The Domestic System (Commentary)

This commentary is based on the classroom activity: The Domestic System

Q1: Describe how the domestic system worked. Why was the domestic system popular with the British people?

A1: The Domestic System was used in the 18th century to produce cloth in the home. This usually involved the children carding, the mother spinning and the father weaving. After the cloth had been produced it was sold to merchants called clothiers. The Domestic System was popular because it allowed the whole family to work together. The workers could also control when and how fast they worked.

Q2: What was the object at the bottom right-hand corner of source 5 used for?

A2: The object at the bottom right-hand corner of source 5 is a hand card and was used to brush and comb the cotton fibres before spinning.

Q3: Why was there a shortage of yarn in Britain in the 1760?

A3: John Kay's Flying Shuttle increased the speed of weaving. By the 1760s large numbers of weavers were using the Flying Shuttle. This meant that weavers needed more yarn. As the speed of spinning had not been increased, spinners could not provide the amount of yarn that was now needed.

Q4: Study sources 1, 4, 5 and 7. Explain the advantages and disadvantages of Hargreaves' invention.

A4: Source 1 illustrates that the traditional spinning-wheel could only spin one thread at a time. The main advantage of Hargreaves' Spinning Jenny was that it could spin several threads at once. One of the disadvantages of Hargreaves' machine was that it was more expensive than the traditional spinning-wheel. In the long-term the Spinning-Jenny also resulted in some spinners becoming unemployed.

Q5: Do the sources in this unit suggest that people stopped using the spinning-wheel after Hargreaves inventing the Spinning Jenny?

A5: Source 1 shows a woman using the spinning-wheel in 1814. This reveals that the spinning-wheel continued to be used long after Hargreaves invented the Spinning Jenny in the 1760s.

Q6: Give as many reasons as you can why cotton imports increased in the 18th century.

A6: Source 3 shows that cotton imports increased from 1,645,031 lbs. in 1741 to 56,010,732 lbs. in 1800. One reason for this was the increased demand for cotton caused by the inventions of the Flying Shuttle and the Spinning Jenny. The growth of the British Empire was another factor in this as both India and North America produced cheap cotton.