An insightful history of giant factories

By  | 
In the belly of the beast

Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World. By Joshua Freeman. W.W. Norton & Company; 448 pages; $27.95 and £22.

WHEN it was built in 1721 beside the River Derwent, in Britain’s East Midlands, Lombe’s silk mill became something of a tourist attraction. Daniel Defoe, one of its many visitors, described its “vast bulk” as “a curiosity of a very extraordinary nature”. Employing some 300 people, mostly children in ghastly conditions, the mill was not large by modern standards. But it is widely regarded as the first successful mechanised factory, an innovation that over the next 100 years transformed the way people lived and worked.

Lombe’s mill is the natural starting-point for Joshua Freeman’s lively chronicle of the factory, which as the title of his book “Behemoth” implies, concentrates on the largest specimens of their time. Mr Freeman, a historian at Queens…Continue reading

Powered by WPeMatico