This is the first intensive study of an industrial community in early modern England. Whickham, a village built on an underground mountain of coal in north-east England, was arguably Britain's first modern industrial society. David Levine and Keith Wrightson employ the latest techniques of socio-historical research and make full use of a wide variety of contemporary sources to explore many aspects of life in Whickham between 1560 and 1765.
They bring together vital strands - including industrial development, agrarian change, social stratification, demography, religion, work, leisure, living standards, kinship and the family - to produce a
rounded and vivid picture, which throws into relief the achievements, benefits, and costs of the complex process of industrialization. The development of Whickham is set in the larger context of socio-economic change during this period. This is a major contribution to the history of early modern England.
`succeeds brilliantly ... is a remarkably rich book ... an entirely effective reconstruction of the life experience of Whickham's pitmen and their families. All social historians should read this book: doing so will reassure them that they are involved in a worthwhile exercise.'
J. A Sharpe, Social History Society Newsletter
`sustained and coherent analysis of a local community experiencing industrial change ... This detailed narrative of the evolution of a single parish has its own momentum and fascination, and contains important suggestions and ideas.'
Times Literary Supplement
`succeeds brilliantly ... a remarkably rich book which is a superb demonstration of how the historical microcosm can inform the historical macrocosm. ... Levine and Wrightson, again through an extremely imaginative use of their source materials, manage an entirely effective reconstruction of the life experience of Whickham's pitmen and their families. ... All social historians should read this book: doing so will reassure them that they are involved in a
worthwhile exercise.' J. A. Sharpe, Social History Society Newsletter
`As the authors put it in their preface, this book is an attempt to reconstruct the making of Britain's first industrialized society. It is an attempt which succeeds brilliantly... a rare opportunity to experience two first rate historians working through a formidable range of sources, employing a wide variety of historical techniques and demonstrating their ability to address a fascinating spectrum of historical questions... a remarkably rich book'.
Jonathan Barry, Social History Society Newsletter.
`All social historians should read this book: doing so will reassure them that they are involved in a worthwhile exercise'. J.A. Sharpe, Social History Society Newsletter.
`This is an important book: painstakingly researched, finely argued, alive to the dynamic interaction of continuity and change, focusing on the development of a single parish at the centre of Tyneside's mining activity but tuned to the wider context of Whickham's development.... this work is as vital to historians working on the nineteenth century as it is to early modernists...A stark summary of the argument does little to convey the multi-faceted approach
of this insightful work, the subtle teasing out of interconnections and the attempt above all to grasp the industrializing process as a human experience. It is a crucial contribution to our understanding
of the process of social and economic change.' Linda A. Pollock, Canadian Journal of History
`An outstanding book, one that may become a classic in early modern English social history. Upper-division undergraduates and above.' C.L. Hamilton, Simon Fraser University, Choice, May '92
`their grasp of the economic and technological basis of the nascent coal industry is impressive throughout, as is the subtlety with which they argue their multifaceted thesis on the process of social change. Vigorously researched, this is an engaged, an insightful and a richly-argued book which will repay study by everyone interested in the birth-pangs of the first industrial nation.' Howell A. Lloyd, University of Hull, EHR, Apr. 92
`The teamwork of Wrightson and Levine has produced another important book which adds substantially to our understanding of early modern England. The story of economic and social change is told in fascinating detail ... By concentrating on a single parish only partial answers can be given to certain questions, although a narrow focus does allow historians to examine other issues in astonishing detail. This has been done for Whickham with great success and
the authors are to be congratulated on their spendid achievement.' Donald Woodward, Economic History Review May 92
`Dealing with one large parish south-west of Newcastle on the important coalfield of north-east England, Levine and Wrightson have produced a book of great significance ... The book is extremely readable. Quotations are handled with the exquisite precision we should expect from these skilled historical craftsmen as they make Whickham's people come alive'
Rab Houston, The Journal of European Economic History Fall 92
'remarkable volume ... this is an excellent book that will stimulate rethinking of a major point of historical transformation'
Buchanan Sharp, University of California, Santa Cruz, American Historical Review, April 1993
'it would be difficult to conceive of a more valuable contribution than this excellent book ... This fine case-study should be required reading for any future student of British or European history who proposes to use controversial concepts such as "industrialization," "industrial revolution," or "modernization." The book offers a superb account of the impact of industry, and of the dissolution of the older copyholder community in the first half of the
seventeenth century. This is a classic example of social history at its best.'
Philip Jenkins, Pennsylvania State University, Albion
'The outstanding feature of this book is the amount of detail the authors produce ... The thoroughness with which the documents have been searched gives such a comprehensive picture that we are able to engage with the area to a greater extent than seemed possible even in their earlier highly commended study of Terling in Essex. The concern of this comprehensive book is the beginning of the transition to the stereotypic coalfield community of stable,
relatively high-waged families which started to develop from the eighteenth century.'
Pamela Sharpe, University of Essex, Continuity and Change, Volume 8, Part 1, 1993
`a welcome extension of our field of vision ... Levine and Wrightson make a very considerable contribution ... As an exercise in reconstruction from an extensive archive it is very impressive. One can really appreciate the painstaking hours of research carried out by its two historians, both scholars of well-established reputation ... There is so much of interest in this dense, yet expansive book'
Labour History Review
'a splendid contribution, pregnant with implications for local, social, economic, and entrepreneurial history ... The study is impressive on many different levels. The book reads seamlessly, the conclusions stand on a generous foundation of data, and, the attention to detail never obscures major points. The bibliography educates the reader as it lists primary and secondary authorities.'
Robert L. Woods, Jr, Pomona College, History, Fall 1993
'Wrightson and Levine have a distinguished track-record in writing this kind of history and ... this new addition to their work maintains the high standards of its predecessors ... the authors maintian their high standard of scholarship in a book which is well-written and easy to read.'
Mark Overton, The Agricultural History Review
'The publication of this book is a landmark in the development of local historical studies. This is an admirable book, of major significance. The authors treat each aspect of their subject carefully and thoroughly. The argument is constructed carefully ... We are left with a very satisfied feeling that this is how it was, that Levine and Wrightson have used modern techniques and approaches to such an effect that the analysis is correct. They have enriched
our understanding of the development of the north-eastern coalfield and have offered us a new perspective on early-modern English society.'
David Hey, University of Sheffield, Northern History, Vol. 29
'a rich and vivid description of the dimensions of life in early modern Whickham ... Wrightson and Levine's careful and challenging study will undoubtedly condition historical approaches to early modern society. The potential advantages of a tight local study are admirably borne out in The Making of an Industrial Society with its sense of coherence and focus. This book is an impressive scholarly achievement ... it is a committed book. The
Making of an Industrial Society has recovered lost dimensions of working class and popular politics and culture.'
Andy Wood, History Workshop Journal, Vol. 37, Spring 1994