The jute empire and its founding

TEXTILES and in particular jute have played a major role in the development of many towns and cities in the area, including Montrose.

A new book, ‘Empire, Industry and Class: The Imperial Nexus of Jute, 1840-1940’, written by Anthony Cox, analyses the everyday lives of the jute workers of Dundee and how the experiences of the Dundee mechanics, engineers and managers who ran the Calcutta jute industry impacted upon them.

The author said: “The book outlines how the era of Juteopolis gave birth to what I call Dundee’s “oary culture” as a result of the melding of the separate and distinctive oral and song traditions of those groups from Angus, the Perthshire Highlands, and Ireland who came to Dundee in search of work.”

Anthony, a tutor in the University’s Continuing Education programme and the lead tour guide with Tayside Historical Tours, has shown how the informal support networks that were developed by the city’s jute workers were vital to helping them survive the brutal working and living conditions in Victorian and Edwardian Dundee.

“One unique development in Dundee was a move away from patriarchal to more democratic domestic arrangements, with many households headed by unskilled and semi-skilled male workers, which, at the time, were frowned upon as being unnatural. Often one spouse was unemployed while the other worked, so domestic roles might be reversed with the men making meals and looking after the children.”