Title

Manufacturing Quality in the Pre-industrial Age: Finding Value in Diversity

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

8-2000

Journal

The Economic History Review

Volume

53

Issue

3

First Page

493

Last Page

516

URL with Digital Object Identifier

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-0289.00168

Abstract

When deployed on a large and rational scale and committed to high throughput levels, early modern manufacturing methods inevitably yielded a substantial proportion of non-standard and defective items. This proportion could only increase as the pace of work accelerated in the eighteenth century. Manufacturers regained a degree of control over their marketing strategies through the more or less rigorous sorting of this output, in a pattern suited to their markets. In so doing, they forged a transitional definition of quality that moved away from the linear pursuit of excellence that motivated their predecessors towards a relative understanding of the needs of diverse groups of buyers.