The Courtauld silk mills in north Essex and their effects on the local population 1841-1901

Todd, Andrew (2021). The Courtauld silk mills in north Essex and their effects on the local population 1841-1901. Student dissertation for The Open University module A826 MA History part 2.

This dissertation was produced by a student studying the Open University postgraduate module A826 MA History part 2. The research showcased here achieved a distinction.
Please note that this student dissertation is made available in the format that it was submitted for examination, thus the author has not been able to correct errors and/or departures from academic standards in areas such as referencing.
Copyright resides with the author.


The Courtauld family first established themselves in the silk industry at the end of the eighteenth century and by 1841 they had grown their business to become the dominant industrial employer in north Essex, a position they were to maintain for several decades.

Previous studies of industrialisation have tended to concentrate on highly urbanised parts of the north and midlands and have neglected its effects on agricultural regions such as East Anglia. This study redirects the focus onto the impact upon rural communities.

Current literature describes the Courtauld company as a philanthropic employer which looked after its workforce. There are however criticisms of its intolerance of dissenters and of its treatment of women employees who had almost no opportunities for advancement. Some of these criticisms are made from a modern perspective and do not take into account the prevailing attitudes of the period. This study uses both primary and secondary sources to determine what life was really like for their employees and concludes that they fared relatively well compared to many of their contemporaries in other industries and in other regions.

Viewing alternatives

Download history

Item Actions