There is surprisingly little in the way of recent historical analysis of the Coventry ribbon weaving trade in the first half of the nineteenth century. Yet by 1830 the weaving trade dominated the city's economic structure, employing 5,000 people from a population of 27,000. Moreover with the onset of industrialization in the early nineteenth century Coventry's prevailing small units of production increased in number. The increase in small workshops and absence of large factories is to some extent reflected in previous historical interpretations of Coventry which have emphasized socio-economic continuity between the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Furthermore since the units of production did not alter in size, historians have assumed that the working community's perception of society remained static and consequently the weavers have been adjudged incapable of harbouring any form of class consciousness. This article intends to examine the traditional analysis of the Coventry weaving trade whilst attempting to uncover the weavers’ perception of the industry in the early nineteenth century. Moreover the article will explore the weavers’ societies and political beliefs in order to evaluate how far there existed a more organized, and class conscious, working community.
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|Published - 1990