Weavers Iron Smelters and Factory Owners Class 8 Explanation

Weavers Iron Smelters and Factory Owners Class 8 History Chapter 6, Explanation, Question Answers

Weavers Iron Smelters and Factory Owners CBSE Class 8 History Chapter with a detailed explanation of the chapter ‘Weavers Iron Smelters and Factory Owners‘ along with question answers. Given here is the complete explanation of the chapter and all the exercises, Question and Answers given at the back of the chapter.

Class 8 History Chapter 6

Weavers, Iron Smelters and Factory Owners

Weavers Iron Smelters and Factory Owners Introduction

In this chapter, we will discuss about the two very important industries during the time of the British rule i.e. textiles, iron and steel.

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Textile, iron and steel industries were important for the industrial progress in the modern world. Britain started to be known as the industrial nation due to the presence of mechanized cotton production. In 1850s, it came to be known as the workshop of the world because iron and steel industry started growing in Britain during this period.

This industrialization in Britain was closely connected with the colonization of India. As we have already seen this in chapter No. 2 that how East India Company became master of our land because it wanted to trade in our country for the sake of profit. In the late 18th century, Britain was just procuring goods from India for selling them in Europe to earn profits out of the sale of these goods.

As the industrial production increased in Britain, now India was seen as the market for its products and the British started flooding the Indian markets with their goods.

How this inflow of goods affected our industries and market will be discussed in this chapter.

First of all, we must know about the textile market and its demand in the world.

Weavers Iron Smelters and Factory Owners Class 8 Video Explanation



Indian textiles and the world market

Before the British conquest over Bengal, India was the world’s largest producer of cotton textiles. The Indian cotton textile was famous for both its finest quality and its exquisite craftsmanship. Indian textiles were traded in Southeast Asia and west and central Asia. In 16th century various European companies started purchasing Indian textiles for sale in Europe. For e.g. Patola weave was woven in Surat, Ahmedabad and Patan and this type of weave was famous in Indonesia so it was highly valued there.

Even many words related to the Indian words which were used for various types of textiles are still prevalent in English and other languages. Such words tell us about our history. Let’s see.

Words tell us histories

cotton clothThe fine cotton cloth which was first seen by the European traders was the one which was carried by the Arab traders in Mosul, a city in present day Iraq. So they started referring it as ‘muslin’ cloth. This word earned them a lot of money.

When the Portuguese came to India for procuring spices, they landed at Calicut. The textile which they took back to Europe came to be known as “calico”, named after the place from where it was purchased.

There were many words which show the popularity of Indian textile in the western world. In 1730, the East India Company used to send order details to its representatives in Calcutta for placing demand for textile pieces. ‘Piece’ here means a cloth which was 20 yards long and 1yard wide. The orders were generally placed 2 years in advance as it was the time required to send orders to India.

So, if we take a look at the different varieties of clothes there was chintz, cossaes and bandanna. All these words are derived from Hindi words. Chintz is basically Chhint, a piece of cloth with flowery design. From 1680s the floral designs became so famous in England and Europe that the rich people, even the queen herself started wearing this Indian fabric.

Just like this, Bandanna is derived from the word Bandanna which is a colored printed scarf for the neck or head. It is basically a coloured cloth produced through a method of tying and dying.

Many other fabrics came to be known from their place of origin such as Kasimbazar, Patna, Calcutta, Orissa, Charpoore, etc. This shows the popularity of Indian textile in other parts of the world.

Indian textiles in European markets

During the early 18th century, as the demand for Indian textile grew in England, the wool and silk makers started protesting against the import of textiles from India. So, in 1720 an act known as The Calico Act was made in order to ban the use of printed cotton chintz textile.

At this time the textile industry of England was at its budding stage and it was difficult to compete with the Indian textiles. English producers wanted to safeguard their market from the Indian textiles hence, a calico printing industry grew under the protection of the government. They used to copy the Indian printed designs on white muslin or plain Indian cloth.

indian textileThis competition led to introduction of technology in England. In 1764 the spinning jenny was invented by John Kaye. It was a spinning machine that could operate several spindles in single rotation. This increased the production of textile industry.

With the invention of steam engine by Richard Arkwright in 1786, a revolution was experienced in cotton textile weaving. Now weaving cotton became speedy and cheaper also. However, Indian textile was still dominating the market till the end of the 18th century. Many European companies such as the English, the Dutch and the French earned a handsome profit out of this. These companies purchased cotton and silk by importing silver from their native countries.  But soon after acquiring diwani over Bengal, the East India Company started collecting enough revenue to finance their trade purposes and stopped importing silver from England.

india mapSo, now a question arises as to where were the major centres of weaving in the late 18th century?

Some of them were at Lahore and Sirhind in Punjab, Ahmedabad and Surat in Gujarat, Benaras in U.P., Patna in Bihar, Madras and Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu, etc.

Now that we know about the Indian textile and its huge demand in the world, we should also know who use to make this finest textile?

weaversWho were the weavers?

Weavers generally belonged to the communities that had the quality of fine weaving. Their skills were carried on by the next generations. There were so many names for the weavers in different parts of India, like tanti in Bengal, Julahas or momin of north India, sale, kaikollar and devangs of south India.

For weaving, first spinning was done by the women. In this task charkha and takli were used. The thread was spun on the charkhas and then rolled on the takli. In most of the communities weaving was a talk done by men. Rangrez used to dye the thread to make colored textiles and chhipigars were the block printer specialists to make print cloth.


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Let’s discuss how our textile industry came to a decline.

The Decline of Indian textiles

The growth and development of British industries affected Indian textiles producers in several ways such as:

  • There was a tough competition between Indian textiles and British textiles in American and European markets.
  • Britain had imposed heavy import duty on Indian textiles.
  • In the beginning of the 19th century, Britishers gained control over African, American and European markets. The demand of Indian goods reduced, resulting in big loss for the Indian weavers.

The Indian weavers were badly hit by unemployment. English and European companies stopped buying Indian goods and their agents were not providing advance to secure supplies. Finally the weavers had to write petitions to the government to help them. The situation got worse when in 1830s British cotton overtook the Indian market as there was huge inflow of the cotton from Britain. Not only this, by 1880s 2/3rd cotton clothes which were worn by the Indians were made of cotton which was imported from Britain. This made many Indian weavers and spinners jobless.

However, handloom weaving still existed for some reasons, like:

Some clothes were not supplied by the machines. For example, Saris with intricate borders or cloth with the traditional woven pattern were not manufactured by machines.

The coarse cloth used by the poor was not produced by the British textiles.

indian flagSholapur in western India and Madura of South India became important centres of weaving in the late 19th century. Even Mahatma Gandhi during the national movement urged people to boycott English textile and use hand woven Khadi. This, later on became a symbol of nationalism due to which charkha was put on the flag of Indian National Congress in 1931.

Weavers and spinners who became jobless, finally chose other job options for example, some became farmers or left for Africa and South America in search of work or many went to Bombay, Ahmedabad, Sholapur, Nagpur and Kanpur to work in cotton mills.

Cotton mills come up

cotton millsThe first cotton mill in India was set up at Bombay in 1854. Bombay, from the early 19th century, grew as an important port for the export of raw cotton from India to England and China. It was also close to western India which had black soil fit for the growth of cotton. So it was easy for them to procure raw material from nearby places.

By 1900, there were over 84 mills which were operating in Bombay and most of them were established by the Parsis or Gujratis. The cotton mills were present in other cities also for example, the first mill at Ahmedabad was started in 1861 and a mill in Kanpur was also established after that. Many poor peasants, artisans and agricultural laborers moved to the cities to work in these mills.

In the initial years, Indian textile industries faced many problems as there was tough competition from the foreign textile industry. The support which Indian textile industries first received from the Britishers was during the first world war, when they received the order to produce cloth for military.

The sword of Tipu sultan and wootz steel

swordThe story of Indian steel should begin with the famous story of Tipu Sultan who was king of Mysore till 1799; he fought four wars against the British with his legendary sword. This sword is now displayed in a museum in England. The specialty of the sword was that it was made of high carbon steel known as Wootz that could easily rip the enemy’s armour. Wootz is produced in south India. Swords made up of this steel had a sharp edge with a flowing water pattern. The pattern was due to the very small carbon crystals embedded in the iron.

Francis Buchanan gave an account on how this Wootz steel was produced in many hundreds of smelting furnaces in Mysore.

According to him, iron was mixed with charcoal and put inside small clay pots. Keeping intricate control of temperatures, the smelters produced steel ingots that were used for sword making not just in India but in West and Central Asia too. Wootz is an anglicized version of the Kannada word ukku, Telegu hukku and Tamil word urukku which mean steel.

Many European scientists were fascinated with the Indian steel wootz. Michael Faraday spent four years in studying the properties of Wootz. But soon the process of making Wootz steel declined because the sword and armour making industry died as India was taken over by the various European powers. The iron and steel from England displaced the iron and steel produced by the craftsmen of India.

Abandoned furnaces in villages

abandoned furnaces villagesAlthough there were furnaces present in every village, especially in Bihar and central India because it was easy to procure the raw material from the nearby ores and generally, the work of smelting was done by both men and women but by the late 19th century the craft of iron smelting started declining.

One of the reasons behind this was the new forest laws which prevented people from entering the reserved forests from where they could get their raw materials.

Entry was allowed in some forests but the smelters were charged with heavy taxes. This increased their expenses and reduced their income. Moreover, with the availability of British steel in India, the industries started using the imported steel for making utensils and other things.

Iron and steel factories come up in India

In 1904, an American geologist Charles Weld and Dorabji Tata, the eldest son of Jamsetji Tata saw Agaria tribe people who were carrying basketloads of iron ore from a hill. They were the Rajhara hills. Though it was one of the finest ores, but it was difficult to setup a steel plant there because of the non availability of water.

Finally, a place with the help of agarias was found and a plant known as Bhilai Steel Plant was set up there. After few years, a large forest area was cleared on the banks of river Subarnarekha and a factory was setup with an Industrial Township known as Jamshedpur. The Tata Iron and Steel Company started producing steel here in 1912. Though in the initial years of the Company, the Britishers were not purchasing steel from it as they preferred British steel and were not sure about the quality of Indian steel, but during the First World War, to meet the needs of Indian railways, steel of TISCO came into demand.

Just like cotton, iron and steel also expanded when British imports declined in India and the market for industrial goods increased. This occurred during the first world war. This also happened due to the development of both nationalist movement and also the growing demand of government protection. British government had to concede many demands in order to retain its rule over India.

NCERT Book Solutions

Weavers Iron Smelters and Factory Owners Question and answers

Q1. What kinds of cloth had a large market in Europe?

A. Cotton and silk textiles had huge market in Europe. Indian textiles were famous for their fine quality and exquisite craftsmanship. Chintz, bandanna, etc. were some varieties of cloth which had a large market in Europe. Cotton textiles with printed floral designs were also like by the people of Europe.

Q2. What is jamdani?

A. Jamdani is the finest muslin cloth on which decorative motifs were woven on the loom particularly in grey and white color. They were woven with cotton and gold threads.

Q3. What is bandanna?

A. The word bandanna is derived from Hindi word Bandhhana which means to tie. So bandanna was colored scarf which was produced by tying and dying process.

Q4. Who are the agaria?

A. The agarias were the iron smelters in India.

Q5. Fill in the blanks.

(a) The word chintz comes from the word _________.

(b) Tipu’s sword was made of_________ steel.

(c) India’s textile exports declined in the _________ century.


(a) The word chintz comes from the word chhint.

(b) Tipu’s sword was made of Wootz steel.

(c) India’s textile exports declined in the nineteenth century.

Q6. How do the names of different textiles tell us about their histories?

A. The names of the textiles tell us about their histories in the following way:

  • Calico- When Portuguese came to India for purchasing spices, they landed in Calicut which is a place in Kerala. So, the cloth they took back with them was later known as Calico.
  • Chintz- It is derived from the Hindi word Chhint. It is a colorful cloth which has a floral print on it.
  • Muslin- European traders first encountered fine cotton cloth from India carried by Arab merchants in Mosul in present-day Iraq. They began referring to all finely woven textiles as “muslin”.

Q7. Why did the wool and silk producers in England protest against the import of Indian textiles in the early eighteenth century?

A. As the demand of the Indian textile increased in England for its fine quality and beautiful designs, the demand for the textile of England decreased. So, in order to safeguard their interests, the silk and wool producers of England start protesting against the import of Indian textile.

Q8. How did the development of cotton industries in Britain affect textile producers in India?

A. The development of cotton industries in Britain affected the textile producers in India in the following ways:

  • Huge rate of taxes were charged on imported Indian textiles by Britain.
  • The English took over the markets of Africa, America and Europe and in return the demand of Indian textile in these markets reduced.
  • European companies stopped buying Indian goods and their agents no longer gave out advances to weavers to secure supplies.
  • By 1830s, British cotton flooded Indian markets and over a period of time, two-third of all cotton clothes worn by Indians were made of cloth produced in Britain.
  • Many distressed weavers wrote a petition to the government to help them.

Q9. Why did the Indian iron smelting industry decline in the nineteenth century?

A. The decline of iron and smelting industry was due to the following reasons:

(i) The new forest laws of the colonial government prevented people from entering the reserved forests. It became difficult for the iron smelters to find wood for charcoal. Getting iron ore was also a big problem. So, many gave up their craft and looked for other jobs.

(ii) In some areas, the government did grant access to the forests but the iron smelters had to pay a very high tax to the forest department for every furnace they used. This reduced their income.

(iii) By the late 19th-century iron and steel was being imported from Britain. Ironsmiths in India began using the imported iron to manufacture utensils and implements. This inevitably lowered the demand for iron produced by local smelters.

Q10. What problems did the Indian textile industry face in the early years of its development?

A10. The textile industry face problems in the following ways:

  • It was difficult for the Indian textile to compete with the less expensive textile which was imported from Britain.
  • In most countries, governments supported industrialization by imposing heavy duties on imports. This eliminated competition and protected newly born industries. But the colonial government in India refused such protection to local industries.
  • However, during the First World War when textile imports from Britain declined, Indian factories were called upon to produce cloth for military supplies. This boosted the cotton production factory in India.

Q11. What helped TISCO expand steel production during the First World War?

A. It was during the First World War in 1914 that the British steel produced by the industries was fulfilling the war needs of Europe. The import of British steel declined in India. TISCO was able to fill this gap. At the same thime, it was producing shells and cartridge wheels for fulfilling the War needs of Britain. This was also the time when railways were expanding in the country. The government turned to TISCO for the supply of rails. By 1919, the colonial government was purchasing about 90% of the steel that was manufactured by TISCO.

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