James I was the first person to try seriously to establish a silk industry in England. Mulberries had been known at the English Court for over four hundred years before James ascended the throne in 1603, so one part of the silk technology - the mulberry tree introduced from the Continent - was already present in England . But what of the little 'worms'?
James I had a logistical problem at the beginning of the seventeenth century: what to do with the huge influx of refugees from the Low Countries and France. Religious strife in Europe, especially following the Massacre of St Bartholomew in 1572 instigated by Catherine de Medici, resulted in a mass exodus of protestants from France. Some sought refuge in the Low Countries before joining ships to England. Tens of thousands arrived by boat in London and at places like Sandwich and Rye in Kent and other locations around the coast of south east England.
James I's enthusiasm for silk was thus born out of his immediate concern to find employment for the immigrant weavers, and of course to produce English silk for the first time. His wife liked silks too, and this may have influenced him considerably . James also saw the establishment of an English silk industry as a source of income, for he must have envied the way in which the French had already established a well-organized silk industry.
If the ME refugees were Huguenots of the fifteenth century, what it would be the silk industry?
Taken from: James Feltwell, The story of silk, (Alan Sutton, Stroud, UK, 1990), 16-17.
I am Nader Sayadi, a researcher and educator in architecture who studies and teaches built environment and material culture history. I am also an architectural designer and historic preservationist. This is where I would like to share my thoughts about my interests in the related fields.
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