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  • ‘In Order Not To Fall Into Poverty’: Production and Reproduction in the Transition from Proto-industry to Factory Industry in Borne and Wierden (the Netherlands), 1800–1900
  • Onno Boonstra
‘In Order Not To Fall Into Poverty’: Production and Reproduction in the Transition from Proto-industry to Factory Industry in Borne and Wierden (the Netherlands), 1800–1900. By F. M. M. Hendrickx (Amsterdam: Stichting Beheer IISG, 1997. 255pp.).

Between 1972 and 1982, Mendels, Kriedte, Medick and Schlumbohm blended a theory which describes the conditional structures that allowed domestic industries to take off as a first phase of the industrialization process. Although most historians have been hesitant in accepting proto-industrialization, as the theory is called, as a valid description of historical reality, still many are attracted to it. To some extent, this has to do with the clarity in which the theory has been presented and the simple logic of the causal mechanisms on which it is based. But more important is that in proto-industrialization theory a number of hypotheses has been formulated about the way people reacted demographically to the process of proto-industrialization. Be it the possible gain of income or the loosening of a traditional agricultural heritage system, the theory asserts that ‘traditional’ Malthusian preventive checks could be circumvented, allowing for higher nuptiality and fertility.

These hypotheses, plus the availability of mass-sources and family reconstitution techniques, have allowed many to try to measure the demographical impact of proto-industrialization. Some researchers found results which are in line with proto-industrial theory, others (most of them, actually) did not. ‘ In Order Not To Fall Into Poverty ‘ is a report about yet again such a test. Hendrickx starts with a nice compact and critical introduction to proto-industrialization theory and moves from there to a description of the research problems he wants to tackle. The first one has to do with the question whether proto-industrial families stood out demographically compared to those that were not. The second one has to do with the question what happened demographically to families and communities which did, or did not, move towards industrialization.

Hendrickx’ analysis is three-dimensional, discerning among occupation, time and region. He has set up his family reconstitution in Twente, a rather remote part of the Netherlands with—at the beginning of the nineteenth century—a fair amount of cottage industry. Separate reconstructions were made for various occupational groups. In order to look for differences between communities, two neighboring communities were selected, Borne and Wierden. Borne did make the change from domestic to factory industry, while in Wierden the domestic cottage industry disappeared gradually in favor of agriculture. Analyses were made for two marriage cohorts, 1831—1840 and 1871—1880.

A separate chapter is devoted to the question of whether nineteenth century Twente, and in particular, Borne and Wierden, is suited for research into the demographic effects of proto-industrialization. Hendrickx elaborates carefully on all possible criticisms, concluding that, yes, Twente was a proto-industrial region in the nineteenth century, and no, the middle of the nineteenth century is not too late a period for research.

In Chapter 3, the results of the analysis are presented. The outcome is extremely disappointing—at least from a proto-industrial perspective. There are no differences in nuptiality and fertility whatsoever between Borne and Wierden, and there are hardly any differences among cottage workers, factory workers [End Page 212] and farmers either. There is no reason to believe that there was a specific proto-industrial pattern in nuptiality and fertility. From a historical demographical point of view, proto-industrialization theory can be discarded.

Up to this point, most of what Hendrickx presents is not new. An important new finding is that so many people changed jobs during their lifetime, making it hard to discern among (proto-industrial) cottage weavers, factory workers and farmers. It is a pity that no population registers have been used in the analysis, because they could have shed even more light on occupational shifts. Next to that, the method of family reconstitution is biased towards a sedentary population. This may have caused the effect that the number of occupational shifts is underestimated and, at the end...

Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 212-213
Launched on MUSE
1999-09-01
Open Access
No
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