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Technological Development in Late Saxon Textile Production: its relationship to an emerging market economy and changes in society

Technological Development in Late Saxon Textile Production: its relationship to an emerging market economy and changes in society

By Philippa A. Henry

Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings, Paper 175 (1998)

Introduction: The process of change from domestic textile production in early Anglo-Saxon England (5th – mid-7th century) to the more commercially based, organised industry of the late Saxon period (late 9th – 11th century) is a long and complex one. These changes form a vital part of the continuum which reached its zenith in the late Medieval period when the wool and textile industry created much of the wealth of England.

The importance of this industry in late Medieval England is well documented. In contrast, its genesis in the late Saxon period has received little attention. Although documentary sources are few the archaeological evidence is substantial.

An examination of this evidence indicates that from the beginning of the tenth-century changes in weaving technology were taking place culminating in the introduction of the faster, more efficient horizontal treadle loom during the eleventh-century. This changing technology coincides with the emergence of new urban centres and a more commercially based market economy. In addition, for the first time documentary sources refer to the role of men in the weaving process hitherto the province of women. When examined together it becomes clear that technological development in late Saxon textile production is inextricably linked to the changing needs of and roles in society, and the emergence of a market economy.

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