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MARJORIE PLANT D.Sc. (Econ.), F.L.A. (Deputy Librarian, The British Library of Political and Economic Science)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 1 February 1950



THE historian sometimes has a blissful dream that he has come across a mass of records previously unknown to exist but capable, in his hands, of forming the basis of an epoch‐making study. In 1921 it came true with the thrilling discovery of the documents on which Professor George Unwin was to base his Samuel Oldknow and the Arkwrights, which might be called the first business history. Oldknow's cotton mill at Mellor was then a ruin, having been destroyed by fire in 1892; all that remained was a detached portion which, though dilapidated, was used for stabling and for other odd purposes. One day a Boy Scout aroused curiosity by offering to passers‐by a number of weavers' pay‐tickets dating from the eighteenth century. His explanation, on being questioned, was that he had found them in this small outhouse. The find was quickly reported to Unwin, and he joined eagerly in the search among the dust and debris of the upper floor, to be rewarded by the discovery of heaps of letters, account‐books, wages‐sheets, and other manuscripts. Then began an engrossing task of cleaning and sorting. By incredibly good fortune the documents were found to include the records of Oldknow's previous business as a muslin manufacturer at Stockport, of his bleach and print works at Heaton Mersey, and of the beginnings of his enterprise at Anderton, as well as those of the Mellor mill itself.


PLANT, M. (1950), "BUSINESS HISTORY AND ITS SOURCES", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 100-106.




Copyright © 1950, MCB UP Limited

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