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Lancashire, a county in northwestern England, was known as the center of the cotton industry where the steam engine replaced waterpower as an energy source, allowing newer and larger mills to be constructed. These steam-driven textile factories were mainly erected in the county of Lancashire. The newly constructed factories thrived, and as they prospered, cotton grew to be one of the most central exports of the British economy. As a result of this success in Lancashire, the county continued to draw capitalists and workers from the surrounding counties of Britain. In the years between 1821 and 1831, the number of people moving into the county annually reached the extent some 17,000 people; king cotton attracted such a large quantity that Lancashire came to employ over 90 percent of the British cotton industry by the 1860s.

In “Signs of Times,” Carlyle explicitly criticizes the well-oiled machine people insist on forming. According to him, the age of technology completely grabs hold of people's minds, resulting in the formation of carefully constructed processes such as religious machines. A necessity of creating a committee prevents religious people from staying true to their own bonds with a higher being as they are forced to go through a series of idea accommodations. The group itself must mesh well, or agree on specific terms, before being able to function properly; as a result, the true faithful bond is not adequately expressed. Carlyle's comparison to Lancashire exudes irony. Carlyle depicts people as feeling lost without machinery whereas in reality machinery seems to be responsible for the deterioration of society: "Without machinery, they were hopeless, helpless; a colony of Hindoo weavers squatting in the heart of Lancashire."


Adams, James Eli. Encyclopedia of the Victorian Era. 2 vols. Danburry: Grolier Academic Reference, 2004. Print.

"Lancashire." : The Free Encyclopedia. Web. 17 Mar. 2010.

Last modified 24 March 2010