The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain
The Industrial Revolution that began in Great Britain marked a distinct break with the continuity of economic life that had dominated the Western world for centuries. In the early 18th century, Great Britain's economy was similar to that of other nations in Europe, characterized by a heavy reliance on an agricultural system supplemented by basic handicrafts and localized commerce and mercantile activity. Spurred by a combination of favorable conditions, within the space of one century (1750–1850), Great Britain had erased the long-standing era of agrarian dominance and replaced it with a modern industrial and urban society. By 1850 Great Britain had become the wealthiest nation on earth and achieved a position of power and influence that no other country could rival. The booming cotton textiles, mining, and iron-producing industries brought about the transition, and new energy sources of coal and steam powered machines that were increasingly sophisticated replaced the age-old reliance on man, animal, wind, and water power. Great Britain's labor-intensive agrarian society gave way to a capital-intensive economy that was dominated by machine manufacturing, new arrangements to perform labor, and industry characterized by the factory system. These changes had enormous consequences and not only fundamentally altered the way the British people worked and sustained themselves but also changed Great Britain's physical landscape, political and social institutions, and the nation's outlook and relationship with the wider world. Indeed, the Great Britain of the mid-19th century had developed its own special setting and bore little resemblance to the nation of just a few generations earlier.
Causes of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain
Historians have long debated the causes of Great Britain's emergence as the world's first industrial nation. These discussions notwithstanding, it is apparent that a number of factors had coalesced by the late 18th century to put Great Britain in the position to experience its “take off” moment on the road to embrace industrialization. These include Great Britain's geographical location in Europe, rich natural resources, the marriage of science and technology and inspired inventors, revised thinking about national economics, a ready supply of capital for investment and risk-taking entrepreneurs, government support for innovation and economic growth, an available labor supply, the rapid development of a commercial economy, and an ever expanding worldwide trade network to secure raw materials and markets.1
The luck of geography played directly to Great Britain's advantage. The relatively small and consolidated terrain coupled with rich farm land, a good river and improving road network, and an excellent coastline with sufficient ports linking Great Britain to the wider world ensured that the nation was knitted together economically on a far more efficient basis than its European counterparts. Long before their rivals on the continent, these advantages helped the British to reduce and then eliminate internal barriers to commerce. France, by comparison, had three times as many people as Great Britain in the 18th century. However, that nation retained much of its regional distinctiveness until and even after the French Revolution. A poor road network and many internal and local tolls and customs duties prevented France from adopting a new commercial attitude prior to the disruption of the revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. As an island fortress, Great Britain's separation from Europe allowed it to avoid on its home soil the ravages of warfare (other than the Civil War of the 1640s) that had devastated continental Europe during the 17th century and the international conflicts of the 18th century. Thus, Great Britain invested less in defense and retained more of its young, talented, and energetic citizens who in ever increasing numbers turned their attention to economic matters. Even during the upheavals of the Napoleonic Wars, Great Britain did not resort to burdensome taxation and military conscription. After the defeat of Napoleon's fleet in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar, little disruption occurred in Britain's trade network. Furthermore, Napoleon's heralded Continental System, which had as its
purpose the boycotting of British goods and stifling of its economic clout, collapsed under the weight of Britain's cheaper and higher quality products.
Great Britain also had a readily available treasure trove of coal and iron ore, key ingredients needed in the manufacturing enterprises. Coal had early replaced Great Britain's rapidly dwindling supply of wood as a source of heating, but the Industrial Revolution brought new applications such as the generation of steam power. Great Britain sat atop a large seam of coal that stretched from the British Isles through Belgium and France and across northwestern Europe. It is noteworthy that the most advanced industrial development in Europe occurred along this rich seam of coal. Great Britain mined an ever increasing amount of coal: in 1700, 3 million tons a year (six times the rest of the world combined); in 1800, 11 million tons; in 1830, 22 million tons; in 1845, 44 million tons; and in 1870, more than 100 million tons.2 The existence of such large deposits of coal provided Great Britain's growing industrial base with sufficient fuel to power rapid and widespread expansion. During the 17th century, small scale manufacturers had discovered how to produce coke from coal through the use of special ovens that heated and concentrated the coal. This coke was then used in place of the former wood-derived charcoal to smelt iron ore. This process became more proficient as sophisticated furnace designs appeared and steam blasting made the process more efficient. The growth of the iron industry had other major impacts. It stimulated the mining industry so that sufficient coal could be harvested for the iron smelting process and the production of steam power. It also introduced the production of iron rails to move carts of coal and other materials from the mines to the manufacturing enterprises. Lastly, the growing availability of cheaper, usable iron found utility in the production of steam engines, spinning, and other machines at an ever increasing pace.
Another key aspect of the Great Britain's industrial progress was the impact of the inventors who developed new machines and techniques to solve problems of productivity and save labor. It seems reasonable to conclude that in the 18th century, Great Britain enjoyed a greater degree of technical skill and fascination with machine operations than that found on the continent. One assumption is that the
rigid influence of the guild system and the heavy-handed mercantilism of the other nations of Europe fixed attention on solutions of the past and thus stifled imagination and new thinking. This approach likely explains why, as Great Britain moved into the throes of industrialization, the other countries of Europe did not hasten to copy the British model until much later. Although all scholars do not agree, some have speculated that this somewhat unique characteristic of the British to seek new solutions may have its roots in the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries. It is impossible to understand completely the mind and motivation of the important inventors who forever modified the direction of British technology in 18th and 19th centuries. However, the developments in science probably persuaded some that nature had a rational explanation and potentially could be controlled for productive purposes. Carried a step further, the implication was that beneficial change was possible, and the result was a wider interest in developing and utilizing new technical experiments.
A brief survey of the background of a few of the major inventors dispels any notion that they were merely uneducated tinkerers who plodded by trial and error. While social advancement often remained tied to aristocratic means, Great Britain had moved further than any other nation in Europe to recognize and appreciate talent that opted to pursue other livelihoods to achieve financial success. Manual labor and technical skill were not viewed as negative attributes. Some inventors had a measure of education, particularly backgrounds in the mathematical principles of arithmetic and geometry. Captain Thomas Savery (“Miner's Friend” steam engine) was from a notable Devonshire family; John Kay (flying shuttle) was from a substantial yeoman family; Samuel Crompton's (mule) father worked in agriculture but gained a comfortable living from producing cloth as a second source of income; Edmund Cartwright's (power loom) father was an aristocrat, and he himself graduated from Oxford. Furthermore, the breadth and depth of such knowledge sprinkled itself throughout the realm as the industrializing areas of Lancashire, for example, recruited craftsman from across the country and used their skills to perform tasks required of the new industrial enterprises.
The 18th century also witnessed a new intellectual approach to explain and harness the economic dynamics of the era. The most influential thinker was Adam Smith (1723–1790), who became the notable proponent of laissez-faire economics. His significance is more surprising because of his provincial upbringing. Smith was born in a rural
Scottish village where iron nails rather than minted coins were used for money. He experienced an unhappy childhood. His father died six months before his birth, and at a young age he was kidnapped by gypsies. Only the strong-willed perseverance of his uncle resulted in the reunion of Adam with his family. He grew up to be a near-sighted but inquisitive, brilliant scholar who also had eccentricities such as absentmindedness and having lengthy conversations with himself or falling into trance-like states. In 1759 he published The Theory of Moral Sentiments, a work that explored the motives, self-interest, and impartiality of society. He became a professor at Glasgow University in Scotland and spent two years traveling throughout Europe, where he conversed with David Hume, Voltaire, and Benjamin Franklin. Smith's seminal work was the 1,000 page The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, the year of the outbreak of the American Revolution. Smith attempted to put complicated economic theories into a narrative that the common man could comprehend. This work was so influential that it appeared in Danish, French, German, Italian, and Spanish within just a few years. Smith is often referred to as the world's first economist, although he did not view himself as a revolutionary. He set out to describe his version of how an economy should move from agriculture to mechanization. He proposed three key principles of economics, and in so doing argued against the state-directed mercantilism, the prevailing economic theory of the day. His main focus was the advocacy of free trade. He first attacked the idea of protective tariffs, proposing that if one nation could sell its product to another more cheaply than the latter could produce it, that nation should purchase the product rather than make it.
Smith's second major principle was the labor theory of value. He did not see the soil, gold, or silver as the basis for a nation's wealth but rather the combined labor of agrarian workers, artisans, and merchants as the natural wealth of a country. He viewed the new factory system as one in which each worker performed a specific task in the process of production, an approach that was essential to the development of a thriving economy. Finally, Smith argued that the state should not interfere in economic affairs but rather focus only on its defense, law, and order and infrastructure (roads, canals, etc.). Smith advocated letting the consumer, not the government, determine the price of goods and asserted that institutions were not responsible and did not contribute to more efficient production. His belief in letting the forces of the marketplace dictate the nation's economic tempo came to be referred to as the “invisible hand” theory. He believed the sum of individual economic interests, even those motivated by greed, were compatible with the interests of the nation at large. These ideas may seem somewhat
elementary today but in the late 18th century they were revolutionary, a clear statement opposing the medieval idea of wealth as sinful. His view, known as economic liberalism, meshed neatly with the interests of the growing manufacturing sector of Great Britain by the beginning of the 19th century and in turn was embraced by those same classes that emerged in other nations as the Industrial Revolution spread.3
Capital Investment and Entrepreneurship
Great Britain also had a sufficient supply of capital available to invest in machinery and large industrial facilities needed to house them. Much of the capital for industrial investment was derived from Great Britain's favorable trade balance created by its burgeoning colonial empire in the 17th and 18th centuries and the profits from the domestic sale of agricultural and cottage industry goods. Furthermore, members of the British aristocracy did not have a bias against commercial activities, and many engaged in establishing manufacturing and mining operations. And, while aristocratic bloodlines remained relatively pure, the marriage of wealth and entrepreneurship through investment opportunities provided real stimulus for industrial growth. Great Britain's central bank and the regional banks that had emerged by the 18th century facilitated a flexible credit system that relied on paper instruments to make capital transactions (see Chapter 2). New partnership arrangements, not specifically tied to family, arose to pool capital and establish borrowing terms aimed to keep interest rates low. Banks frequently extended credit for three months for commercial transactions and echoed more modern versions of revolving or open credit accounts and overdraft protection. These factors produced a highly favorable business climate where working capital had a much greater impact than fixed capital.
The impact of these new financial opportunities can be seen in the early transition of British industrial enterprises. In the first part of the 18th century, the craft shop continued to dominate industry at the local level with its organization of master craftsman, journeyman, and apprentice. The artisan had his livelihood inextricably linked to the merchant who supplied him with the necessary raw materials for production and then peddled the completed work often outside of the local area as he had an understanding of the interests of customers in far distant places. Farmers in the off season and women and children with free time on their hands were also a ready-made work force. Merchants saw the cheap labor supply in the countryside as a boon to their financial success. This cottage industry format proved successful in
certain industries. For example, the wool industry remained in this mode for the greater part of the 18th century and grew from producing 6 million pounds in 1700 to 9 million pounds a century later.
However, beginning in the 18th century, a number of entrepreneurs and inventors began to realize that this domestic arrangement was insufficient for the new economic challenges and opportunities. The growing population and demand for consumer goods began to outstretch the production capability of the cottage craft industries. Inventors allied with the early manufacturers who generally were merchants experienced with selling finished goods from Great Britain's thriving cottage industry. Because these men were attuned to the ongoing changes, many realized the possibilities for increased profit inherent in larger manufacturing entities using the machines being constructed by the inventors. For example, between 1769 and 1800, some 110 cotton spinning mills operated in an area known as the Midlands. Of this number, 62 had been established by merchants and entrepreneurs who had made a profit in some aspect of the cottage textile industry.4 The new machines were generally rather easy to construct and, although more costly than previous devices, remained inexpensive enough for substantial investment opportunities. For example, as late as 1792 a typical spinning jenny with 40 spindles cost only 6 pounds and a carding machine only 1 pound per inch of roller width. Mill owners might also save expenses by picking up advertised used items for a cheaper price. The real capital investment was in the buildings for the factories and the growing reliance on new power sources to run the machines. In reality, until the 19th century the large factory was not the common sight in the industrial districts, as most mills were essentially just more sophisticated workshops of the past. The typical cotton textile mill in the late 18th century consisted of less than a dozen workers, one or two spinning jennies or mules, and a carding machine with the power supplied by the men or women working the equipment. But the growing demand soon led to the realization that the emerging large factory environment required a small bureaucracy. The new tasks required to run the operation—purchasing raw materials, supervision of the work force, and the selling of the goods produced—could not remain the purview of one man as in the old cottage industry. Thus, the old family firms broadened their scope and brought in entrepreneurs to earn the potentially large profits. There continued to be a fine line between success and failure, as a bad harvest or economic disruption from war, etc. might spell doom for even the most efficient entrepreneur. However, the constant flow of capital into these new and growing ventures ensured the long-term success of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain.
The British government provided substantial support for the Industrial Revolution both in its overt actions to stimulate growth and also by its willingness to allow the new economic forces to gain momentum with little political interference. The revolutions of the 17th century created in Great Britain a climate of power that rested in the hands of forward-thinking individuals who saw the opportunities inherent in economic change. The more conservative absolutist governments on the continent based their power on tradition and the status quo, whereas in Great Britain the government encouraged economic innovation and change. For example, tough tariff restrictions in the 18th century had banned the importation of cotton cloth from India and therefore supported new industry. In addition, the British government forbade the export of industrial technology, in order to prevent other countries from latching onto and imitating British developments. Parliamentary law facilitated the organization of new companies and enterprises and restricted the ability of workers to form combinations or unions. Local governments also had much more of a free hand in supporting industrial growth in their areas by assisting in the funding of roads and later canals and ultimately railroads.
This infrastructure meant a faster transportation of raw materials and finished goods and ultimately reduced costs. Furthermore, there was little government regulation of manufacturing activities unlike on the continent, where rules dictated the quality, technology, and working conditions of the workshops. Even the nature of British urban life as the industrial revolution began differed significantly from the rest of Europe. Cities on the continent such as Paris and Madrid served as administrative, judicial, and religious centers and were dominated by bureaucrats, military men, shopkeepers, artisans, and domestic workers to support these groups. These political and cultural centers pulled in revenues and rents from the rural areas. The German states were fractured into rural areas dominated by local capitals. Great Britain, on the other hand, had its national seat of power in London, but the overall size of its political structure was smaller than its European counterparts and not all the fruits of economic activity flowed to the center. By the 18th century the older urban centers such as York, Chester, Stafford, etc. were in decline, and already the new industrial entities in the northern and western parts of Great Britain such as Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, etc. had revealed their emerging economic power. In addition, a growing number of industrial villages sprang up connecting the rural areas to the nearby growing industrial centers and ensured a steady and smooth flow of goods and raw materials.
Labor and the Factory System
After 1760, Great Britain experienced a visible shift in the workplace from the artisan's shop and cottage industries to the factory. The dramatic changes in agriculture, rapid increase in population, immigration, rise in consumerism, relaxing of legal restrictions related to the poor, and rapid innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit created conditions favorable for a supply of labor to work in the larger factory enterprises by the time of Richard Arkwright (see Document 4).
The transition had begun in the late 17th century. As an example, some farmers in Yorkshire had combined agriculture with wool cloth production in order to supplement their income. Within the space of just several decades some of these farmers had purchased additional wool and hired others to produce the cloth for them. Within a generation, these families had separated themselves from the others and begun to form their own class, hiring and firing workers as disposable pieces in their enterprises and viewing themselves as socially superior. The primitive model for factory work and organization had begun. By the 1730s this new approach became more commonplace as the population began to grow rapidly. The impact of agricultural changes brought about by the consolidation of land holdings and new efficient techniques reduced the opportunities related to farming. While the overall agrarian population increased during the 18th century, its percentage of the workforce actually declined. Thus, businesses and entrepreneurs turned to hiring wage earners to perform labor for them.
Technology also played a major role in the establishment of the new workforce profile. While the more primitive handcrafts remained viable well into the 19th century, it became increasingly apparent that mechanization served as a magnet to draw workers into the new factory organizations. These workers could be unskilled or require only rudimentary training to operate devices associated with manufacturing. As the process of spinning and weaving in the cotton industry became wedded with the power of steam, factory centers grew rapidly near energy sources or where a large pool of workers was available. The result was a significant demographic change in Great Britain between the late 18th and middle of the 19th centuries. Of the ten largest cities in Great Britain in 1851, six were factory towns, of which only three were of any national importance before 1700. Indeed, two of the factory towns—Birmingham and Leeds—were unincorporated until the 1830s. Manchester, the cotton capital of Great Britain by 1830, grew from a population of 25,000 in 1777 to more than 300,000 in 1851.5 Glasgow and Bradford's population leaped four times in the first half of the 19th century. The important centers of textile
manufacturing and metal working, Birmingham, Leeds, and Sheffield, increased in population by more than 40% in the period 1821 to 1851.6 During this era a majority of British families moved and saw their livelihood shift from a reliance on agriculture to one associated directly or indirectly with industrial activity.
The demographic shift had to overcome some impediments. The 18th century transportation infrastructure had to improve before the mobility of the population could be affected. The road network, although often unsafe due to banditry or kidnapping, was sufficient for foot traffic but often unsuitable for heavy transport. It would take the appearance of improvements such as the macadam roadbed, the canal system, and later the railroads to speed the transformation. Another restraint was the administration of the Poor Law. In the 18th century the law stipulated that if a person left his parish and remained in another for a year he lost his relief privileges in the former and could apply for such in his new domicile. For this reason, many parishes frowned upon accepting newcomers. As a result, business owners in dire need of workers often resorted to hiring laborers for short periods of time. Workers who fell on hard times were forced to return to their original homes in order not to lose their relief subsidies. In addition, it took some time for earlier work practices to adjust to the new economic realities. In certain corporate towns, it had long been illegal to earn a skill without first becoming an apprentice for six or seven years. While this deterrent withered away fairly quickly as the process of industrialization gained pace, employers also faced the difficult task of selecting those persons who seemed capable of quickly learning and adapting to the new form of industry and at the same time prevent them from accepting some better wage offer. The Watt-Boulton enterprise, for example, required men who constructed their steam engines to enter into either a three or five year labor agreement. Other individual factory owners had arrangements that might range from twenty-five years to life. One might assume that where labor arrangements were not specific, there might have been a rash of “labor raiding.” However, other natural forces were at work. If an employer sought to entice a worker from another area, he often found that he might be unable to offer work to other members of the worker's family. Thus, some employers developed creative solutions such as diversifying their operations by starting a textile mill near their iron works to provide women and children employment opportunities or ensuring agricultural work for the men where female and child factory labor was the aim.
Other factors also arose to ensure that the labor supply for the factories grew to meet the need. As the pace of industrialization quickened in the late 18th century, large numbers of unemployed and
unskilled persons who fell under the Poor Law relief provisions were encouraged to move from London and the south to the textile factories in the northern and western portions of Great Britain. As word spread of higher wages being paid in manufacturing and in the face of famines of 1782 to 1784 and 1821 to 1823, large numbers of Irish men and women poured into Britain, a substantial portion taking up occupations in the mining and textile industries. Some of these labor gains were offset by the departure of Englishmen and Scots for overseas locations, although the British government expressly prohibited the emigration of individuals in certain positions in order to prevent the loss of industrial secrets to competitors. These restrictions were lifted by a series of statutes between the years 1815 and 1824, and afterwards British labor could move freely to any country.
Thus, in the first half of the 19th century, Great Britain had accumulated a large body of wage-earners who now toiled in the factories, occasionally peddled their labor by moving from place to place, and found their pay closely tied to the overall economic dynamics at work in the country at large. The details of the 1851 census reveal the depth of the transition for the British working classes. Approximately 4 million persons (43% of the workforce) were engaged in manufacturing and mining industries, while 2.1 million persons (22% of the workforce) were tied to agriculture.7 The cities also supported a large domestic work force and artisans and crafts people continued to have viable trades for a time, but the latter's inability to compete with the cheaply produced factory goods spelled eventual doom. Women and children also sought employment in factories and mines. The former economic system of local markets that operated in a less than perfect manner now had evolved into a national economy where wages in one industry were tied to those in others, to include even farm laborers. This change in the lifework of individuals marked a far cry from the agricultural economy that had dominated Great Britain prior to the 18th century. While it was truly a significant event in the long-term, it did not occur evenly or quickly throughout Great Britain.
The Cotton Stimulus
The cotton textile industry, rather than wool, became the major agent for the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain. The cotton plant is subtropical in its origin. Its light, durable characteristics made it very popular with the British public, a trend that was facilitated by its importation from the Middle East, particularly Egypt, through Great Britain's thriving overseas trade.8 In 1700, British cotton imports totaled about 1 million pounds and wool approximately 40 million
pounds, a difference that remained similar for half a century. Most cotton manufacturing in the first half of the 18th century took place in small workshops and on farms in Lancashire, and by the 1760s cotton increasingly had become the nation's major manufacturing enterprise. The change came about despite laws that lingered on the books and supported the older wool industry. One such provision was the requirement that all burials would use woolen shrouds and restrictions on the importation of competing fabrics such as cotton. Despite these laws, cotton could not be denied its new role and the timing could not have been better. Great Britain found the growing American cotton supply a boon to the increased demand for the fabric as the supply rose significantly, particularly after the invention of the cotton gin, and the price fell markedly. In 1760 Great Britain's raw cotton imports had risen to two and a half million pounds. A generation later that number had increased nearly ten times and by the 1830s had grown to 366 million pounds. Perhaps most significantly, by 1860 the cost of cotton imports was no different that it had been in 1700. In the mid 19th century Great Britain had 1,800 cotton mills generating 53,000 kilowatts of steam power and employing 328,000 workers who produced 1.75 billion yards of cloth.9 One factor that contributed to this phenomenal growth was the fact that the fabric was better suited to the new mechanization processes sweeping Great Britain. Wool fiber is less substantial and consistent than cotton, which has a tough plant fiber and proved more adaptable to the unpredictable and sometimes awkward operations of the early machine devices. Even the adaptation of wool production to machinery could not compete with the speed and quality of cotton production. Finally, cotton found an eager and expanding market, as the taste for this more comfortable and easy to wash and maintain fabric had a revolutionary impact on work and everyday dress. Cotton allowed for the dying of vibrant colors and generated new fashion styles for the upper classes. But more significantly the wearing of cotton undergarments by the common person became commonplace. While production of woolen goods did grow throughout the 18th century, an insatiable appetite for cotton goods arose not only in Great Britain's prime markets but also in temperate climes such as the Mediterranean, the Americas, West Indies, Africa, and Southeast Asia. British cotton exports to the American and West Indies colonies, for example, increased from 10% of its national total at the turn of the 18th century to 37% on the eve of the American Revolution and to nearly 60% by the late 1790s.
In addition to the availability of cotton, technology became another driving factor for the industry. Textile manufacturing took place in four steps: cleaning/combing, spinning, weaving, and
finishing. In 1700, little mechanization was available. One issue was providing the weavers with a sufficient amount of yarn. Necessity and demand drove the new developments. In the span of six decades a number of machines appeared that would undermine the old cottage industry approach and solve the problem of matching production capability with demand. John Kay's flying shuttle (1733) provided weavers with increased speed, and Edmund Cartwright's power loom (1787) replaced the individual weaver at each loom with a number of looms capable of being powered by steam or water; a variety of spinning frames in the 1750s; Hargreaves's spinning jenny in the 1760s, which provided the single spinner the ability to spin multiple threads simultaneously; Richard Arkwright's water frame (1769) and Samuel Crompton's “mule” (1779), a hybrid of the water frame and jenny, combined to facilitate the process through mechanization. These devices, primitive by later models, provided advantages of six to twenty-four to one for a typical spinning jenny and perhaps 200 to one for the frame, a ratio that made the old spinning wheel obsolete. Yet even the most sophisticated eighty-spindle spinning jenny soon became incapable of competing with the steam power-driven mule that could operate 200 to 300 spindles.10 James Watt's steam engine was first applied to cotton manufacture in 1785, and the boom began. The quantity of yarn produced increased 12-fold by 1800 and stimulated enhancements in the weaving process.
Ironically, despite the appearance of steam power driven machinery, the prosperity and wages of spinners and hand-weavers actually rose in the last two decades of the 18th century because of the insatiable demand for cotton goods. The trend to mechanization, however, became a substantial threat and sounded the eventual death knell for this occupation. The power loom was the catalyst. The device operated on par with the hand loom for several decades and had to overcome the problem of breaking threads. Although a solution was found, the disruption of the Napoleonic Wars and the trade restrictions placed on Great Britain delayed its widespread adoption until the 1820s. By that time one young boy operating two power looms could equal the output of 15 hand weavers. A decade later, one man and one boy assistant operating four looms produced twenty times that of the hand weaver. The number of power looms proliferated in Great Britain: 2400 in 1813, 14,000 in 1820, 55,000 in 1829 100,000 in 1833, 250,000 in 1850, and 369,000 by 1857.11 The number of hand weavers naturally declined although not without great resistance. It is estimated that some 250,000 hand weavers remained at work between the years 1810 and 1820, although the number fell dramatically to roughly 3,000 by 1850. Furthermore, the preliminary tasks in cotton textile production,
such as cleaning, carding, and roving, also lent themselves to mechanization and thus added to the speed of the overall process.
That is not to say that the entire transition went smoothly. Lack of uniformity in machines and the frequent early breakdowns in equipment forced restarts and meant that much trial and error had to occur before success could be assured. Once the flaws had been corrected, British cotton production increased and exports soared. In 1800 Great Britain's export ratio to domestic consumption of cotton cloth stood at four to three. By the late 1840s cotton made up about 50% of all British exports. Initially, the continent was the main market for British cotton, taking in one third of Britain's exports, but increasingly Great Britain cast a wider net for its export market. After the 1820s, Latin America purchased one fourth as much cotton from Great Britain as Europe, but that percentage rose to one half by the 1840s. As the British advantage in machine production advanced steadily, it virtually destroyed India and Southeast Asia's hand labor ability to compete and resulted in a 1,500% increase of British cotton exports to those areas in the 1820s and 1830s. For example, in 1813 Great Britain imported more than 2 million pounds of cotton cloth from Calcutta, India, but by 1830 Britain was exporting that same amount to Calcutta. Africa also felt the effect to a lesser degree, and only China resisted the British juggernaut until after the Opium Wars.
The British cotton industry experienced a major transition from 1750 to 1860 because of a number of factors. A growing consumer market placed a new and rising demand for cotton textiles. A thriving inventive spirit solved a number of problems that had created a bottleneck in the spinning and weaving processes. Entrepreneurs seized upon these developments and with few constraints standing in the way pushed for ever greater productivity using water and then steam power. Thus, the older, more primitive small-scale cottage industries could not compete with the new bustling factory enterprises emerging in areas such as Lancashire. By 1857 the once idyllic rural landscape had been transformed by the smoke belching from more than 2,200 cotton mills operating 33.5 million spindles and the growing number of workers herded into factory towns.12 These images became the testimony to the fact that the cotton industry had achieved dominant status and paved the way for the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain.
The 18th century also witnessed a revolution in technology associated with iron production. Although this industry did not challenge the dominance of the cotton industry, the advances in the smelting and
refining processes nonetheless did increase significantly the supply of cheaper and more usable metal for a variety of purposes during the Industrial Revolution. The developments in the chemical process of metallurgy moved steadily to reduce iron in a compound form to a pure form. Carbon and heat are required to achieve this end. Before the 18th century, charcoal derived from wood had been used for smelting iron ore. However, the cost of wood had risen as Great Britain's forests became depleted. Great Britain's seemingly endless abundance of coal had been used for heating since the late Middle Ages, but the coke produced from coal had more impurities than the charcoal produced from wood. In 1709 Abraham Darby succeeded in coke-blasting iron and began a long but steady process that resulted in the production of wrought iron that had the malleable characteristics needed in industry. For six decades after Darby's breakthrough, coke supplies increased as blast furnace design improved and size increased until steam blasting brought the process to new heights. Because blast furnaces produced pig iron, which was too hard to work with, it had to be poured into cast molds to remove the remaining impurities. For decades this process required the heating and reheating of the metal in charcoal fires to get a workable metal, a long and expensive endeavor. Beginning in the 1730s new innovations appeared that ultimately led to Henry Cort's famous “puddling” process in 1784 that saved fuel and ensured faster production and increased the amount of usable iron by nearly 1,500%. Steam power rolled the metal and quickly replaced hammering by hand. As a result, Great Britain's production of pig iron accelerated: 25,000 tons by the 1720s, 125,000 tons by 1740, 250,000 tons by 1804, 581,000 tons by 1825, and 2,700,000 tons by 1852.13 Similar to the developments in the cotton industry, the iron industry had its own fits and starts with small gains at times and significant leaps at others. The dramatic shift of fortunes can be demonstrated in other ways. In the middle of the 18th century, Great Britain imported double the iron it produced, but by the end of the Napoleonic Wars the nation exported five times the amount imported. Britain's exports of iron ore increased twenty times from 57,000 tons in 1814 to more than one million tons in 1852.
The improvement in iron production stimulated developments in other industries such as beer-brewing, pottery making, glazing, printing, commercial baking, but most significantly mining. The growing demand for coal to be used in the smelting process created the need to mine deeper as the surface veins became depleted. The penetration of the water table then led to the problem of flooding of the mine shafts similar to the dilemma faced by the tin, copper, and lead mines in the early 18th century. The first response was the use of horsepower to
raise the water in buckets. In Warwickshire some 500 horses did the labor, but fatigue and costs associated with food and housing the animals were a consideration. Captain Thomas Savery introduced steam power to solve the problem with his device known as the “Miner's Friend” in the late 18th century. His engine was a tireless machine that operated more efficiently than the horses and used a small amount of the bountiful supply of coal being mined. His original patent lasted 14 years. Once it expired, a number of inventors seized the opportunity to improve his original machine as the depletion of surface veins forced mine shafts to go deeper for mineral resources. In 1800 Great Britain used 11 million tons of coal annually. That amount increased two times by 1830, doubled again by 1845, and doubled once more by 1870. The mining industry also employed iron rails to facilitate carts of coal pulled by horses or people and after 1800 by steam powered devices. In addition, iron producers shared knowledge with textile and other industries regarding machine building and steam power. Again, a lag occurred. For example, a dozen years passed from the appearance of Watt's steam engine in the mid-1760s to the construction of more standardized cylinders for the engine.
Great Britain's Transportation Revolution: Canals, Roads, and Railroads
It is difficult to imagine an era before modern transportation moved people and goods unimpeded at a steady pace over long distances. Prior to the late 18th century, only the royal court, aristocrats, soldiers, sailors, political adventurers, missionaries, and merchants traveled freely. A sedentary society had a local orientation and for the most part was held in check by physical impediments. Great Britain experienced three important transportation developments in the first century of the Industrial Revolution: canal construction, improvements in road-building, and the appearance of the railroad.
The first leap in transportation came in the form of artificial waterways or canals. In 1692 the French constructed the first modern canal, the Canal du Midi, connecting the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Originally built as part of Louis XIV's grand military strategy, it soon led to further canal building and boosted commerce. The implications of the French canals did not escape the British. During the middle of the 18th century, the Duke of Bridgewater traveled to France and Italy, where canal construction had also begun. His experience led him to encourage the introduction of canals into Lancashire in order to move coal quickly from mines to the growing industrial town of Manchester. The result
was the Bridgewater Canal, which opened in 1761. The effort required river improvements. The duke's dedicated approach ensured that a marriage of public and private efforts succeeded in the canal's construction. Parliamentary legislation specified the routes, and private companies purchased the land. The first canals were a product of an economy of engineering, lined in clay to create a watertight seal, and could only support very narrow boats. Unlike later versions, the first canals generally followed the contours of the landscape to avoid tunneling wherever possible. Brick and masonry aqueducts were constructed to cross rivers.
The men who designed and built the canals were truly remarkable and inspired the development of modern engineering technology in Great Britain. For example, the Duke of Bridgewater hired James Brindley, a millwright, for three shillings a day to build a canal. Brindley employed navies (a term referring to navigators or men who used shovels and wheelbarrows to excavate earth). He was noted for his tough, tenacious work ethic and possessed few social graces. Brindley was articulate enough, however, to convince Parliament of the worthiness of his projects. This initial effort resulted in a canal eighteen feet wide, four and a half feet deep, and 10 miles long, which sliced in half the expense of transporting coal to Manchester. The cost of the canal is unknown, but its profits financed the duke's next venture—a canal linking the port city of Liverpool with Manchester. Brindley constructed the canal along a valley to keep it level and then gently let it slope down using a series of 10 locks. The canal is estimated to have cost about 225,000 pounds, but it also cut in half the cost of freight charges between Liverpool and Manchester. The economics were simple. Eight horses formerly were needed to haul a wagon weighing six and a half tons, whereas a single horse walking along a towpath could move with little effort a loaded barge weighing almost thirty tons.14 Adam Smith observed the success of the canal system and urged its expansion. Josiah Wedgewood believed that Smith was correct, and he as well joined the canal building craze. Previously Wedgewood had employed pack horses to bring in raw materials to his potteries and to transport the fragile finished product.
The canal provided a cheaper and more reliable mode of transportation. In less than a decade, between the years 1764 and 1772, private enterprises pooled capital and financed the construction of canals linking Great Britain's major rivers. In 1790 alone nearly three million pounds was spent on canals. By the 1830s the investment had swelled to twenty million pounds. In 1800 some forty-two canals consisting of 1400 miles of waterways crisscrossed Great Britain. The result was a boost in employment opportunities for the working classes. Josiah Wedgewood's potteries, for example, flourished with the construction of the canals and increased his work force from 7,000 in 1760 to more
than 21,000 in 1786. As canal building increased, older canals were enhanced through tunneling and improved embanking to straighten the routes. By 1858 Great Britain had constructed 4250 miles of canals. Napoleon's campaigns forced the British to pour resources into military channels and resulted in an interruption of canal building. At the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars, railroad construction was set to commence, a sign that the canal age was ending.15
Road building also garnered additional interest in the late 18th century. However, this endeavor had to overcome significant obstacles. Overland transportation was extremely difficult, as road arteries had improved only slightly over Roman times. Much of the year roads were streams of mud and frequently impassable for wheeled traffic. The resources for road building and improvement differed from the canals. The effort was initially sporadic and uneven because local areas had the responsibility for construction and upkeep. In the first half of the 18th century, Parliament passed an average of eight turnpike acts a year. However, the growing demand placed on transportation infrastructure to keep pace with the nation's economic growth soon led to further road developments. These efforts were boosted with the creation of turnpike trusts that were joint enterprises of landowners and entrepreneurs who could pool their capital for infrastructure improvements. The initial efforts were small but steady and gained momentum with the efforts of several men who changed the actual complexion of the roadbeds. The Scotsman Thomas Telford (see Biographies) developed a heavy foundation roadbed using seven inches of crushed stone over a sublayer of soft soil and covering it with a two-inch layer of gravel. As wheeled vehicles traveled over the road they solidified the base layer so that the road became even more viable over time. His most important road project was the 300-mile thoroughfare linking London and Holyhead, Wales, which lessened the travel time between the two cities by 32% from 41 to 28 days.
However, Telford's approach proved more expensive than some turnpike trusts could afford. Thus, the next major enhancement in Great Britain's roads occurred with the work of another Scotsman, John L. McAdam, whose approach was simpler and less expensive than Telford's heavy foundation. McAdam, working in conjunction with his three sons, devised a method to ensure that the subsoil drained readily so that the surface would remain dry and firm and thus eliminate the need for Telford's deep foundation. He placed a thin layer of fine gravel over a carefully surveyed and well-drained foundation. The elastic surface became tightly packed as vehicles passed over it and did not deteriorate or have potholes or ruts appear as quickly as the Telford model. It is estimated that by the early 1820s several thousand miles of roads had been constructed according to the macadam method. The
improved road standards in the 18th and 19th centuries reduced travel time significantly. In 1745 the trip from London to Edinburgh took almost two weeks. Fifty years later that same journey had been reduced to less than three days. By 1830 it had been trimmed almost in half again. The journey from London to Bristol, formerly two days by coach, was only 19 hours by the 1780s. In 1756 only one stagecoach a day made the journey from London to Brighton. By 1811 that number had increased to eleven. And, in 1820, 1500 stagecoaches departed London daily pointed in all directions in the country. The replication of these “macadamized” roads eventually became the goal of all European nations and the United States.16
Safety in travel also improved, and more frequent and comfortable inn accommodations sprang up along Great Britain's growing road network. More people were on the move and doing so more frequently. However, the cost of transporting people and goods overland by roads remained an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. Mule trains continued to be the principal means for moving cargo and were a common sight in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The real revolution came with the appearance of the railroads.
Although the railroads were a 19th-century innovation, in some respects they were not new. The Romans had used grooves or ruts in their roads to fit a common wheelbase, and the Chinese had employed a similar technique in the 3rd century BC. By the 16th century the mining industry in Great Britain and areas on the continent such as Transylvania had developed wooden tramways over which trucks pulled by horses would haul ore. Wood quickly rotted. By the 18th century iron rails, some covering distance up to ten miles, had appeared at several mining areas in Great Britain. By the early 19th century Richard Trevithick (see Biographies) had developed a device or locomotive powered by steam to carry passengers or cargo at a pace of five miles per hour. Several independent efforts began to appear simultaneously, but it took the work of George Stephenson (see Biographies) to bring the railroad into the forefront of British transportation. Stephenson's improvements included strengthening the tracks, adopting the latest developments in steam power for his locomotive, and establishing a standard gauge for the tracks. After his successful Stockton to Darlington run in 1825 and win over the competition in 1829 for the rights to the Liverpool to Manchester railway line (see Document 2), passenger and freight service began on a regular basis, marking the onset of the railroad age in Great Britain.17 Mainline construction began immediately in the 1830s. By 1847 a quarter of a million navies were employed in railroad construction, and more than 2400 miles of railway were in operation carrying 30 million passengers at a dizzying pace of 60 miles per hour
across the country. That mileage had climbed to 6,800 miles in 1851. The railroads required constant attention to ensure that proper signaling devices and safety regulations kept pace with more efficient and powerful locomotives. Professional organizations for mechanical and civil engineers appeared, and constant training in maintenance and railroad operations became essential for all employees. This model was adopted later by other transportation industries such as automobile and airplane manufacturing. The appetite for railroad expansion was insatiable. The railways not only moved people but also reduced transport time for goods, thereby lowering transport costs and thus stimulating investment. Other benefits arose from the railway age. Postal service received a real stimulus. In addition, reduced travel time compressed the nation and changed the concept of time and turned people's attention from being exclusively local to an understanding and appreciation for larger national concerns. As more and more railway lines crisscrossed the nation, the old concept of local time evaporated. The development of strict timetables and regularly scheduled service by the railroads led to successful lobbying of Parliament to abolish local times and establish a national concept of time in 1845. In 1851 a large percentage of the nearly 6 million people who visited the Great Exhibition traveled to the event by rail. Queen Victoria first traveled by train in June 1841 and was a frequent passenger on the railroad. It not only provided a fast and efficient means to travel but also provided additional opportunities for the royal family to be seen by the British people. Between the years 1861 and 1868 mileage increased more than 80% and passenger traffic moved 180%.18 The railway age also resulted in more people taking excursions and the concept of the vacation, heretofore an impossible thought in the lives of ordinary folk, became a reality for millions. The first holiday package offered by a railroad occurred in 1841. The initial fear of railway travel soon became a thing of the past. Statistics for the years 1870 to 1873 indicate that 397 million journeys were taken in Great Britain. The total number of railway accidents from all causes in that period was 59, with an annual fatality rate of 35 or one death per every 11 million trips.19 Henry Booth perhaps captured the spirit of this dramatic change best: “What was slow is now quick; what was distant is now near; and this change in our ideas pervades society at large.”20
The Price of Industrialization
The Industrial Revolution had a dramatic impact on the life of Great Britain. Although evidence of industrialization had appeared on a wide scale, it should be remembered that Great Britain was still
basically a rural country in 1800. Agriculture dominated the economic life of the nation, and the fastest thing one could observe was a galloping horse, which at best could cover 30 to 100 miles a day. London was a faraway place for most of the British people, and even the concept of time was irregular as people relied on when the sun rose and set in their particular locality to judge the progress of the day. Yet, if one had been born in the early 1800s, that world had disappeared almost entirely by the end of the century. The country manners of Jane Austen's novels in the early 19th century had given way to the harsh urban realities of Charles Dickens characters in the mid-19th century and finally the wild notion of time travel in the work of H. G. Wells by the end of the century.
The forces that had begun to churn in the late 18th century—agricultural reform, population increase, and the emergence of machines powered by steam—set the stage for rapid industrialization. In 1801 British population stood at 9 million, increased to 21 million in 1851, and stood at 37 million at the turn of the 20th century. The age of the city and the factory had arrived. In the late 18th century a typical textile mill might be valued at three to four thousand pounds, while a basic hand loom might cost twenty-five pounds. In 1788 the first recorded multi-story factory enterprise had a value of 13,000 pounds and its steam engine alone cost 1,500. Operations related to mining and metallurgy had even higher values. In order to operate on this grand scale, partnerships formed to accumulate greater sums of capital and bargain for new credit arrangements to facilitate investment. These larger entities required a new organization to ensure the highest degree of productivity. In many respects, however, the pace of industrialization progressed slowly and unevenly. The typical cotton mill in 1850 had 50 workers, most of whom did not operate machinery, although some enterprises boasted 1,000 or more employees.21 Thus, much manufacturing remained on a small scale, and family firms financed through personal loans outnumbered large partnerships that drew upon the resources of banks and financial institutions. This mixed nature of industrialization should not lead one to surmise that the impact of the new economy was neither dramatic nor far-reaching. Indeed, by the middle of the 19th century, Great Britain had more than lived up to its moniker as “the workshop of the world.”
Almost from its inception, the factory or mill required a new work ethic from its employees. Life on the farm had been a family and community endeavor. However, the hum of activity in the factory demanded a discipline and behavior that operated at a tempo and speed not previously experienced by the ordinary working man. In the initial stages, this regimentation was foreign to individuals who were
used to the more irregular and leisurely pace on the farm. Even those workers who engaged in cottage industry pursuits of weaving and spinning in their domiciles could perform their tasks on a surge basis and then have time off. The machines operated by the workers, however, were expensive and could not remain inactive. Factory owners had to dictate a strict system of time-work in which employees labored in shifts for set hours and performed a specified number of tasks in a repetitive manner to obtain maximum output from the machines. Some owners sought shortcuts by hiring orphans from London and other cities and bringing them to the northern textile mills with the promise of wages, food, and housing. Women and children appeared in greater numbers in the factories, not a new phenomenon as they had worked on the farm, but their presence held down overall factory wages at times. The old practice of St. Monday when no work was done gave way to a week in which work of twelve to sixteen hours a day stopped at either midday or the end of the day on Saturday. Over time this distinct break between work and leisure time would change the nature and style of activities pursued by the working classes. By the later 19th century some of these new interests became spectator sports, such as cricket and football, and music hall entertainment. The comfort of the former rural, close-knit community no longer existed. Even the church could not fill the vacuum. Church attendance declined rapidly as evidenced by the 1851 Census Sunday Report that only 50% of the population attended a church service. The Anglican Church with its ritual and formalism suffered the most from the changing social dynamics in Great Britain. Methodism, on the other hand, took heartily to the new spirit of the age that the Lord watched over those persons who take care of themselves. Methodism's emphasis on honest, hard work and self-discipline meshed neatly with the mores of the era.
Mature workers faced a litany of fines and punishments if they did not perform according to the factory owner's standards. These shortcomings might include tardiness or slovenly behavior such as drunkenness, an extremely serious infraction that employers viewed as having a negative influence on the work force. Adults might be given a reduction in pay or outright dismissal. Children, often prized by factory owners because they could be easily disciplined for the arduous work, often received beatings to enforce the rules. At times the conditions under which the labor force toiled played havoc with the workers. The many physical dangers inherent in the early factories might include working in mills with temperatures of more than 80 degrees, inhaling dust from the textile fibers, and injury or death from fastmoving, unsafe machinery. The mines might have cave-ins, explosions,
or poisonous fumes. Furthermore, working in mines with damp crawl spaces of only three or four feet in height resulted in twisted bodies and lung disease. Although not attractive places to work, the necessity for the booming population to find work drove many workers into the mines, factories, and mills. Pauper apprentices, orphans in the community under the control of local parishes, were another source of workers. The parishes often put the children to work in the local factory for low wages and little food. Until child labor reform appeared later in the 19th century, these unfortunate children were easy prey for profit-driven factory owners who possessed no moral pangs about abusing these children. However, as long as the population growth remained steady, there were always new workers to replace those whose productivity fell short of expectations. By the second and third generations of the factory system, the majority of British workers had accepted the new regimentation of factory life, a development that helped to sustain British industrial growth throughout the 19th century.
The larger impact of the early period of industrialization has fueled much debate. The standard of living did drop for many rural workers, and many rural women lost their jobs as spinning moved to the factories. As stated earlier, the hand weavers suffered a dramatic decline in wages and numbers throughout the first half of the 19th century. Factory and mining wages remained more stable for unskilled workers, and those persons with skills associated with constructing or maintaining machines fared even better. The annual average wages for a man working in a factory rose from roughly 25 pounds in 1750 to 44 pounds in 1860. Yet, in comparison to productivity of the workers, wages remained low for several decades and allowed the factory owners to invest in new equipment and often times expand operations. But workers had no safety net to catch them if times turned difficult. Employers made no provisions for workers who became ill or too elderly to perform their duties. Few options existed to affect change. In the past, workers always could turn back to the land, but that option no longer existed. In the early years, as will be discussed later, workers did conduct mostly unsuccessful heated verbal protests against reduction in pay or increases in the price of food at company commissaries. At times such acts became more violent.
Life in the Industrial City
In 1800 London was the only British city with a population of a million residents, and a half a dozen other cities had populations of between 50,000 and 100,000 persons. By 1830, London's population
had more than doubled and was nine times larger than other British urban areas. Nine additional cities had more than 100,000 residents, and 18 other cities had populations of 50,000 to 100,000. These twenty-seven cities accounted for nearly 6 million, or one fifth, of the population of Great Britain. When urban areas of under 50,000 are included, the census of 1851 indicated that approximately half of Great Britain's population resided in cities and towns, the first time any society in history had a ratio where urban population had achieved parity with that of rural. In 1830 approximately 14% of British people lived in cities of 50,000 or larger. That percentage had increased three times by 1900. The reasons for this growth of cities have already been discussed. What is noteworthy is the impact that such a transition had on the lives of people living in the cities. Certainly, the cities and towns offered a chance for employment and wage earning that was more often than not better than that in the countryside. However, there was a bleak side to the opportunity. In the 1820s a person living in a British urban area with a population of 100,000 had a life expectancy of 35 years. Ten years later that number had declined to 29. Some areas had more dire statistics. In 1851 a boy born in Liverpool would generally live to be 26, but his counterpart in nearby rural areas might live more than twice as long. Twenty percent of all children born in a city in 1820 would lose a parent before the age of 15. During the majority of the 19th century, the very nature of urbanity not only played havoc with life expectancy but also made the existence of those years extremely difficult. Crammed living arrangements, pollution, unsanitary conditions, high incidence of disease, and little effort by political authorities to seek solutions meant that until the late 19th century death rates in the larger cities rivaled those of the period of the Black Death. Indeed, Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert, died of typhoid fever in December 1861. Finally, while still a teenager, Princess Victoria made a trip into North Wales and witnessed the stark contrast between her life and that of her subjects. From the security of her carriage, she peered into the blackness of the sky and on the faces of her future subjects who toiled in the growing number of factories that poured flame and smoke into the countryside.22
By the late 19th century London was a megalopolis. The city consisted of 7,000 miles of streets. A birth occurred every four minutes, and London newspapers recorded an average of 300 births and deaths a day. The rate of consumption of food and drink staggered the mind. It was estimated that the population of Britain's capital consumed 200 million quarts of beer, 50 million quarts of wine, and 10 million quarts of rum annually.23 It is little wonder than some Londoners mourned the encroachment of modernity in the city. As one account stated, “The
suburbs of the metropolis… are fast losing, with their fields and woods, the old and distinctive flavor. Kensington (the site of the Great Exhibition of 1851) has long since been built over…what was country a year ago is now an integral part of the city, and the old manor house, with its glory unimpaired has suddenly become an anachronism.”24
In the beginning of the 19th century most cities had governing entities dominated by elites and little sense of civic pride or responsibility existed. City-dwellers often refused to pay taxes to these bodies, and even after parliamentary statutes appeared in 1835 to reform local municipalities, little change occurred, a situation satirized by writers such as Charles Dickens and magazines such as Punch.25 The intolerable situation in the cities began to improve slowly after the expansion of the electorate with the passage of the second Reform Act of 1867. The result was a political pact that developed between the workers and the industrialists to address the cleanliness and efficiency of the cities through public taxation and spending. With a more enlightened political mood, the voices of reformers such as Edwin Chadwick (see Biographies) and the words of Victorian novelists helped to popularize reform efforts.
One event that prodded British political leaders to action was London's “Great Stink” of 1858. Great Britain had experienced its first major outbreak of cholera in 1831, a ravage that took its toll regardless of financial status. More members of the wealthy classes in London began to adopt the use of water closets rather than the privies or cess pits that the poorer classes relied upon. The storm drains intended to carry rain water into the Thames River ended up also transporting raw sewage to the river. Thus, the drinking water taken from the Thames had high contamination levels, and people of both a high and low social status fell sick and many died. In 1858 the smell emanating from the polluted Thames River was so revolting that the curtains of the House of Commons were soaked in chlorine in order to prevent its members from fainting. It is little wonder that Parliament rushed a bill through in less than three weeks to build a brand new sewer system for London.26
Despite the reaction to the “Great Stink” of 1858, urban reform was sporadic for the next two decades. Rather than opening new terrain to better housing arrangements, the working class areas became more densely crowded with no adequate thoroughfares and dark, dirty, and foul alleyways. For example, in the 1840s at least 25% of London's residents lived in open yards and another 10% lived in cellars. In 1847 a four-room house in London had fifty people from eight families living together, with an additional eleven lodgers sleeping in the basement. In 1854, officials in Newcastle-upon-Tyne discovered that at
least 50% of its families lived in single room dwellings that often oozed liquid filth through the walls and left individuals breathing noxious fumes through their few windows. The American writer Herman Melville, who visited Liverpool in 1839, was horrified to observe the endless poverty of the working classes who howled a sickening wail and were represented by rigid figures on the streets that left him wondering whether they were dead or alive.27
It became increasingly apparent that these dreadful working class living areas bred not only disease but also challenges to moral order. The lack of planning for housing and streets led not only to problems such as poor ventilation but also to the inability of police forces to stem criminal behavior and prostitution. Indeed, it has been pointed out that in the 1860s the city of Liverpool had 9,000 prostitutes, and of these nearly a quarter were not yet 15 years of age. Great Britain was deemed the prostitution capital of the Western world because the enclosure movement and attraction of factory work had lured many women from rural areas. The stigma of divorce and the growing idea of the “cult of domesticity,” which placed middle- and upper-class wives on a pedestal, led to men frequenting brothels and bringing home venereal disease to their wives.
The Example of Manchester
Located in Lancashire, Manchester is a prime model of how the new industrial city attempted to cope with the conditions for its working classes. By 1830, Lancashire boasted 550 cotton textile factories employing more than 100,000 workers, of which a third were children, some as young as six years old. Children's wages were nearly nonexistent, at times only one tenth that of adult workers. In the employers' minds it made sense to hire as many young people as possible in order to have a larger return on their investment. Unscrupulous factory and mine owners placed harsh and dangerous demands on these young workers, such as crawling underneath unsafe equipment to loosen cotton that might impede operation of the equipment.
For the most part, Manchester workers lived near the factory or mine in the inner city, whereas the owners and other wealthy citizens might dwell in the suburbs in a more posh lifestyle. Workers homes were often built by the factory owner but normally they were small, of poor construction, and crammed with as many persons as possible. The houses were damp, and rainwater and moisture seeped through the thin walls. The only escape from these conditions might be in the basements of buildings, but even these cellars became residences for subtenants as the population grew. Mold was everywhere and
contributed to the ill health of inhabitants. Privacy was nonexistent. People worked in shifts and shared beds. It was not unusual for a dozen persons to sleep in one room. Fresh water was not readily available. Perhaps up to 100 people might share the same privy or toilet, often a large, deep hole dug in the courtyard or a “midden” or heap against the wall. In one district of the city more than 7,000 persons shared 33 privies.28 Conditions were appalling at every turn. Streets became sewers and open drains and were often littered with animal and vegetable wastes, and the stench of such conditions was unbearable.
Manchester's working classes often had a difficult time surviving. As late as 1889 a report based on interviews with working men stated that 40% of this group had irregular employment and that more than 60% could be described as very poor or having wages below the subsistence level. A main problem was the large number of workers who performed casual and seasonal labor. The majority of workers in these categories were warehousemen, general laborers, and transport men. Manchester also had a high percentage of immigrant labor. By the mid-19th century at least 15% of the city's population was Irish, with some of the poorer sections having nearly half. Italians also migrated to Manchester. One area of the city was known as “Little Italy.” The residents there formed the largest portion of the city's casual work force—street vendors, construction workers, and domestic servants—laboring long hours in good times but being the first laid off when economic conditions deteriorated.
Besides the hygiene problems found in the workers living areas, other poor health conditions existed in the early history of industrial Manchester. The workers burnt coal to stay warm, and the smoke from these domestic fires combined with the belching smoke from factory chimneys to create a stagnant air mass, which in turn resulted in acid rain. A plethora of respiratory illnesses often swept over the city—bronchitis, asthma, and pneumonia. The elimination of sewage did not make great strides until later in the 19th century. The communal cesspits and ash pits often overflowed and ran freely during rainy periods. City regulations required that these pits be emptied and the contents carted away, but the task was so overwhelming that it was infrequently accomplished. There were numerous accounts of middens overflowing into the basements where people resided, and little effort was made to resolve the problem. Even after the turn of the 20th century, Manchester had only about one third of its privies as water closets, and those that existed prior to that date ran directly into the river system used to obtain drinking water, often resulting in summer outbreaks of cholera (many decades after London's “Great Stink”). Contemporary observers
noted that the height and weight of middle-class family members was visibly greater than the scrawny and thinner bodies of the working class. While not necessarily the norm, as late as the 1870s the life expectancy of some working men might be as little as 17 years. These same observers lamented that such less than desirable living conditions ultimately led many poor people to seek outlets such as crime, prostitution, drunkenness, and sexual misconduct.
Manchester officials did not totally ignore these obvious ills that plagued the city. More hospitals opened their doors after 1850 and approaches, such as isolation, attempted to eliminate the more serious infectious diseases such as small pox and scarlet fever that had particularly ravaged the working classes. In the 1850s, Manchester initiated a sanitary commission devoted to public health and sanitary reform. A dedicated effort was made to educate the populace through the publication of pamphlets (although many of the poor people were illiterate) and the delivery of public lectures. Progress was slow, particularly in the city areas where the poor formed the heart of the population. Between the 1850s and the 1890s, more reservoir water became the norm for drinking purposes and the incidence of cholera and typhoid declined precipitously, although people often had to wait in long lines at street standpipes to obtain fresh water. Tuberculosis and other respiratory ailments continued to be a serious health problem into the 20th century, as no adequate air filtration systems appeared in the factories until much later. A high infant mortality rate persisted, and the chief cause of death in young children was diarrhea caused by the slow transition to better sanitation facilities and poor diet. The initial sewer systems appeared in the late 1860s, when the city's first appointed medical officer closed most of the cellar residences and established public bath houses. In addition, new housing standards appeared that mandated a certain number of windows for ventilation and attempted to create litter-free backyards and alleys. The city provided funds to overhaul 500 poor dwellings a year between the years 1885 and 1900, and that number grew to 2000 annually afterwards. By 1900 Manchester, long considered the black spot of British urban and industrial life, finally began to shed that negative label.29
The Rise of the Industrial Middle Class
The growth of industrial capitalism in the 19th century created a new group within the middle class. Of course, the middle class had existed since the growth of towns during the Middle Ages and originally consisted of townsmen who were craftsmen and artisans engaged
in mercantile activity or held a professional position such as a lawyer or scholar. The designation evolved to include a wider variety of individuals who participated in commercial activities, banking, medicine, and government. By the late 18th century the new industrial entrepreneurs were those who actually built the factories and mills, controlled the mines, bought the new machine technology, and determined the scope of markets. These men displayed traits such as forward-thinking, determination, ambition, sense of purpose, and naturally a certain lust for money. In the initial phase of the Industrial Revolution, the tasks were not well delineated and the industrialists tended to have a hand in every aspect of their operations—raising money, building factories, supervising labor, and training managers. Nonetheless, this growing class of industrial capitalists did not engage directly in labor themselves, and their workers, unknown to them, by name became mere cogs in the operation. The ancient relationship of master to worker disappeared, as making money became the overarching goal. Because competition was fierce, these men tended to be hard-nosed and ruthless in order to expand their interests. At times, success was only marginal, and the difference between making a profit and going bankrupt was not significant. Most industrial firms remained relatively small until the 1840s, with only about 10% employing more than 5,000 workers and less than half fewer than 100 workers.
The industrial entrepreneurs emerged from a wide variety of social backgrounds. Of course many had mercantile origins, but there was also a marriage of land and industrial interests. Sheep farmers might earn enough capital to establish working looms on their estates. Other prominent aristocratic families began mining operations, constructed mills, supported canal building efforts, developed ports, and often leased properties for building purposes. Rarely did all sons survive until adulthood, and thus the transition of large numbers of landed families into these new industrial enterprises was small but steady and influential. In addition, religious minority groups such as the Quakers and others that were prohibited by law from entering public office, channeled their energies into enterprises such as banking, mining, brewing, etc. Finally, there were numerous examples of persons with pluck who saw the new opportunities, saved money from agriculture and domestic spinning, and set out to establish their own larger scale businesses. This intercourse between landed interests and industrial enterprise was distinctly a British characteristic attendant with few barriers. The noted British traveler, Arthur Young (see Document 13), observed while traveling in France in the late 18th century that such contact and exchange between economic interests was virtually nonexistent, whereas in Great Britain representatives of the
nobility and bourgeoisie frequently dined together formally in order to transact business.
For nearly a century the rise of these industrial entrepreneurs sustained the dramatic economic growth in Great Britain. By the 1830s and 1840s, the roles of these men shifted as a business aristocracy began to emerge as sons inherited their fathers' mills and mines and moved into larger banking and commercial enterprises. As they accumulated great wealth, these capitalists slowly gained a measure of political control of local and municipal governments and as a result had an increasing influence on local and regional policy. While the aristocratic land-owning classes still dominated the government at the national level, these men began to exert pressure for local social and political reform, which eventually resulted in the passage of new poor law legislation, suffrage extension, and the establishment of free trade. These wealthy industrialists set the stage for the emergence of large-scale corporate capitalism by the end of the 19th century.
The Politics of Industrialization
The Industrial Revolution changed the nature of politics in Great Britain. Even though the number of workers in British factories and mines remained less than half the work force through the early 1850s, it had become increasingly apparent that the working class was simultaneously responsible for new sources of both wealth and poverty. The famous French aristocratic traveler, Alexis de Tocqueville, visited Manchester in the 1830s and observed that the filth and hard labor of the workers produced riches as valuable as gold yet they were brutalized in the process. The increasing numbers of persons in the working classes and the difficult working and living conditions that they faced eventually forced the political leaders in Great Britain to embrace reform. The movement for reform took decades to reach fruition, and along the way British authorities faced brief moments of strife and confrontation. However, unlike the frequent bloody clashes that occurred on the continent, Great Britain weathered the potential storm and gradually adopted political and social change that averted revolution.
In the early 19th century Adam Smith's emphasis on laissez-faire economics had taken root in the growing industrial and business community of Great Britain. These men opposed any government interference in their economic endeavors such as the establishment of working conditions, hours, and wages. In addition, they supported free trade and the elimination of tariff barriers which impeded their conduct of business. In reality the British government supported this
approach in most areas by passing little reform legislation and only permitting the existence of relatively few monopolies. In addition, the appearance of Thomas Malthus's Essay on the Principles of Population, published in 1798, had raised the specter of a rapidly expanding population that would outstrip the ability of a nation to feed itself and that the natural consequences of war, famine, poverty, and murder would ultimately restore equilibrium. Therefore, no reform should be proposed as that approach would upset the cycle, an idea that allowed the wealthy industrial classes to justify ignoring pleas for reform.
Malthus's work appeared at the end of the French Revolution. The specter of the unruly French working classes convinced the British government to enact a series of laws known as the Combination Acts in 1799 and 1800 to prohibit the formation of workers' associations. These measures did not prevent workers from organizing local trade unions similar to the craft guild organizations of earlier times. Thus, cotton spinners, weavers, miners, etc. had their own bodies aimed to protect their respective livelihoods and restrict entry to their trades. On a few occasions workers even resorted to strikes to achieve their limited objectives. For example, in 1810 cotton spinners in Manchester went on strike, and their trade union association paid out 1,500 pounds a week for strike money.30 The British government responded by repealing the Combination Acts in the 1820s but passed additional laws that allowed supervision of their activities. By the 1830s, some trade unions began to appeal for the creation of national organizations. This movement gained momentum and received an endorsement from Robert Owen, a noted cotton magnate and advocate of social reform, who believed cooperation was the key approach. Under his auspices, a national trade union organization emerged calling for a general strike to support an eight-hour workday. Widespread worker support for such a bold endeavor did not materialize, and although several other efforts to organize more strident action occurred, real reform remained years in the future.
Despite the failure of the early trade union movement, the lower classes did not remain entirely silent. One example was reaction to the Corn Law. During the wars with Napoleon and the War of 1812, the importation of cheap European corn virtually ended, and the price of British home grown corn soared. The result was a hefty profit for British farmers and landlords. Once the conflicts ended in 1815, Parliament passed the Corn Law to place a tariff on imported grain at a rate high enough not to undersell domestic grain. To be sure, many of the parliamentary seats were in the hands of the landlords and farmers who did not want to see their profits evaporate in the face of cheaper grain. Riots broke out immediately. In London, some members of
Parliament were roughed up by an angry crowd. In Sheffield, protesters marched through the streets with bread dipped in blood skewered on the tops of poles.
As the industrial workplace shifted from the home to the textile mill, cottage weavers became the first industrial saboteurs. The domestic textile worker was independent and self-sufficient, and the arrival of the factory system placed this livelihood in peril. Once it became apparent that one boy operating two steam looms could produce the three and a half pieces of cloth to a single piece by a man operating a hand loom, the resentment could not be contained. Often workers saw the factory owners living in an opulent style that was built on their backs. The Luddite movement got its name from the perhaps mythical Ned Ludd who in 1799 allegedly smashed a machine. During the Napoleonic Wars, stocking weavers began to feel the pain of the transition to machine-made stockings. The British government turned to purchasing the lesser quality but cheaper machine-made stockings, and the stocking weavers could not compete with the new market reality. In 1811, after a poor harvest pushed the price of bread to unbearable levels, the stocking weavers banded together in a secret society with the goal to destroy machines. The British government issued statutes to make the offense of machine breaking punishable by death. These laws did not deter the stocking weavers, who raced north and began to smash power looms and burn down mills. In one week during November 1813 the movement destroyed 90 stocking frames in Nottinghamshire. Although the local populace remained mute about the culprits, the British government nonetheless nabbed, tried, and hung 13 Luddites. Government troops remained in the area, and the Luddite movement died away.31
In addition to the Luddite movement, the most significant confrontation took place in Manchester in 1819. For several years radical members of the press had argued for a reform that would transform Great Britain along the political path of the new American republic. One of the most popular voices was William Cobbett, editor of the Political Register, a periodical that had a circulation of 50,000 in 1816. Cobbett's appeals for reform resulted in his imprisonment on several occasions and a brief self-imposed exile to Long Island, New York. The discontent over the Corn Law resulted in a flash-point in August 1819 when a crowd of 30,000 marched to St. Peter's Field in Manchester carrying banners protesting the Corn Law and advocating equal representation in Parliament. A leading reformer, Orator Hunt, addressed the
throng and called for increased voting privileges and parliamentary reform. The size of the crowd worried the city leaders and factory owners and the militia was summoned. As the mounted troops approached the crowd to arrest Hunt, the people blocked their progress. Suddenly a bugle blared and the troops rode forward with sabers flailing. Within the space of 15 minutes, 11 people were dead and more than 400 lay injured. The event was soon described as the “Peterloo Massacre,” a pun directly aimed at the British victory over Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. Members of the royal family who supported the repression at Waterloo found themselves booed and pelted with stones and eggs when they appeared in public in London.
The Peterloo Massacre became a watershed moment for reform, although the next major step was over a decade away. Indeed, some observers believed that a bloody confrontation between rich and poor was a potential calamity that could happen at a moment's notice. Two British monarchs died in the space of ten years, the long-ruling but insane monarch George III in 1820 and the extravagant and immoral George IV in 1830. He was succeeded by the liberal-thinking, middle-aged William IV. Parliament at this time was dominated by the aristocratic landlords and a small number of industrialists and merchants who were not paid for their political duties and could only run for office if they owned property valued at 300 pounds. Two political parties dominated Parliament: the majority conservatives or Tories who wanted to protect their own economic interests, and the minority Whigs who viewed reform as essential to keep British society stable. The Whigs proposed a reform of the British boroughs and an extension of voting privileges to bring about more equal representation. An intense political debate ensued. The Tory majority stopped the measure, and rioting occurred in several British cities. In Bristol, the town hall and bishop's residence were burned and prisoners were freed by the mobs. The king dissolved Parliament, and the Whigs worked to gain additional support. In 1832 the Great Reform Bill passed after the king announced his support. The measure reformed local governments, stripped away certain patronage positions, and extended voting rights to additional members of the middle class. Roughly one in seven British males could now vote, although workers, women, and paupers remained ineligible to cast ballots. Other reforms followed in the 1830s as religious discrimination virtually disappeared. However, the improvement in the status of the working classes had to wait another decade.32
The status of the growing working class became a major focus of reform by the 1840s. In 1844 the German Friedrich Engels visited his father's cotton export office in Manchester. He observed the glitz
associated with the progress of industrialization in Great Britain—the impressive railway station, the fine homes of the factory owners, and the opulent opera house. He also witnessed the gloom of the working classes—dirty laborers, dark and flimsy houses, squalor and filth, disease, and crowding and stench and soot everywhere. Troubled by what he had seen, Engels published his famous work, The Conditions of the Working Class in England, a book that exposed not only for the British but also for Europeans in general the undesirable results of industrialization in Great Britain. Consequently, many citizens appealed to the government to improve the plight of the workers. Reformers published additional reports of the destitute state of many of the factory workers and their families. However, suggested remedies such as the elimination of cesspools, better drainage, and a pure drinking water system found little support in government circles.
In the 1830s the British government revised the parameters of the Poor Law. As stated previously, the Poor Law had been originally administered by the church parishes with small sums of money tied to the cost of bread paid to poor families. The revenues came from property taxes levied on local landowners. In many respects, landowners and factory owners kept wages low because they realized that the church would make up the difference. However, as the price of bread rose substantially in the first three decades of the 19th century, the taxpayers successfully pressured Parliament to pass a new law in 1834. This statute required the establishment of workhouses to house and feed the poor in return for labor service. The workhouses were very austere and uncomfortable in order to discourage laziness. Common vices such as alcohol and tobacco were forbidden, and males and females had separate domiciles. The Poor Law of 1834 was very unpopular with the lower classes but played into the prejudices of the upper and middle classes who viewed the poor as morally weak and believed harsh conditions would motivate the poor to improve their situation. As living and working conditions worsened for the working class and as the number of abandoned and orphaned children increased, the workhouse at times became the only available alternative to the ugliness of the slums.
By the late 1830s, new calls for reform came not only from liberal political and social thinkers but also from writers such as Charles Dickens. Dickens himself was engaging, generous, and humorous. He had a boundless energy, not only writing novels but also editing newspapers and magazines; penning, producing, and performing in plays; and traveling extensively. His characters reflected the realities of British industrial society in both their positive and negative aspects. Dickens' novels captured the face of the poor, destitute, hopeless, and exploited
lower classes and orphans. It is likely that no other single person influenced the middle and upper classes to stare more directly at the dark underside of British society than Charles Dickens. A number of members of Parliament read his works, and as a result many were moved to acknowledge the harsh realities of British industrial society and take political action on behalf of the lower classes.
In reality, the progress for reform had its roots in the early 19th century. A series of parliamentary inquiries and reports of civic-minded private citizens had convinced Parliament to enact measures to place restrictions on child labor in the factories. Children under nine were not permitted to work, and older children could labor only twelve hours a day. In addition, all children were to receive a rudimentary education during working hours. While these measures seemed enlightened for the time, their real impact was limited. They applied only to cotton mills, not to mining enterprises where some of the worst conditions for children existed. In addition, Parliament did not dictate any specific reporting or inspection system that would enforce compliance with the laws. In the wake of the Reform Bill of 1832 new laws appeared. The Factory Act of 1833 (see Document 15), Ten Hours Act of 1847, and Factory Act of 1850 provided for additional protections for children, incorporated women into its provisions, and appointed inspectors who had the authority to levy fines on violators. These measures established the length of the workday first at twelve hours a day, then the work week at sixty hours, and began the weekend at 2 P.M. By the middle of the 19th century the standard of living for the lower classes was visibly higher than a century earlier. Industry provided more frequent work, the prices of goods had declined, real wages had continued to rise, and productivity per worker was twice that of 1800.33
One of the most visible efforts for reform came from the Chartist Movement, the first major political ground swell of the working classes in the 19th century. As Parliament had begun the reform of factory working conditions, some reformers believed it was time to extend political rights to the lower classes. The term chartist derives from the 1838 document known as the People's Charter. The London Working Men's Association prepared the charter that included six demands: (1) the right of all men to vote, or universal suffrage; (2) annual elections and sessions for Parliament; (3) revision of electoral districts; (4) elimination of property qualification for voting; (5) payment for those elected to Parliament so that all classes might run for office; (6) adoption of the secret ballot. In reality the charter was a national petition with millions of signatures presented on two occasions to Parliament in 1839 and 1842. The reluctance of Parliament to act on the charter led organizers to call for a general strike, but it had little impact.
Parliament, fearful of the consequences of the provisions, rejected the charter. While the Chartist Movement did not achieve its goals in the short term, it did educate the working people, provided a sense of class cohesion, and laid the groundwork for the ultimate adoption of its provisions in subsequent reform bills in 1867 and 1884.
The impact of the reforms of the 1830s, the Chartist Movement, and the factory and working hour limitation acts of the 1840s began early in the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), at the time when Great Britain enjoyed its era of greatest power and prosperity. She and her consort, Prince Albert, urged a new spirit of reform and public responsibility on the part of their subjects. Good works as well as healthy profits became their focus. Their popularity and the ongoing movement for change merged to create an atmosphere favorable for further reform. By the early 1840s the mining industry sought accommodation with its workers and improved working conditions. No longer did these enterprises send women and children underground into dark, damp and cramped mine shafts. In addition, reformers such as Edwin Chadwick (see Biographies) published disturbing reports related to public health and sanitation, and the result became the formation of a Board of Health. Another significant development was the repeal of the Corn Law. Manufacturers who argued for free trade saw the repeal of the tariff on grain as a means to feed the workers more cheaply and eliminate cost-of-living wage increases. Aristocratic landlords wanted to keep the tariff to maintain high profits on domestic grain. In the middle of the 1840s, economic forces beyond the control of Parliament forced the change. The Irish potato blight pushed a tidal wave of immigration into Great Britain. Furthermore, a banking crisis and recession on the continent stirred revolutionary activity. Members of Parliament, fearful that the unrest might spread to British working classes, ultimately decided to repeal the Corn Law in 1846, thus bringing together Adam Smith's vision of free trade and Queen Victoria's interest in good works.
The Great Exhibition of 1851
No single event represents Great Britain's supremacy as an industrial nation more than the Great Exhibition of 1851. Prince Albert and a group of prominent businessmen convinced skeptical members of the government of the worthiness of the project, one that would highlight the industrial and technical developments of all participating nations. The effort to create a venue for the exhibition was immense. Joseph Paxton, the chief architect, had to prove that his modern and different design for the exhibition building would be substantial
enough for the ambitious venture. It consisted of 2,300 cast iron girders, 3,300 pillars, and more than 900,000 feet of glass and resulted in a structure in Kensington Park that covered more than 19 acres or approximately three times the length of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. It took several thousand workers nine months to construct the edifice, with a skeletal framework of more than 202 miles to hold it together, its roof arching majestically over the trees of Hyde Park. Critics complained that it resembled an oversized greenhouse. In the end, the Great Exhibition, also dubbed the Crystal Palace Exhibition, was a huge financial success. The nearly 17,000 contributors set up more than 100,000 exhibits. Half of the exhibits came from Great Britain or its colonies. Many of the displays showed current British industrial expertise, although futuristic items such as an early submarine and a steam powered brewery attracted much attention. Charlotte Bronte, the British poet, upon observing the exhibition wrote, “Whatever human industry has created, you will find there.”34 Six million visitors, approximately one-third of the population of Great Britain, arrived mostly by train to visit the exhibition during its 141-day showcase. The Queen herself visited the Crystal Palace on thirty occasions. The Great Exhibition served as a breath-taking, visible testimony to the ideal of progress and the genius of literally hundreds of inventors and entrepreneurs. The Great Exhibition netted a profit of 750,000 pounds from its ticket sales and concessions, an amount that provided enough money to purchase land in Kensington for additional museums. Following the conclusion of the Great Exhibition, the Crystal Palace was dismantled and moved to South London where it became a popular venue for a number of events until it burned down in 1936.35
By the mid-19th century, Great Britain sat alone atop the industrialized world. In the short span of one century the nation had transformed itself from a rural agrarian and cottage industry society to a modern urban and manufacturing giant. A unique set of circumstances set Great Britain on this course. Geography, sufficient resources, capital, and manpower contributed to this development. In addition, Great Britain also possessed a more liberal political establishment that supported industrial growth. That is not to say that Great Britain did not experience significant stress in making the transition. Massive demographic shifts, rapid urbanization, and its attendant ills of health and sanitation vexed the nation for a number of decades. However, over time the nation marshaled resources to solve the political, economic, and
social problems inherent in industrialization that might have led to disruption or even revolution. In addition, enterprising and imaginative entrepreneurs and inventors combined forces to create new enterprises capable of achieving levels of wealth and prosperity never before experienced in the Western world. The nation produced two-thirds of the world's coal and half of its cotton and iron. Britain's per capita income was markedly higher than that of any of its neighbors. British products saturated world markets and virtually smothered the competition. Although every Western nation wanted to imitate Britain's success, it seemed inconceivable that Britain's role as an industrial goliath could be matched. As the afterglow of the successful Great Exhibition of 1851 waned, however, Great Britain found its role as the industrial pace-setter challenged in the late 19th century by the United States and the countries of Western Europe. These nations at first embraced Great Britain's basic practices and then developed their own innovative approaches to become rival industrialized societies.
1. B. Stalcup, ed., The Industrial Revolution (San Diego, CA: Green-haven Press, 2002), 29–34; Stearns, The Industrial Revolution in World History, 34–39. These two works provide an excellent summary of the multi-causal aspect of Great Britain's rapid rise as an industrial nation.
2. Landes, The Unbound Prometheus, 97.
3. C. Bland, The Mechanical Age: The Industrial Revolution in England (New York: Facts on File, 1995), 4–8.
4. Landes, The Unbound Prometheus, 66.
8. R. A. Buchanan, The Power of the Machine: The Impact of Technology from 1700 to the Present (London: Penguin, 1992), 93.
9. Pulse of Enterprise, 73.
10. Buchanan, The Power of the Machine, 94; Landes, The Unbound Prometheus, 80, 84–85.
11. Landes, The Unbound Prometheus, 86; Scientific American, Vol. 12, No. 36 (May 16, 1857), 286.
12. Scientific American, Vol 12, No. 36 (May 16, 1857), 286.
13. Landes, The Unbound Prometheus, 96.
14. Buchanan, The Power of the Machine, 123–126.
15. Deane, The First Industrial Revolution, 79–80; Bland, Mechanical Age, 41–43.
16. Deane, The First Industrial Revolution, 75.
17. Williams, History of Inventions, 175–177; Deane, The First Industrial Revolution, 74–75.
19. Manufacturer and Builder, Vol. 8, No. 7 (July 1876), 166.
20. As quoted in Williams, History of Inventions, 177; http://www.pbs.org/empires/victoria/history
22. Pulse of Enterprise, 65; http://www.pbs.org/empires/victoria/empire/ experts.html
23. Manufacturer and Builder, Vol. 22, No. 3 (March 1890), 66.
24. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 67, No. 398 (July 1883), 165.
25. http://www.punch.co.uk/historyofpunch.html. The first edition was published in 1841 with the aim of being a more sophisticated journal than other acerbic British publications of the era. In the early days its celebrated cartoons became classic visual statements and provided biting commentary on social ills brought about by industrialization and at times an unsympathetic political establishment. Punch always struggled with circulation and was bought and sold on several occasions, closing briefly in the 1990s and then finally in 2002.
26. http://www.bbc.uk/history/trail/victorian_britain/social_conditions/ victorian_urban-plan.shtml
27. Pulse of Enterprise, 70.
28. Ibid., 64.
30. Pulse of Enterprise, 61.
31. Ibid., 54–57.
32. Bland, Mechanical Age, 56–60.
33. Deane, The First Industrial Revolution, 266–267, 270, 287–288.
34. As quoted in http://www.pbs.org/empires/victoria/history
35. Bland, Mechanical Age, 111–112; http://www.victoriastation.com/palace.html