Monday, September 25, 2006

A job to dye for

According to my now favourite documentary series, wool dying was one of the worst jobs in Tudor England. While the dyers managed to perfect a technique of using a common weed, woad, to colour wool fleece a rich royal blue, they were banished to live outside the main towns because of the truly foul stench of the process.

Royalty, it seemed, loved the product and ordered vast amounts but didn't want to know about the pain involved in producing it. It kind of reminds me of people today wanting the benefits of cheap products but turning a blind eye to the conditions they are made under in China and India. Plus ce change...

Personally I would have far preferred to be a wool dyer in Tudor England than the allegedly more prestigious job of wiping the king's bottom.

Although it might have smelt bad, wool-dying provided almost model OH&S working conditions by Tudor standards. Minimal risk of poisoning or being burnt, reasonable pay and working hours (by Tudor standards) and definitely a lot more interesting and rewarding than many of the jobs of the day. And with the foul stench as a barrier, I suspect one would have been left alone to get on with the job instead of being micro-managed with a boss peering over the shoulder every five minutes!

No comments: