• University of Strathclyde

Working Lives in the Factories and Mills: Textile History and Heritage

Discover the lives of textile industry workers during the Victorian era, and better understand Britain's industrial heritage.

6,564 enrolled on this course

Group photo from Stanley Mills
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

Learn how textile workers' lives evolved alongside the textile industry

On this course, you’ll explore the relationship between textile factory labour in the past and British industrial heritage today.

You’ll delve into a fascinating period of development for one of Britain’s key industries and discover how workers’ lives changed throughout the Victorian period, as they adjusted to new professional identities, workplaces and technology.

Through video, you’ll be introduced to four different millworkers’ heritage sites: New Lanark, Stanley Mills in Perthshire, Verdant Works in Dundee and Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire, as you explore their history.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 16 seconds Hello. I’m Dr Michael Sanders from the University of Manchester and I’m working with Professor Kirstie Blair on this course which is about working lives in textile mills in the nineteenth century. I’m Professor Kirstie Blair of the University of Strathclyde and we’re here at Quarry Bank Mill in Styal, Cheshire a National Trust property and one of Britain’s most important surviving properties from Britain’s industrial revolution. This is one of four properties that we’re going to be working with through this course. We’ll also be visiting New Lanark World Heritage site, Stanley Mills in Perthshire owned by Historic Scotland and Verdant Works in Dundee, run by the Dundee Heritage Trust.

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 seconds And we’ll be offering you an experiential rather than technical history of the industrial revolution, by which I mean that we’re more concerned with exploring the lives of the people that actually worked in the mill such as these mill girls that you can see in the photograph I’m holding, rather than an account of the machine and the development of those machines.

What topics will you cover?

  • Explore the range of activities involved in working in factories and mills in the long nineteenth century, and how these changed during the period covered by the course.
  • Assess representations of millworkers from this period, as well as writings by the workers themselves, and discuss how they relate to wider questions of class, gender, and professional identity.
  • Investigate how museums represent factory workers.
  • Locate material relevant to this field through online archives.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Discuss the range of activities involved in working in textile factories in the long nineteenth century, and how these changed during the period covered by the course.
  • Assess representations of working lives in textile factories and surviving texts and artefacts from the period, and discuss how they relate to wider questions of class, gender, and professional identity.
  • Compare written and oral material on workers’ lives within the appropriate historical and material contexts.
  • Engage with online and other archives in order to locate material relevant to the history of textile factories and workers’ lives.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in working-class history and literature, the Victorian period, industrial heritage or museums, and those exploring family or local histories related to this industry.

Who will you learn with?

I am the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Stirling, and from 2018-22 have led the research project 'Piston, Pen & Press: Literary Cultures in the Industrial Workplace.'

I teach English Literature at the University of Manchester and have an abiding interest in the culture and politics of the British Working Class Movement in the Long Nineteenth Century.

Who developed the course?

University of Strathclyde

The University of Strathclyde is a leading international technological university located in Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, committed to useful learning.

Learning on FutureLearn

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  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
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Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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