Dundee and India

In 1820 the first twenty bales of jute were unloaded at Dundee docks. It was to change the city’s destiny forever. So how did the fortunes of a Scottish city and a faraway region of the Indian sub-continent become so intertwined? The answer, in part, lies in Dundee’s industrial traditions.

Weaving, whaling and shipbuilding were the three vital ingredients that made Dundee the jute capital of the then modern world. Weaving was an important occupation in Dundee as far back as the 16th century so the skills were already in place to adapt to jute processing. The local whaling fleet provided the whale oil needed to soften the jute and make it workable. And Dundee’s ship building industry (another offshoot of the whaling heritage) was put to work to construct the big, fast ships that brought the jute from India. On top of which new, worldwide markets were opening up for jute products, a fact the enterprising merchant community was quick to recognise.