The history of dyeing is complex, even when analysed over a short period of time and in a comparatively small country such as Scotland. There are hundreds of dyes, natural and manufactured; most require the use of further chemicals as mordants to fix the colour; dyes interact with different vegetable and animal fibres in different ways; the clothes made from dyed cloth may be fashionable or they may belong to a conservative way of life. It is impossible within the compass of one essay to give a detailed account of dyeing practice in the home, the workshop and the factory, not least because in the chosen period of 1790 to 1840 Scottish handcrafts and industry were both changing very rapidly. Instead, we will make an exploration starting with the Statistical Accounts published in 1791–99 and 1838–41 as primary sources. These compilations give a description of all of the 938 parishes in Scotland, each several thousand words long. Here we have labelled them the OSA, meaning the Old Statistical Account, and the NSA, to stand for its title, the New Statistical Account.
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