Britain was the first western country to undergo an industrial revolution. T.S. Ashton who first coined the phrase of the industrial revolution claimed that it started in 1760 and finished in 1830 Economic Advance by 1750:
By 1750 Britain had a social and economic situation that was conducive to an industrial revolution occurring. Relatively small land mass, with navigable rivers had the potential for transport development and for integration in the economy During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries England’s economic situation had been improved by the growth in agriculture in particular Relative political stability in Britain held them in good stead against other European countries that had religious problems Technology helped in terms of transport and production in agricultural economies (fodder crops etc) The introduction of the steam engine was also pivotal in the growth of industrial industry A ‘consumer revolution’ from the upper classes filtered down to the middle and lower classes None of these economic changes were critical enough to create an industrial revolution but without this new, solid economic platform that they had by 1750, British industrialisation would have taken much longer than it did. Economic Growth after 1750:
The century following 1750 is named as the birth period of industrial Britain The invention of machines, such as the spinning jenny.
The use of steam and the creation of the steam engine
The adoption of the factory system and production lines
The growth of the industrial economy was coupled with a significant increase in population in Britain In 1700 the population of England was measured at 5.5million people, this figure increased dramatically in size in the following two hundred years to be at 32.5million in 1900 The increase in population coupled up with a change from agricultural industry to a more factory based methods of production and influx of people into the cities. Wrigley and Schofield’s work on population change have been the orthodox views upon this matter Industrial cities experienced the most rapid increase in population It is debated whether increased birth rates, or improvements in hygiene such as the invention of the smallpox vaccine led to the increase in population Immigration cannot be held responsible for the increase in population The Cambridge Group summarised that it was the increase in birth rates that was mainly accountable for the rise in population (Wrigley and Schofield agreed with this) Michael Flinn criticises the methods that W+S used to make their summaries and claimed that their use of ‘back projection’ wasn’t reliable Wrigley argues that the increase in population in regional areas increased the size of local economies, whilst Emma Griffin counters this argument suggesting that the rural economies could not handle such rapid increases in the size of the labour supply and as such mass exodus to cities occurred. As people flocked to the cities urbanisation occurred, whilst beneficial to the country, the pollution caused was harmful to the environment. Also over population occurred meaning levels of hygiene and crime in the country both went the wrong way Furthermore whilst the national income level increased in the country the actual average wage of a person fell as the labour supply increased. (Schofield) As the population increased in the country the level of demand in the market increased, meaning the multiplier effect took place Schofield claimed that population change led to an increase of 29% in the demand for manufactured goods in the period 1801-1851 It can be suggested that whilst initially it is clear that the rising level of population did increase the pool of labour supply in the country, and as such the economy benefitted. Such benefits included; higher national wage, less unemployment, higher level of demand and more incentives for businesses to enter the market. However mass...
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