The Fabric of Life: Linen and Life Cycle in England, 1678 - 1810
Dolan, Alice Claire
‘The Fabric of Life: Linen and Life Cycle in England, 1678-1810’ is structured around the human life cycle to draw out the social and cultural importance of linen for all ranks of society. Human and object life cycles are juxtaposed in the thesis to analyse co-dependent activities and processes rather than focusing on one facet of daily life. For thousands of years flax was a staple fibre, used for textile production in many parts of the globe. Cotton only overtook linen as the most popular textile in England at home and on the body during the nineteenth century. This thesis examines the preceding century to reveal why linen remained a daily necessity in England between 1678 and 1810, a period which encompassed a series of significant changes in the production, trade and use of linen. Linen was ubiquitous as underwear, sheets, table linens and for logistical purposes therefore it provides a unique insight into the early-modern world; a means of understanding the multifaceted experiences of daily life, of integrating understandings of the body, domestic, social, cultural and commercial activities. This thesis is social history through the lens of linen, reading a society through its interactions with a textile.