Thursday, 25 June 2009


From Trevelyan’s English Social History
(We're still only in Chaucer’s England -- 1340-1400 -- loads more good stuff to come!!)

The growth of the cloth trade was destined to go on for generations to come, creating new classes in town and country, adding to the luxury of the manor-house and relieving the poverty of the cottage, altering the methods and increasing the rewards of agriculture, supplying our ships with their cargoes, spreading our commerce first over all Europe and then over all the world, dictating the policy of our statesmen and providing the programmes of our parties, causing alliances, treaties, and wars.

The cloth trade held its place as incomparably the most important English industry, till the far distant day when coal was wedded to iron. For centuries it occupied men’s daily thoughts in town and village, second only to agriculture; our literature and common speech acquired many phrases and metaphors borrowed from the manufacture of cloth –

‘thread of discourse’,

‘spin a yarn’,

'unravel a mystery’,

‘web of life’,



‘tease’ –

while all unmarried women were put down as ‘spinsters’.

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