Spinning research project starts in Hatfield

A HATFIELD-BASED academic has received a grant from the European Union to conduct a pioneering five-year study into the history of the spinning wheel.

Professor John Styles, who works in the University of Hertfordshire’s social sciences, arts and humanities research institute, has been given €823,150 by the European Research Council to fund the project, which started on Tuesday.

It is hoped the study will provide a comprehensive history of hand spinning in England between 1400 and 1800, as well as dispelling the myth that the women who undertook this work were nothing but ill-educated bumpkins.

Prof Styles said: “When people today think about spinning wheels, they usually think of Sleeping Beauty, a fairytale princess, pricking her finger.

“In fact, working by hand at a spinning wheel was what most ordinary women in England did for the 400 years before the Industrial Revolution.

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“This was a skilled occupation, vital to the success of the textile industries that made England rich. Yet historians often dismiss hand spinning as part-time, unskilled work for ignorant country women.

“They treat it as an inefficient obstacle to increased productivity, ripe for replacement by the mechanical inventions of the Industrial Revolution.”

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