The early emergence of the entrepreneur in the English cloth industry was commemorated by early modern writers such as Skelton, Leland, Deloney, Aubrey, Fuller and Defoe but remains neglected in recent studies exploring industrial expansion and innovation c. 1500–1700. In response to the gap in the current historiography, this article examines the emergence of entrepreneurship, the growth of organizational experimentation and the short-lived development of the proto-factory in the Berkshire towns of Reading and Newbury. It explores the entrepreneurship of industrial capitalists such as John Winchcombe (the illustrious ‘Jack of Newbury’), Thomas Dolman, Thomas Aldworth and William Kendrick and the nature of their achievement and motivation. It assesses the impact of market forces, locational advantages, product specialization and social attitudes in unleashing and shaping entrepreneurial investment from the expansion of cloth-making in the towns in the fifteenth century to de-industrialization in the seventeenth century.
free text keywords: History, Economic and Social History, Early Modern Britain and Europe, Entrepreneurship, Economic history