Project Description

Project description picture

© Chetham’s Library, Manchester Scapbook, fo. 33.

This project aims to provide a novel analysis of small family firms by exploring their business operation in terms of internal family dynamics and questioning the extent to which family members were unified in their objectives. It is based on a regional study of ‘lower-middling’ families and their businesses between 1760 and 1820 in north-west English towns which experienced particularly marked economic and demographic growth in these decades. Small family businesses proliferated here at an especially rapid rate: both benefiting from, and helping to promote urban economic transformation.

Despite their significance to urban economies, historical research into such 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, it explores the ways in which power was divided, and the tensions that existed, within family groups, as well as the impact that these 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. In particular, we hope 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.

Research findings are being disseminated to both academic and non-academic audiences via publications, seminar papers and talks and the searchable database on this website. [link to dates etc.]

Project description picture

© Chetham’s Library, Manchester Scapbook, c. 1820 fo. 60 1822.

The 'Family and Business in North-west England, 1760 - 1820' project database is available for use by anyone interested in the history of the region, business history and to those engaged in family history. It lists individuals, businesses and the historical documents in which they appear. The focus of the project is on those involved in small family businesses; specifically retailers, small-scale manufacturers and service providers; in north-west towns during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

You can search the database by name, business and document. We have tried to make the information as complete as possible, but the nature of the historical records mean that this was not always possible. In most cases you can see images of the original documents, and sometimes these are supplemented by descriptions and transcriptions to help you to understand their contents more easily.

Start searching now by using one of the three search menus on the left hand side of this page.