Manufacturing Quality in the Pre-industrial Age: Finding Value in Diversity
The Economic History Review
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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.