Labour relations in an art industry: indienne cotton prints, 1700-1850

By Pierre Caspard

The period 1700-1850 saw the birth, prosperity and then decline of the “indienne” industry, hand-printed cotton fabrics, in Western Europe. Based on a case study of the indienne industries of France and Switzerland, each of which employed nearly a thousand workers, this paper provides an overview of the division of labour and its consequences in this sector: hierarchy of qualifications and complementarity of tasks between men, women and children; levels and methods of remuneration; degree of autonomy of the most qualified workers in the organisation and evaluation of their work. Also discussed are employers’ employment policies and certain workers’ demands, before the mechanisation of companies radically changed the composition of their workforce in the first decades of the 19th century.

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