A Common Thread
Labor, Politics, and Capital Mobility in the Textile Industry

Beth English

A pioneering study of capital flight in a once-mighty sector of U.S. manufacturing


"A Common Thread weaves together the histories of labor, politics, and industrial development in a way that is both compelling and insightful. . . . If I have a single complaint with this work it is that I enjoyed it so much and found it so compelling that I wish it were longer. . . . [A] nuanced and clearly written analysis . . . A Common Thread is a must-read for historians and scholars of contemporary labor and industrial development. Exceptionally well-written, this work deserves a place on the shelves of historians of labor and working-class history, the U.S. South, women's and gender history, business and economic development alike."
H-Net: Southern Industry

"Alongside Jefferson Cowie's Capital Moves, Beth English offers one of the first works of business and labor history to take seriously an industry-wide, cross-regional analysis that is a necessary prelude to understanding the challenges facing working people in an age of globalization. This careful case study is filled with both analytic and strategic insight."
—Leon Fink, author of The Maya of Morganton

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With important ramifications for studies relating to industrialization and the impact of globalization, A Common Thread examines the relocation of the New England textile industry to the piedmont South between 1880 and 1959. Through the example of the Massachusetts-based Dwight Manufacturing Company, the book provides an informative historic reference point to current debates about the continuous relocation of capital to low-wage, largely unregulated labor markets worldwide.

In 1896, to confront the effects of increasing state regulations, labor militancy, and competition from southern mills, the Dwight Company became one of the first New England cotton textile companies to open a subsidiary mill in the South. Dwight closed its Massachusetts operations completely in 1927, but its southern subsidiary lasted three more decades. In 1959, the branch factory Dwight had opened in Alabama became one of the first textile mills in the South to close in the face of post-World War II foreign competition.

Beth English explains why and how New England cotton manufacturing companies pursued relocation to the South as a key strategy for economic survival, why and how southern states attracted northern textile capital, and how textile mill owners, labor unions, the state, manufacturers' associations, and reform groups shaped the ongoing movement of cotton-mill money, machinery, and jobs. A Common Thread is a case study that helps provide clues and predictors about the processes of attracting and moving industrial capital to developing economies throughout the world.

Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South

Page count: 248 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


List price: $46.95

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List price: $44.95
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Beth English is a research associate at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.