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Northern Europe

  • The Romans had linen factories in Britian and Gual to supply their armies, but production dwindled for a time after the barbarian invasions.
  • In the eighth century, Charlemagne ordered each family in his realm to learn to process, spin, and weave flax, because he recognized the sanitary value of linen garments and also saw a potential market for Christian liturgical vestments.
  • Flanders became the first important center for the medieval linen industry. The climate was ideal for growing flax, and the labor was skilled.
  • The dutch also wove linens, but they imported their cloth from Germany.
  • Holland was famous for its bleaching works at Haarlem, and in the 17th and 18th centuries, linens were sent there from all over Europe so they recieved the best whitening available.
  • The English linen industry had little significance until the late 16th century when thousands of skilled workers fled to England from the Low Countries to avoid Spanish persecutions.
  • In Ireland, linen manufacture was a major industry- one that continued into the 20th century. The beginning might be traced to the Phoenicians, who went to Ireland in 1000 B.C., but more likely it dates back to the Normans who settled there in the 7th century A.D.

Kathie Richardson
NDSU Library
Fargo, ND 58105

Last updated: 16.01.2008

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