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Family and business in north-west England, 1760-1820

  • Start date: 01 January 2008
  • End date: 31 December 2009

This project will provide a novel historical analysis of small family firms by exploring their business operation. This will be done in terms of examining internal family dynamics and questioning the extent to which family members were unified in their objectives. It will be based on a regional study of petit bourgeois families and their businesses between 1760 and 1820 in four urban centres in the north-west of England: Manchester, Salford, Stockport and Liverpool. Despite their significance to urban economies, historical research into small family firms during early industrialisation has been limited and we know surprisingly little about how they functioned. This research will therefore fill a significant gap in our knowledge.

By using sources such as court records, wills, business records and family correspondence, the project will explore the ways in which power was divided, and tensions that existed within family groups, as well as the impact that these factors had on decision-making and strategy, and on relations with wider kin and community networks. The research will add to our understanding of a number of areas, and in particular, it will force us to reassess some of our current interpretations of gender relations, family structure and urban business networks during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.