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Project Title: Transatlantic Threads: Textiles in the Scottish-American Context, c.1707-1830
The production, trade and use of textiles can provide significant insights into the social and cultural mores of a past society. Linen, for example, was as a ubiquitous cloth of the eighteenth century that was available in a range of qualities, was worn by all social levels and was used at key stages of the lifecycle, from swaddling clothes to shrouds. Linen was also a cornerstone of eighteenth-century Scottish manufacturing, and this project has been tracing the story of this linen from its production and use in Scotland, to its trade across the Atlantic to colonial North America.
Through archival research in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Washington D.C. and Virginia, I have been exploring how linen manufacture and linen as a product was viewed and received in the eighteenth century, from household manufacture to a means of social control in the Highlands. I have been able to trace the production process around the country, following imported flax from the Baltic, investigating how thousands of women were employed as spinners from the urban centres of Glasgow and Edinburgh up to the Highlands and Islands. Most significantly, the linen can be tracked across the Atlantic to the Chesapeake where it was a key product of the Scottish-owned stores at the centre of the tobacco trade. Store ledgers show just how much cloth was being shipped to this region and, vitally, provides tangible evidence of how this fabric was used to clothe the enslaved people of the British colonies.
The Research Incentive Grant has enabled me to widen the scope of my archival research, expanding the geographic and chronological focus of the project in general and a monograph in particular, which will be the main output of this work.
Awarded: Research Incentive Grant
University: University of Glasgow