The Men of the Sierras Make Cloths: Multiple Occupation and Proto-Industry in the Sierras of La Rioja (18th Century)


  • Jose Ramón Moreno Fernández Universidad de Zaragoza



Wool Industry, Multiple Occupation, Proto-Industry, Mountain Economy


This article analyses the organisation of the wool industry in the mountains of La Rioja in the mid eighteenth century. It begins with a brief description of the quantitative importance of its specialisation in cheap, everyday woollen cloth. The article goes on to study the dispersion and the social spread of this production, which was dominated by the small-scale manufacturer with very few resources and very low levels of production, The small-scale, fragmented system of distribution and sale was also highly dispersed. This headless organisation of production and distribution was a result of two complementary phenomena: on the one hand, the hegemony of multiple-occupation in the family in order to take advantage of any opportunities within their reach without committting themselves to any one specific trade; and on the other the fact that the continuity of the cloth-making industry depended on the more constant productive activity of a handful of families who kept open the routes for the supply of raw materials and the distribution of the finished woollen cloth.