The Domestic System was in occurrence from around 1720 to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 1750. The way the Domestic System worked, was because each individual family worked for themselves, in their own home. Firstly, the businessman would buy amounts of wool from sheep farmers. He would then go on to give poor families the wool and the necessary machinery such as looms. The idea was that the family would make the yarn and then subsequently, cloth/textile and then sell it back to the businessman. Next, the businessman would sell the cloth of textile on to the clothiers, so that they could make clothes out of it, as the name suggests.
However, as peasants’ cottages had a limited amount of working space, it was usually the case that it took several different families to produce the final product. For example, the first family would clean the wool. They would then take the cleaned wool on to the second family, who would card the wool (carding is the process that separates the individual wool fibres from each other). Once the wool was cleaned and carded, it would be spun into yarn by the young girls of the next family (these girls were often known as spinsters, and it was believed that if they didn’t marry at a young age, they would remain un-married for the rest of their life, hence the term today ‘spinster’). The final part of the process was the yarn being woven into cloths with a hand loom. Of course, these different parts of the process could be mixed around, so that it only took two families to make the cloth, or maybe three.
Advantages of the Domestic System:
The main benefit of the Domestic System was that the families could work at their own pace, and take breaks whenever they wanted to. This is because there was no one else but themselves in their home, to tell them when they needed to work, and how fast. Of course, they would have known they would’ve had to work at a particular pace so that they could get the job done, and therefore be paid. Another benefit was that because it was usually the women who did a lot of the work, there was always someone to be at home to look after the younger children, as this would not be the case in the future Industrial Revolution. And another final advantage of the system was that it was (mostly) fair. Because depending on how much the family produced, that was how much they were paid. So for example, if a family worked really hard and produced lots of cloth, then they would be paid more than another family who worked not as hard and didn’t produce as much cloth.
Disadvantages of the Domestic System:
The biggest disadvantage of the Domestic System was that there was a low production level. Especially as different parts of the process were done by different families, it took time to complete your own part, and then pass it on to another family who would then do their part etc. All this added up to, was that it took quite a long time for a small amount of cloth to be produced, which is, in essence, why the Industrial Revolution came about. The next disadvantage of the Domestic System was that many families were putting their young children into work – even as young as four years old. Because of this, many young children had their childhoods scarred by working alongside their family so that they could get by in life.
Of course, the Domestic System was easier on young children than the Industrial revolution ever was, as these children were with their families and in a familiar and (usually) safe environment, which brings me onto my next point. As the businessmen began to improve their production process, this meant that the machines in the households were getting bigger and bigger, and even more dangerous. As a result, the chance of having an accident whilst working became higher and higher.
Based on this information, I can conclude that the Domestic System was beneficial, in the sense that it was fairer than work was during the Industrial Revolution, and that the workers were able to work at their own pace, as they were working from their houses. On the contrary, the system meant that production of the cloth/textiles was slow, as the materials had to be moved from house to house, and the task itself was slow and laborious. Also, young children were being put into work, meaning that they were not able to enjoy life as a kid, but having to work for their keep. However, despite the various advantages and disadvantages, the Domestic System provoked the start of the Industrial Revolution, a time that has shaped our life today.
Courtney from Study Moose
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