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CANUTS

Last summer I went to Lyon for four days to visit this beautiful city. I was especially interested by the area of the « Canuts », a hill on the north called « la Croix Rousse ».

All this area was built at the same time at the beginning of the nineteenth century by the silk merchants for the silk weavers and their big and high new looms. In fact, the Jacquart mechanical loom was now needed to weave the very complicated motifs on the rich silk tissues and so the ceiling of the workshop had to be about six meters high.

For this reason, the silkweavers had to leave their old houses and settle in this new area. All these people were named « the Canuts », this word probably came from « cannette » a little piece of wood used to weave.

The Canuts possessed theirs looms, so they were more craftsmen than workers, but their way of live was very hard, they worked all the day in the noise of the machines.

They lived and worked in the same place, the largest part for looms, and only a little place for people. In the workshop I visited, there was only a little room for cooking and eating and upstairs only one room for sleeping, so workers slept often under the looms.

The canuts worked for the silk merchants and they were often poor because the price of their work was only known when it was finished and the price was fixed by the merchant.

The canuts wanted a minimum price for a meter of silk but this was refused by the merchants.

In 1831 and almost in 1834, the Canuts revolted against poverty, they took arms, shouted « live free or die fighting » and occupied the city. The army intervened, fired and many people were injured or dead during the bloody week in april 1834. After, many were imprisoned or deported to the colonies.

These revolts are famous in the history of popular movements and I was very interested to see the Canuts’ home, their looms and their way of life and also to see magnificent silk in the museum.

by Martine

GLOSSARY

weaver tisserand
loom métier à tisser
silk soie
ceiling plafond
craftsman artisan

 

 

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revised : Tuesday 31 January 2017 / published : 02/02/2017/ created : October 2016

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