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The rise of manufactories

 
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The foundations of future industrial regions were during the reign of Charles IV.

 
 
Due to the forced withdrawal from international trade during the reign of Charles VI in the 14th century, the focus was on heavily supporting the national economy. Entrepreneurs were granted numerous privileges and interest-free loans. Unified customs rules were created, which replaced the former common protective (and medieval in nature) regional and municipal duties, and introduced single tariffs applicable throughout the monarchy. This significantly improved conditions for trade at least within the Austrian monarchy. Nevertheless, we cannot say it was anything similar to a free market. The volume of exports from the Czech provinces to foreign countries was almost double that to other regions of the monarchy.

There was a certain division in exports from the Czech provinces, where the main export route from Bohemia was along the Elbe (Labe) to the German states, with the main destination being Hamburg. On the other hand, exports from Moravia were mostly southbound to the Black Sea, or used the Oder river system toward the Baltic Sea. Due to the unsuccessful plans to create an Oder-Elbe channel, this obstacle was only overcome by the completion of “imperial roads,” which represented the main transportation system before the introduction of railways.

Manufactories were originally established completely outside the old guild structure; guilds gradually lost their former privileges and positions. Manufactories primarily represented another level of development of the extensive home crafts, in particular cloth-making. In the early phase, manufactories had a distributed form. Spinners and weavers lived in villages, mainly in sub-mountainous regions, often in serfdom under their lords. The products were purchased by “factors” (merchant middlemen between entrepreneurs and home workers), who delivered them to warehouses in Lusatia and Silesia. From there, the products were exported through Hamburg to England. Factors were also those who assigned work to local workers. The entire system was organized with major assistance from foreign experts invited by aristocratic businessmen, who had the required capital and sufficient labor force. Actually, the starting conditions in the Czech provinces for industrial production development were relatively good in comparison with other states of the monarchy. The country had the necessary natural resources and a good level of handicraft production.

Textile production further developed into centralized manufactories, where production phases were no longer divided into mutually linked and locally distributed workshops; production was concentrated in one place. The first manufactory of this kind produced cloth in Horní Litvínov; it was founded by John Joseph of Wallenstein in 1693. An invited specialist from Saxony in Germany helped establish another manufactory for stockings in Osek at the local monastery in 1695. Glass-making was another industry that experienced a great boom at that time, in particular in arboreous and sub-mountainous regions (Jizerské Mountains and Šumava). These areas provided the raw material used to produce glass (siliceous sand) and in particular enough wood for the production of the charcoal that was required for the glass ovens. According to documents preserved from that time, Czech crystal was of equal quality to Venetian glass, and represented one of the main exported articles. Due to its price, which was lower than that of the well-established Venetian production, Czech crystal found markets not only in the Balkan states but also in the developed countries of Western and Southern Europe.

In the 18th century, other industries that developed significantly included the production of sugar, porcelain (Horní Slavkov), and paper. It is interesting that the foundations of future industrial regions were already laid at that time. And since the initial machine production required water power, the centres of these industries were formed in regions with suitable natural conditions – along small yet fast rivers (the Jizera, the upper section of the Morava, the Elbe, the Oder and partially also the Vltava and other rivers). These regions included primarily the regions below the mountain ranges in North Bohemia and North Moravia, where the prevailing production specialized in cloth, glass, early foundries and machinery production. Although water power was later replaced by steam engines, these regions still preserved their “industrial character.” The production range over time partially changed. Due to the Napoleonic Wars and the related continental blockade, the traditional export industries such as the production of cloth and glass faced a decline. On the other hand, new fields of production appeared. Due to the total absence of imports, mainly from England, the national production of cotton, cotton cloth and iron began to expand, i.e. articles that were until then nearly exclusively covered by imports.

 
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Added: 01.01.2010
 
 
 

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