Work Spaces: From the Early-Modern Workshop to the Modern Factory

von by Karsten Uhl Original aufOriginal in German, angezeigt aufdisplayed in English
PublishedErschienen: 2016-05-02
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    This article explores the spaces in which manufacturing work was performed from the fifteenth to the twentieth century. Workshops, manufactories and factories can be understood in their historical particularity by focusing on the way in which they were influenced by the technology and architecture of their time and characterized by the prevailing social relationships in which they in turn played a part. In their basic form such work spaces had existed since the early modern period. Nevertheless, the developments connected with them in no way ran linearly. Even decades after the first modern factories were established, work continued to be performed in traditional ways and spaces in many parts of Europe – even in the industrialized centres.

    InhaltsverzeichnisTable of Contents


    The factory is easily identified as the central symbol of industrial modernity. William Blake’s (1757–1827) description of "dark satanic mills" from the poem "And did those feet in ancient times,"1 published in 1808, made its way into everyday EnglishJohn Milton (1608–1674) IMG. In this way, the new location of production was construed as an essential aspect of the social problems that were connected with the new economic systemThe Albion Mill, Blackfriars Bridge, Radierung, anonymer Künstler; Bildquelle: The New London Magazine vi (July 1790), S. 329. . Historical research reinforces the notion that factory work marked a caesura. Two novel elements can be identified: a mechanization of work on a previously unknown scale, and the spatial division of family life from work.

    The factory required that human activity be adapted to the working of machines, which in turn entailed time and work discipline. Both have been described as a culture shock for the new factory workers, who had previously been employed in cottage industry and agriculture.2 In his classic essay on the introduction of time discipline, the British historian Edward P. Thompson (1924–1993) even called these changes in work practices an overthrow of human nature.3 The break between modes of working was especially radical in the textile sector, which accounted for the majority of the new factory openings during the industrial revolution. In other sectors such as mechanical engineering, however, change was gradual, and artisanal skills and the largely traditional work modes and relationships that attended them remained vital for a long time.4

    The second essential, novel aspect that took hold in the wake of factory work was the division of everyday life into separate spheres: one for work and another for home and family. With the increase of factory work, which in parts of Europe only arose a good century after developments began in Britain, family ties gradually dissolved. This process did not begin with the opening of new factories, as centralized production based on the division of labour had already played a significant role in the putting-out system. Nevertheless, this development reached a new dimension with the new forms of production.5 The spread of the factory system is understood to be the origin of the Social Question and the central political debates of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The location of the factory itself was central for the genesis of the working class and its class consciousness.6 One’s identity as an industrial worker depended not only on social standing but also to a certain extent on one’s experience working in a factory.7

    There thus seems to be good grounds for thinking that the factory, as a new place of production, marked a break between one age and another. From the point of view of economic and conceptual history (Begriffsgeschichte), however, there are important arguments that speak against a clear break and instead emphasize continuity with early modern forms of production. Down into the nineteenth century, hardly any distinction was made between the terms "manufactory" and "factory." Both denoted a workshop with a relatively large number of workers.8 Especially in the early textile factories in around 1800, the word "factory" denoted an extremely wide range of forms: at one pole mechanized, large-scale operations in new, multi-story structures, at the other converted cottages with one or two spinning machines and not even a dozen employees.9

    In addition, there are many indications that it is more fruitful to assume a broad and slow period of transition before the capitalist economic system prevailed. Cottage industry on the putting-out model played a fundamental role for the transition from an agrarian to an industrial society in large parts of Europe far into the nineteenth century. With regard to the number of employees, it long remained more important than the new factories.10 Depending on the basic definition of "factory" they use, scholars emphasize elements of change or continuity more. Taking as a standard the notion of a large-scale manufacturing operation based on spatial centralization and the division of labour, then continuities between older manufactories and modern factories indeed seem striking, and the former appear as predecessors to the latter. Yet if, in addition, one identifies the coordinated use of engines and production machines as the essential element of a factory, then the radical nature of the technological break comes to the fore.11

    In order to distinguish the factory from other production forms like manufactories and workshops, it helps to emphasize the technological nature of production and the special role to be played by human beings within it. From the beginning of industrialization, the history of the factory was linked with the vision of automation, which ultimately aimed at the idea of a factory without people. It is characteristic of this way of thinking, however, that from the first automated spinning machines, to Taylorism, to the numerically controlled (NC) machines of the post-war period, the possibilities for automation brought by innovations were always overestimated.12 This perception of technology, and the vision for technology that went with it, had very real consequences for the thinking and choices of companies, businessmen, and even organized labour, since the notion of technological progress strongly influenced management and industrial policy. The idea of the automated factory gained early recognition, with Andrew Ure (1778–1857) and then Karl Marx (1818–1883). In his Philosophy of Manufactures (1835), Ure coined the term "factory system," by which he meant the replacement of qualified manual labour with the use of machines, i.e. an "automatic" factoryPower Loom Factory of Thomas Robinson Esqr, Stockport, Druckgrafik, 17,5 x 32 cm, 1849–1850, Kupferstich: Joseph Wilson Lowry (1803–1879),  Zeichnung: James Nasmyth (1808–1890); Bildquelle: © Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library, Image No. 10422728, Marx largely subscribed to this definition, albeit attaching to it an entirely different political value, as is well known.14

    A further peculiarity of the factory crops up in the twentieth century: the problematization of the factory as a work and living space. The focus of this multifaceted debate about the rationalization and humanization of work was the question how workers’ potential could be meaningfully harnessed in a technologized production process. The spatial conditions of the factory were taken into special consideration: ergonomics specialists, architects, engineers and entrepreneurs set themselves the problem of devising a factory space designed according to both rational and "human" standards. They viewed the specifically modern, matter-of-fact form as problematic, since older operating modes were believed more amenable to human relationships.15

    In what follows, the development of spaces devoted to manufacturing in Europe from the early modern period to the mid-twentieth century will be described, including workshops, manufactories and factories. As already noted, this history cannot be traced in the form of a linear progression, as a variety of types existed side by side over long periods of time, especially in the nineteenth century. Transfer processes will be explained in an excursus. The first section will deal with the earliest textile factories and the second phase of industrialization beginning around 1870, with mechanical engineering as a new leading sector. Thereafter the Americanization of European factories under the influence of Taylorism and Fordism will be considered, using the example of a Swiss company with multifarious European relationships.

    Workshops, manufactories, proto-factories and cottage industry

    At the turn of the nineteenth century, half of the circa 2.2 million manufacturers in Germany still worked as artisans. About one million were engaged in cottage industry on the putting-out model, and only a scarce 100,000 worked in large-scale manufacturing operations, that is in manufactories, factories or mines.16 Artisan workshops were usually small businesses in which families participated in the work; differently from what is suggested by contemporary images, which mostly show male craftsmen, female collaboration in workshops was standard.17 On average 1.5 people were employed, which means that workshops in which one master worked alone were just about as frequent as collaboration with only one journeyman or apprentice. Rarely was there a larger number of assistants.18 Production was primarily aimed at local demand; export played no great role, even for specialized French craftsmen.19

    There was no division of labour in workshops. Master and journeyman both made a complete product. Instead, the early modern period witnessed a specialization of artisan labour, as a result of which individual aspects of a craft were outsourced. In this way new trades came into being all the time.20 The spatial separation of the workshop from the dwelling was introduced at the end of the sixteenth century. At first, smiths, dyers, tanners and furriers removed certain activities to outside their dwellings, until ultimately the workshop was increasingly placed in its own building. Practice long remained diverse, however. Even in the eighteenth century the workshops of weavers and tailors were usually located in the basements or attics of dwellings. The attic and the upper floors of the house allowed for the maximum utilization of daylight. The notion, however, that the use of artificial light was peculiar to factories must be rethought. Artisan workshops were no longer fully dependent on natural daylight or therefore on the seasons. The artificial illumination of candles and oil lamps already freed craftsmen partially, albeit to a limited extent, from the natural rhythm of the day.21

    Another form of small-scale manufacturing, about as equally widespread in nineteenth-century Europe as independent artisanry, contributed to the rise of modern industry and the capitalist economic system: cottage industry, organized on the putting-out model. Some scholars describe it as proto-industrial. In contrast to independent artisans, those employed in cottage industry had their raw materials delivered by a Verleger, or merchant, who also took care of sales. In this way, cottage workers became de facto wage workers, and thus a capitalist relationship of dependence arose even before industrial factories did.22 In some cases the dependence was especially severe: the Verleger provided tools, determined quality standards and dictated the time of delivery.23 In light of the later sweating system and its use of middlemen, certain aspects of cottage industry can be seen as predecessors of a work discipline that would be systematically developed in factories. The putting-out system came into existence as early as the fourteenth century, was widespread in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (especially in textile production), and only disappeared bit by bit in the twentieth century.24 A basic division of labour between countryside and town persisted, as finishing remained the task of guild craftsmen in the towns.25

    Although only a few factories grew out of this system and some of the key regions of cottage industry experienced a phase of economic decline after its attenuation during the nineteenth century, its long-term influence was enormous. Europe’s core industrial areas largely corresponded to early modern manufacturing zones.26 The skills and contacts, commercial infrastructure, and work and consumption practices developed in cottage industry can be considered important prerequisites for industrialization in and thereafter in other parts of Europe.27 In this sense, the many nondescript venues for work, such as rural weaver cottages and smithies as well as women’s spinning rooms, were as a whole more important for the development of factory capitalism than the few large manufactories28 that will be discussed below. Nor can the early labour movement be fully explained by the new situation of factory capitalism; rather it has meaningful points of contact with the traditions of cottage industry.29

    The contemporaneous existence of factories, cottage industry, and artisanry was characteristic not only of the German states in the first half of the nineteenth century.30 weaving was marked – all the way to the end of the nineteenth century – by the coexistence of factories and cottage industry.31 In , which industrialized earlier, small-scale operations accounted for two-thirds of industrial production as late as 1870. Small workshops and cottage industry initially fit well into the industrial system.32 The two essential advantages of the putting-out system were low labour costs and the great flexibility of the Verleger. In , very low wages were responsible for a belated mechanization of weaving.33 Even in the English county of , the starting point of the industrial revolution, there were just as many workers in small workshops as in factories in the 1830s. Thus here, too, we see a slow transition and a long coexistence of the two forms.34 Furthermore, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, converted dwellings still existed as elements of cottage industry and were of great significance for the British textile industry. In the decades around 1800, workers typically lived in a three-story house, one of whose floors was reserved for the workshopPlans and pictures of back-to-back houses in Nottingham (Ausschnitt), Kupferstich, ca. 1844; Bildquelle: G. B. Roy, Commission on the state of large towns, First Report, London 1844, vol. 1, S. 341, Wellcome Images, Photo number: L0011651,, Creative Commons Attribution only licence, CC BY 4.0 .35

    The significance of manufactories was long overestimated. Quantitatively, they were much less important in the early modern period than artisanry and the putting-out system. Economically, they tended to be unsuccessful, as they were only slightly more productive and at the same time entailed greater risks. Without state sponsorship, the existence of manufactories would have been unthinkable.36 At any rate, there were hardly any manufactories that corresponded to the image of a large factory without machines. On the other hand, the hybrid form of decentralized manufacturing was widespread. Finishing was carried out in a relatively small central production facility, whereas the basic work was performed in affiliated cottage industry in the putting-out system.37 The first large-scale early modern operations that can be considered proto-factories on account of their relatively high degree of mechanization38 sprang up in the context of weapons production in the fifteenth century and the textile and metal sectors in the sixteenth. Nevertheless, down to the end of the sixteenth century and even in , large-scale operations usually employed only ten to 20 workers,39 and the central phase of production was still done manually.40 Finally, machines were not systematically used in this production process but rather in isolated cases in a few exceptional operations.41

    Nevertheless, the manufactory played an important role with respect to quality. This had little to do with workers growing accustomed to fragmented production steps.42 The percentage of workers who later entered factories with such experience was insignificant. Only in a few sectors, such as silk milling and paper production, can a large degree of continuity or a direct transition from manufactory to factory be observed.43 Manufactories were, however, an important locus for technological transfer within Europe. Small workshops were already characterized by a high degree of artisan mobility, especially on account of the wandering of German and French journeymen. Although such travels contributed almost nothing to spreading and evening out technological knowledge around Europe, they increased the work and life experience of those involved.44

    In manufactories, however, the connection between migration and innovation was considerable. For example, Italian glassmakers, silk weavers, cloth workers, and builders fled from the Inquisition to Germany in the sixteenth century. The better part of the Huguenots who fled France in the seventeenth century went to the or England, but they had their greatest influence with the founding of tapestry manufactories and hosiery mills in Central Europe, which was still relatively underdeveloped.45 The entangled history of European manufacturing can be seen especially well in manufactories, which were operated by Huguenots and employed workers from central FranceDie Hugenotten gründen Manufakturen in Brandenburg IMG.46 Manufactories partially paved the way for the resumption of a previously interrupted transfer process. For example, the first time the silk mill, which had been used in since the thirteenth century, was brought to Germany, it was forbidden in in 1431. In the late seventeenth century, however, it took root in German manufactories.47 Although the total number of large manufactories remained relatively small, by the end of the eighteenth century there were some large-scale operations with several hundred employees; in a few cases the number exceeded 1,000.48 The largest concentration of manufactories at this time was to be found in , with nearly 100 large-scale facilities.49

    Early factories

    When the transition from large early modern workshops and manufactories to industrial factories occurred is debatable. The title of first modern factory could be claimed by two eighteenth-century English textile factories, both of which employed about 300 workers in a newly built five-story structure: Thomas Lombe’s (1685–1739) silk mill, built in in 1721, and Richard Arkwright’s (1732–1792) spinning mill in , founded in 1771.50 Already in the early eighteenth century, fulling mills, dyeing mills, silk mills, weaving mills, calico presses, and sail makers pointed toward the imminent transition to the factory.51 Lombe’s silk millThomas Lombes Seidenfabrik in Derby, Holzschnitt, vor 1750, unbekannter Künstler; Bildquelle: Charles Knight's Pictorial Gallery of Arts, Vol.1, 1860, S. 97, Courtesy of The New York Public Library,, made extensive use of engines and production machines, water power and throwers; in contrast, this only occurred occasionally in manufactories. The impulse to the introduction of machines should be seen as a result of the Franco-British wars around 1800, during which the costs of silk production soared and shipments became unreliable. Mechanization arrived via a transfer of Italian technology, made possible by spying and smuggling on the part of Lombe’s brother John, after which it was steadily improved.52 Similar forms of espionage also commonly supported the adoption of technological innovations during the Industrial Revolution; then, however, British technology became the object of continental European spying.53

    Arkwright’s first factory, founded in 1771Cromford Mills, Farbphotographie, 2014, Photograph: David Martin; Bildquelle:,, © Copyright David Martin, Creative Commons  Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic,, represents a gradual development, as more capital was invested and the workers were subjected to stricter discipline. According to the definition proposed above, Arkwright’s facility can even be understood as the first modern factory: the qualitative and quantitative use of machines had changed, and the idea of (partial) automation emerged. Arkwright’s spinning mill relied comprehensively on the principles of the division of labour and line production.54 Nevertheless, in the first large-scale operations of the early eighteenth century, including Lombe’s silk mill, the pace of production was determined not by machines but by human beings. There were still irregular work periods punctuated by periods of rest.55 To a large extend, work was performed in a traditional manner; the shock experienced by textile workers in the Industrial Revolution was not felt. Nor did any sweeping shift in production patterns take place. After Lombe’s patent expired in 1732, only a few large silk factories were opened. For the most part, the term "silk mills" denoted small workshops which were often located quite close to dwellings.56

    Only at the end of the eighteenth century did the conditions exist for the construction of large, modern factories. Now shafts and drives, which previously had to be constructed of wood, could be made with cast iron. Starting in 1820, wrought iron was increasingly used for this purpose. This advance in building materials is what first enabled factories to be built in larger dimensions.57 Another essential element in the transition to industrial production was the use of gas lamps after 1800, on account of which production grew increasingly independent of natural daily rhythms.58 The steam engine, that important symbol of industrialization, should, however, not be given too much weight in this context. Whether one used water or steam power depended on regional conditions.59 Even in Lancashire, water power still accounted for one fifth of drive power in the cotton industry around 1840. On the European continent, it retained its foundational importance throughout the nineteenth century, and thus industry remained tied to rural water mills much longer and entered the towns much later than in Great Britain.60 Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the process of industrialization ran slow on the Continent and was restricted mainly to those areas that would eventually gain significance as core industrial regions.61

    Yet even in these areas factories thrived in only a few sectors.62 Furthermore, at this time only a small portion of the workers used machines.63 Even in the late nineteenth century, factories – such as in the region – tended to resemble a collection of artisan workshops.64 Indeed, workshops continued to exist inside factories for a long time to come. The organization of labour was also characterized in part by long-term processes of transformation. In early factories, families often worked together, and familial hierarchies, presided over by the father, persisted.65 With increasing mechanization and the attendant role played by the foreman, a distinctive feature of the factory developed. It was now necessary for the time and pace of production to be regulated, work discipline to be enforced, and the organization of work in general to be managed.66 Foreman with the proper technical qualifications took over supervision of the work environment.67 Child labour remained widespread in Europe throughout the entire nineteenth century; the earliest prohibitions, passed in the middle of the century, could not be enforced initially.68 One distinguishing feature of early factories persisted into the last third of the nineteenth century: the exercise of power in the workplace was based on personal relationships and verbal instructions; the bureaucratization of authority was yet to emerge. On the one hand, work was determined by the caprice of the master; on the other hand, workers still initially retained a certain influence over work times and rhythms.69

    From the textile mills of the eighteenth century to the first rational factories of the late-nineteenth century

    Developments inside the factory from the eighteenth to the twentieth century can only be described as a history of European-wide transfer and entanglement. Let us take as an example the company Escher, Wyss & Cie. Switzerland was one of the first industrialized regions on the Continent but had, in comparison to Great Britain, many fewer problems at the end of the nineteenth century changing over to new sectors such as mechanical engineering, electrical industry and chemical industry.70 Escher, Wyss & Cie. is emblematic of this changeover. The company was founded in 1805 as a mechanical spinning mill in and rose during the second half of the century to be one of the most important mechanical engineering firms in Europe.71 The production facility, based on Arkwright’s factories, was the second mechanical spinning mill in Switzerland. Escher Wyss remained the largest Swiss industrial concern into the late nineteenth century and had a wide influence, as it designed factory buildings as a contractor for other companies abroad. Several decades before the founding of Escher, Wyss & Cie., a member of the Escher family, Heinrich Escher (1688–1767), had had a silk mill built near Zurich which, similarly to Lombe’s mill near Derby, imitated Italian models. Escher succeeded by hiring Italian foremen who brought the necessary technical knowledge with them to Switzerland.72

    Four years before the opening of Escher Wyss’s mechanical spinning mill, a factory was launched in in 1801. Yet it enjoyed little success and closed in 1819. For the importation of English machines was quite expensive, there were permanent technical problems, and the factory was dependent on English experts. This failure, however, was of great significance for further technological development in Switzerland, as it brought familiarity with the new technology. Beginning in 1820 many new spinning mills were opened, and by 1835 the level of the English and cotton industry was achieved.73 Kaspar Escher (1775–1859), who founded Escher, Wyss & Cie. and who had been trained in Italy as an architect and merchant, arranged for the cheaper importation of English machines. He did so by buying smuggled spinning machines in from an English producer, engaging in industrial espionage himself, and, among other things, smuggling the "Jenny-Mule" spinning machine into Switzerland. The decisive stroke, however, was further expansion of the mill itself, for which a engineer was engaged in 1822. He in turn brought with him from England the latest in smuggled technology, a cotton lay-up machine. The factory building was modernized remarkably early, which made it somewhat independent of time of day or year. Gas lighting was installed in 1814, quite soon after it was introduced into English factories; in the following year a steam furnace was added.74

    Especially significant was the early organization of a mechanical engineering division, which by the 1830s had already become more important to the company than the spinning mill itself. Here, too, it was helpful to have contacts with England, where Escher’s son Albert had been trained as a mechanical engineer and manager. By the mid-1820s Albert took over the management of mechanical engineering at Escher Wyss. Although Escher Wyss built the first Swiss steam engines, they were a less important source of power for the company than is often assumed. As was normal in Switzerland until the end of the century, steam power was only an auxiliary in case water power, which was more cost-efficient, was interrupted due to bad weather.75

    By the mid-nineteenth century, Escher Wyss was already playing an important part in the industrial development of Germany. In 1839, the state of ordered the delivery of a mechanical linen mill to , and in 1857 Escher Wyss opened a branch in .76 An outmoded approach to building factories began to cause problems for the parent company at the end of the century. Traditionally, cost-saving was the most important aspect of new construction, such that even in the late-nineteenth century the factory building was seen as a mere shell for production, and the flow of material was not considered in the design.77 Only right before the turn of the century was a new building with coordinated overall planning opened, but the machines with which it was outfitted were quite soon considered obsolete. In the twentieth century, Escher Wyss lost its significance.78

    The extent to which, by the late nineteenth century, factories were also influenced by European (and trans-continental) transfer processes can be illustrated with the career of the engineer and entrepreneur Fritz Wolfensberger (1865–1931). Born in Zurich, Wolfensberger apprenticed as a metalworker at Escher Wyss, trained as an engineer at the Kantonales Technikum in , and gained his first work experience in Scotland. Influenced by American innovations in operational management, first by "systematic management" and then by the "scientific management" of Frederick W. Taylor (1856–1915)[Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856–1915) IMG], Wolfensberger failed with his ideas for modernization from 1891 to 1904, first at the Deutz gas motor works in Cologne, then in the Oerlikon machine works in Switzerland, and finally upon his return to Escher, Wyss & Cie. Escher had explicitly sought an engineer, ideally American, to modernize its factories, but it was ultimately unwilling to institute Wolfensberger’s radical suggestions. In 1904 Wolfensberger returned to Deutz in Cologne, where a management restructuring gave him the necessary freedom to realize his ideas. Propelled by his experience at several European mechanical engineering firms, his knowledge of American ideas of scientific management, and a study trip to the , Wolfensberger converted Deutz to mass-production even before the First World War. In addition to the modernization of the machinery, financed in part via loans and with a focus on special-purpose machines, he also instituted wide-ranging changes in the work spaces. Thus the factory was restructured according to a plan to facilitate workflow. In addition, rationalization measures were introduced to improve hygiene, since Wolfensberger – whose thought was typical of successful managers of his age – considered the human factor to be of great significance for production.79

    Rational factories

    Although the concept of industrial rationalization did not become popular until the 1920s, such thinking grew increasingly widespread in the last third of the nineteenth century – not only in the USA,80 but also in Europe. Whereas work in early factories was still traditionally based on personal relationships and verbal instructions, now new forms of factory organization arose that were based on written documents and bureaucratization.81 At the same time, the division of labour and mechanization were promoted and increasingly guided by the notion of production flow. The introduction of the first assembly line at Ford in in 1913 led to these ideas being widely discussed in Europe, too, where they were implemented above all by a few big corporations in the automobile and electric industries. Nevertheless, in Germany in 1930, for example, only 80,000 workers were involved in line or assembly line productionFließbandfertigung bei Deutz, Köln, Schwarz-Weiß-Photographie, ca. 1925, unbekannter Photograph; Bildquelle: Stiftung Rheinisch-Westfälisches Wirtschaftsarchiv zu Köln, Sign. RWWA 107-F2649. .82

    In the late nineteenth century, the factory became more important as a production and social setting. In this sense, too, the USA became a model for European industry.83 The factory building was no longer a mere shell for production but rather was recognized as an essential element of the technological manufacturing process.84 An important precondition for the planning and design of a rational factory of this kind was the transition to a new source of energy. The replacement of belt transmissions with individual electric motors became feasible at the turn of the century and was the norm by the 1920s.85

    Alongside this, new factory concepts also took workers into consideration, whose role in increasing productivity was reflected upon in two ways: the factory building should, first, facilitate the supervision of workers, and second, improve working conditions. Some measures dealt with both aspects. For example, large rooms illuminated by sunlight could be monitored more easily and by fewer supervisors; at the same time, better air and light conditions were an important element in "making factories more beautiful" (Verschönerung der Fabriken).86 This buzzword appeared in Germany and Great Britain in the 1920s and was accompanied by new interest in factory building on the part of academically trained architects; the field had theretofore been the purview mostly of structural engineers.87 Leading exponents of modern architecture like Walter Gropius (1883–1969) devoted themselves to the theory and practice of factory buildingDas Fagus-Werk in Alfeld, Farbphotographie, 2007, Photograph: Carsten Janssen; Bildquelle: Wikimedia Commons,, Creative Commons  Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Germany, Furthermore, they emphasized the importance of functional beauty, which was supposed both to simplify the course of production and to increase worker satisfaction.88 Similar positions for designing the "living space" of the factory were taken by experts from the realms of sociology, ergonomics, and management after the First World War.89 Thus as early as the 1920s, reflection about the humanization of work was an essential aspect of rationalization concepts and practices.

    The Kahn brothers, American architects, played an important role in the spread of factories on the Ford model in Europe. Moritz Kahn (1881–1939), whose brother Albert (1869–1942) was responsible for Ford’s famous Highland ParkA view of the Highland Park plant of the Ford Motor Company in 1922, in: Bernard L. Johnson, "Henry Ford and His Power Farm", Farm Mechanics 102 (February 1922), Via Wikimedia Commons:, public domain. and River Rouge plants, had been in charge of Truscon, the London branch of the family business, since 1907.90 In his influential book The Design and Construction of Industrial Buildings (1917), Moritz Kahn emphasized that one core aspect of rationalization must always be that the design of the work environment have a positive influence on the motivation of workers.91 The impact of Ford’s production model and the Kahns’ factory architecture was felt beyond capitalist Europe. By the mid-1920s, a comprehensive technological transfer from the USA and Germany to the Soviet Union was taking place.92 In 1928, the latter country ordered a tractor factory from Ford that was built in . Along with a team of experts from Detroit, Moritz Kahn, who was commissioned with filling the order, established a design office in the Soviet Union that was composed of 4,500 architects, engineers and technicians and that would go on to be responsible for more than 500 factories by 1932.93

    The influence of rationalization went even beyond the factory, however. The twentieth century in general was characterized by the breakdown of work into individual steps and by the concepts of normalization and standardization.94 The broad notion of Fordism comprehended the vision and practice of mass production and mass consumption. Working in industry increasingly turned into a profession, on account of which day-labour and fluctuation in the workforce decreased. Then there was the technocratic vision of a society organized according to the guiding principle of efficiency. The period between 1910 and 1975 can accordingly be denoted as the "Fordist century" (fordistisches Jahrhundert).95

    In a certain sense, this form of the factory combined the advantages of the early modern manufactory and the putting-out system. Whereas the centralization of work in manufactories yielded at best small advances in productivity (due to the state of available technology), the supervision of workers entailed relatively high costs. The Verleger, however, could depend on home workers to exploit themselves, as it was to their direct advantage to produce more goods.96 The twentieth-century factory united both: on the one hand external forms of disciplining, on the other internal motivation, including the pressure of wage incentives and the introduction of the piece rate. With the joining of human and rationalistic motives, workers were supposed to be encouraged to realize their individual potential. In the historically specific work space of the modern factory, people were now employed who differed markedly not only from workers in early modern workshops and manufactories but also from the workforce of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century mills.

    Karsten Uhl



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    1. ^ The verses became especially popular thanks to their musical setting as a hymn entitled "Jerusalem."
    2. ^ Pollard, Genesis 1965, p. 160; Landes, Prometheus 1973, p. 54.
    3. ^ Thompson, Time 1967, p. 57.
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    94. ^ Heßler, Kulturgeschichte 2012, p. 57.
    95. ^ Hachtmann / Saldern, Gesellschaft 2009, pars. 4f., 7, 13.
    96. ^ Schultz, Handwerker 2002, p. 126.

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