Family and Business During the Industrial Revolution

Impact: Cultural impacts, Economic impacts


1. Summary of the impact
Hannah Barker is a historian of industrial revolution England who focuses on northern towns. Her impact activities have been underpinned by her research on small family businesses and their role in urban economies, and on the internal dynamics of these firms in terms of the relationship between family, household and domestic space. The impact from this research has incorporated collaborations with both schools and the National Trust. This has resulted in a variety of social, economic and cultural benefits, including benefits related to child and adult learning and to practice change amongst staff and volunteers at the National Trust.
2. Underpinning research
The role of tradesmen and women in promoting economic growth during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and the dynamics of family relationships and use of domestic space in trading households have been central themes in Hannah Barker’s research since 2000. During this period she has undertaken two major projects, ‘Women, work and trade in the English Industrial Revolution’ and ‘Family and business in north-west England, 1760-1820’, which have resulted in a number of publications. Both projects were carried out at the University of Manchester, where Barker was a Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Professor between 2000 and today. The first project also involved the employment of a postdoctoral research associate (PDRA), Karen Harvey (2000-1), and the second employed two PDRAs, Mina Ishizu and Jane Hamlett (2008-10). Jointly authored pieces stemming from the involvement of two of the PDRAs are listed below and are linked to elements the impact [Do PDRAs count as key staff?].
Both these projects have illustrated how small businesses were at the heart of the economic growth and social transformation that characterized the industrial revolution in Britain. But whilst those engaged in craft-based manufacturing, retailing and allied trades constituted a significant proportion of the urban population, they have been generally overlooked by historians. Instead, our view of the world of business is more usually taken up by narratives of particularly successful firms, by those involved in new modes of production, and by men. By examining some of the forgotten businesses of the industrial revolution, and the men and women who worked in them, Barker’s work presents a largely unfamiliar commercial world and provides us with new insights into the lives of ordinary men and women in trade, whose relatively mundane lives are easily overlooked, but who were central to the story of a pivotal period in British history. She also demonstrates that the advent of modern capitalism did not marginalise women in trade, who remained an integral and visible part of urban economies throughout early industrialisation.
Her most recent project examines the buildings occupied by trading households, where the commercial and the domestic continued to co-exist under the same roof throughout the period of the industrial revolution. Her research explores individual experiences of space by examining personal testimony, and reveals that hierarchies within trading households were often expressed in terms of access to different interior spaces. Though she demonstrates that gender was a powerful organisational concept amongst those in trade, generational hierarchies seem more important in terms of the control of space, whilst variations between households were linked both to different understandings of the family, and to the physical constraints of the households concerned. Within these settings, Barker shows that privacy does not seem to have been conceived in terms of personal space but it was clearly important in small business households in terms of upholding certain standards of respectability. Ensuring this sort of privacy meant that individuals had to abide by sets of unwritten rules about behaviour and conduct or risk the breakdown of household relations.
3. References to the research (indicative maximum of six references)
Key outputs:
1. Family and Business During the English Industrial Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2017). ISBN 9780198786023. 256 pp.
2. ‘Living above the shop: home, business, and family in the English “Industrial Revolution”’, with Jane Hamlett, Journal of Family History, 35 (2010), pp. 311-28.
3. ‘A grocer’s tale: class, gender and family in early nineteenth-century Manchester’ Gender and History, 21, 2 (2009), pp. 340-57
4. ‘Soul, purse and family: middling and lower-class masculinity in eighteenth-century Manchester’, Social History, 33, 1 (2008), pp. 12-35
5. The Business of Women: Female Enterprise and Urban Development in Northern England, 1760-1830 (Oxford University Press, 2006). ISBN 0199299714. 202 pp.
6. ‘Women entrepreneurs and urban expansion: Manchester, 1780-1820’, with Karen Harvey, in ‘On the town’: Women and Urban Life in Eighteenth-Century England, c. 1660-1820, ed. Rosemary Sweet and Penelope Lane (Ashgate, 2002), pp. 111-130. ISBN 0754607305.

Key research grants (all Barker sole PI):

2017-19 £155,000 AHRC Knowledge Transfer Partnership Award to work with the National Trust in the north of England.
2016-7 £28,626 ESRC Impact Accelerator Award for ‘The Quarry Bank Project’ funding my 0.2 placement with the National Trust to act as Historical Advisor.
2015-16 £19,000 ESRC Impact Accelerator Award to fund ‘Making History Public’.
2008-10 £228,296 ESRC grant to fund the project ‘Family and business in north-west England, 1760-1820’.
2003 £12,035 from Arts and Humanities Research Countil (AHRC) Research Leave Scheme to complete Business of Women monograph.
2000-1 £41,994 from the ESRC to fund the research project ‘Women, work and trade in the English Industrial Revolution’.
[Evidence of the quality of the research must also be provided in this section. Guidance on this is provided in the ‘Panel criteria’. TO DO WHEN SEEN PANEL CRITERIA]
Research for her 2006 Oxford University Press monograph, The Business of Women: Female Enterprise and Urban Development in Northern England, 1760-1830, was funded by both the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Reviewers have commented on the importance of her reassessment of the impact of industrialisation on women’s employment, and specifically the degree to which the advent of modern capitalism marginalised female workers. In The Business of Women she has shown that women remained an integral and visible part of urban economies throughout early industrialisation. A reviewer in the Economic History Review (2007) writes that ‘The business of women puts to rest old arguments about the effects of industrialisation on the economic life of non-elite women. Old dichotomies of continuity or change look too simplistic in the light of Barker’s excellent study’. Another review in History (2007) echoes these sentiments and emphasises how Barker has reshaped the research agenda in this area: ‘Like all innovative analyses, it points the way for future research’ he states, noting that this ‘would add another layer to the conclusions of this excellent study, but would only echo its findings’.
4. Details of the impact
This impact has been linked to Barker’s research on the role of tradesmen and women in promoting economic growth in northern English towns during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and the use of domestic and work space in trading households: both central themes of my research between 2000 and 2017. The impact has engaged with two main constituencies: schoolchildren and schoolteachers, and National Trust audiences, staff and volunteers.
Pathways to Impact:
A series of linked impact activities linked to Barker’s research have been funded by two ESRC Impact Accelerator awards. For the first, ‘Making History Public’ (2015-16), she collaborated with the community history charity, Manchester Histories, to explore new ways to promote her research outside academia. During the period of the grant she worked with a primary school in Ancoats in inner city Manchester creating a local history trail for key stage 2 children, and with Historic Schools (formerly part of English Heritage) to create a new scheme of work on the Industrial Revolution which incorporates six lesson plans and supporting materials for key stage 3 children at the start of their secondary school education. The scheme was trialled at Stretford Grammar School and has been rolled out nationally via Historic Schools and promoted at the Schools History Project and Historical Association national conferences in 2018.
Barker’s second ESRC Impact Accelerator Award (2016-17) funded a 12 month 0.2 placement with the National Trust for my work on the Quarry Bank project. This placement allowed Barker to take and active role in an ongoing £9.4 million expansion and reinterpretation project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Trust with which she has been involved since September 2015. The collaboration offered the opportunity to inform and shape a major public history initiative based on Barker’s research by taking an active part in the interpretation and programming of the site. In addtion, an exhibition on women’s work at Quarry Bank in 2017, titled ‘A woman’s work is never done’ was directly linked to Barker’s 2006 monograph.
Barker has also secured funding of £155,000 from an AHRC Knowledge Transfer Partnership Award to work with the National Trust in the north of England. The Project will run over 24 months and develop the way in which the National Trust engages with academic research. This project will link academics and NT teams across Cheshire, Lancashire and Liverpool in order to formulate new ways of working and of using academic research to change the way in which NT sites are interpreted for the public, and the changing programming that forms part of such interpretation. These are key to the ability to attract visitors, which in turn forms the basis of the NT financial model.

Category of impact

  • Cultural impacts
  • Economic impacts
1 Sep 2015