeton, 2004).

87 Chapman, Stanley, Merchant enterprise in Britain: from the Industrial Revolution to World War I (Cambridge, 1992), ch. 5.

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