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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Women Weavers Napoleonic War Industry

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Women Weavers Napoleonic War Industry

Postby Connaught » September 1st, 2011, 7:19 pm

Much has been written about the participation of women in war production during the twentieth-century but virtually nothing about women engaged in producing wa materiel during the Napoleonic war.(1) When the treaty of Amiens failed to secure a lasting peace in 1802, Britain geared up for what turned out to be twelve years of continuous warfare. Demands for vital war materiel such as clot for uniforms and canvas for sails increased just as men were withdrawn from the work force to serve in the army and navy. The demand for outfitting armies and ships was only one dimension of the increased market demand for cotton, woolen and linen textiles. War disrupted normal trade patterns, and presented British and Irish textile producers with expanded commercial opportunities to increase their market share in the Caribbean; continental weavers (French and German) normally supplied major sectors of this market. Linen-making in Ireland was sex-linked; traditionally, women spun and men wove. The withdrawal of men from the weaving work force for armed service, consequently, created a shortfall in the number of weavers available to maintain current production levels, let alon to supply expanding markets. Wartime, then, brought conditions conducive to change in the Irish linen industry, both in the composition of its gendered wor force, and in the application of new technologies to spinning flax and weaving linen.
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