From handmade to factory made: industry, trade and handcrafted traditions

In tracing the histories of textile production, we encounter a turning point in the 18th century, when the Industrial Revolution impacted the production of handmade textiles. Watch the video to learn more about the history behind this global phenomenon and its repercussions in the Indian subcontinent.


Video transcript and image captions

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Terms to know

Dutch East India Company
Founded in 1602, the United East India Company or Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie was a commercial organisation comprising several trading agencies, which was established to protect the Dutch trade in Asia. It dealt primarily in textiles and eventually established nearly monopolistic control in the spice trade with East Asia. The Company established colonies and trading posts in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and parts of India. It was dissolved in 1799.

British East India Company
A British company which traded commodities such as cotton, indigo, salt, spices, tea and opium in the Indian Ocean region, including parts of the Indian subcontinent, west Asia and South East Asia. It was established by royal charter of the British Crown on 31 December 1600 and expanded its commercial interests through political intervention and control, eventually facilitating British imperial rule in the subcontinent. It was absorbed by the colonial government in 1858 and dissolved in 1874.

Industrial Revolution
The economic transformation that took place in Great Britain (and other parts of the world, including continental Europe and the USA) between 1760-1840. This period marked a shift from agrarian and handicraft based industries to large-scale mechanised manufacturing, and marked a
major turning point in history.

A shuttle-woven textile with elaborate patterns made with gold, silver or coloured threads on silk, cotton, muslin, satin or velvet. Brocades are intricately woven and have the appearance of an embroidered textile with textured designs of flowers, foliage and figural patterns. These are produced in the weaving process with the addition of a supplementary, non-structural weft in addition to the standard weft. Their name comes from the Italian word broccato, meaning “embossed cloth.”

Telia rumals
Also known as chowka and Asia rumal, the telia rumal is a square cloth whose name translates to “oily kerchief” and derives from the oil-based solution with which the cotton yarn is pre-treated before being woven into fabric. Today, the double-ikat technique of producing telia rumals is practised primarily in the state of Telangana, where the village of Puttapaka is a hub of production.

A brocade fabric woven by blending cotton and silk, himroo was developed as an imitation of kinkhwab and features design elements inspired by Persian fabrics. The word “himroo” derives from the Persian hum-ruh, meaning “similar”.

Dhaka Muslin
A textile woven from a variety of cotton species, muslin is characterised by lightness and durability, which results in its longevity. Also called mul mul, the cotton grown in West Bengal is especially renowned for its fineness, softness and gloss. Its name derives from the French mousseline (meaning “delicately woven cotton fabric”), which in turn derives from the Italian name for Mosul, Iraq, which was renowned for its muslin. Regions in present-day West Bengal and Dhaka, Bangladesh are historically renowned for their skilful manufacturing of the material.

Chamba Rumals
Originating from the Chamba region of Himachal Pradesh, India, these embroidered square-shaped rumals or handkerchiefs, often portray rich narratives inspired by Pahari miniature paintings and stories from the life of Krishna. The textiles are typically embroidered expertly to feature similar designs on either side with no visible knots. Historically, textiles like Chamba Rumals have been embroidered by women.

Pochampalli Ikats
A term encompassing textiles and garments made of cotton, silk or sico in single and
double ikat, Pochampally ikat derives its name from the centre of its production, the town of Bhoodan Pochampally in the state of Telangana (previously a part of Andhra Pradesh), India.

From The MAP Academy Glossary

Additional resources 

To learn more about South Asian Art History, visit The MAP Academy

Performing Art, Displaying Culture: Artisan Exhibits in Colonial Exhibitions (from the MAP Academy)

Khademul Islam, “Our Story of Dhaka Muslin” (from Aramco World)


From our partner, The MAP Academy 

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Cite this page as: The MAP Academy, "From handmade to factory made: industry, trade and handcrafted traditions," in Smarthistory, August 17, 2022, accessed May 19, 2024,