How the industrial Revolution did.. and did not.. change the English. 41
Recently the words industrial Revolution have come in for a great deal of abuse. It is true that the tempo of industrial life was already changing long before 1760 which is the conventional date given for the beginning of this revolution but the fact is that between 1760 and 1790 there were two worlds, the old and the new. One could argue that the English Industrial Revolution of 1760 - 1820 is one of the great watersheds in the history of mankind. It set free (liberated) the body as the Reformation two centuries before had liberated the mind (spirit). Indeed, saying that, they were intimately connected. The new world which emerged during this period, was the product of technicological change and it was certain of success. It was not gradual change, it could not be, compared with the centuries which had gone before, the changes in industry, agriculture and social life of the second half of the 18th century were both violent and revolutionary.
The religious revolution made possible a revolution in education, not just in scope but in quality, the mew education brought about the first scientific revolution and it was the impact of scientific rationalism on society which brought about the political and constitutional revolution of the 1640. From this moment in time we can date the agricultural revolution of the late 17th century. The consequent flow of easy money made possible and secured the stability of credit.. the rapid development of world trade and most important, the emergence of a sophisticated consumer market at home, all of those factors combined to produce a revolutionary combination of capital and technology in the mass production of goods by powered machines' It can be argued that this transformation, taking place at the same time as the administrative revolution in central government, in turn projected the social revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries. So that by the 1780s, when all the economic indices took a sudden and sharp upward turn, England's situation was unique. The agrarian revolution or English agriculture did not finance the industrial revolution as some historians argue.. but it did something more important it enabled the new growing industrial proletariat to keep alive, for if home supplies had failed.. there was indeed, no alternative source.
Thus the steady growth in population was due to a marked, if small decline in the death rate.. almost certainly due to improved mid-wifry.. pioneered in the great Edinburgh school at medicine and the foundation of lying - in hospitals and orphanages. This growth of population had a tonic effect on the the British economy. It increased the home market, provided more labour filled (populated) the growing, man eating towns. But perhaps the most important stimulant of them all, was the survival of more children of the middle and lower middle class parents. for with some education, a little capital, occasionally, an influencial relative, the expanding world offered them endless opportunities of possibly climbing the social scale, The early industrial capitalists.. Watt, Wedgewood, Arkwright, Fielden, Peel, Wilkinson and many more all came from the lower middle class. Without that class with sufficient education and technical background the Industrial Revolution would have been impossible.
The most revolutionary developments were in technology, in transport, and in methods of organization. In textiles, Arkwright's water frame (1769) Hargreave's spinning jenny (1770) and Crompton's mule (1779) revolutionized the production of yarn and consequently brought to the weaver an age of prosperity which was to last for quarter of a century. The Darby from Coalbrookdale, followed by Cranages, by Smeaton and by Cort solved the problem of smelting iron with coal, successfully. New iron machinery brought greater control over material and led to finer and more accurate work.. the greatest of the iron Masters, John Wilkinson believed that iron would replace wood and stone, in every way. He produced railway lines for the mines in (1767) built the first iron bridge in the world over the river Severn (1779) built an iron Chapel for the Wesleyans, saw the fist iron boat afloat (1787) and finally he was buried, very suitably in an iron coffin. But John Wilkinson had iron interests in Nates, and Creusot.. tin mines in Cornwall, coal mines in the Midlands and he owned his own Canal. He also collaborated with James Watt in the production of the steam engine And so the first phase of the Industrial Revolution came to an end.. and human kind was no longer dependent on the natural sources of power.
What effect had that on the people? Profound and revolutionary changes in the economic life of the country must obviously disturb its whole social structure, it bred a new attitude of mind to the old problems of society e.g. poverty, crime, disorder and waste and of course a critical attitude to the ancient and inefficient constitutional machinery (government) which had so little relation to the needs of society. But more important, there was a growing insistence .. that human virtue could be measured only by its immediate social value, an attitude of mind, moral, which could justify both reform and repression. This new moral outlook did not effect in any way the aristocracy. Their power, political social and economic was some what enhanced by it and the political empires they were beginning to rule ( Cavendishes, Russells, Bentinicks, Manners.. held natural positions of authority in the government) . This fact helped in some measure to keep the country steady.
For decades rural society was able to keep out any attempted invasion of industrial capitalists into their privileged world of political power. But the towns .. growing fast were an easier target to aim for. Industrialists, capitalists were supported by the vigorous citizens workers, with whom they often had identical interests, very often there were no class barriers between them, especially in that first phase. The lack of any kind of
local government and local administration in the new and quickly over-populated towns and cities became unbearable, even to a people who loathed the hint of any restraint on their liberty. The government had no intention of touching local privilege, and where ancient corporations existed, they refused to give up the immense privileges and profits which they enjoyed at the expense of their lesser fellow citizens.
But a body of enterprising citizens between (1761 and 1765) taught for and got Private Acts of Parliaments by which they were allowed to levy a house rate (tax) in return for providing paving and lighting. They had the right to take to court any local anarchist who refused to pay..
The children of the poor had always worked, but now their work was especially valuable to factory owners, for repetitive operations they were ideal and they were cheap.. they had none of the ingrained hatred of factory work that the adults had. So the factories and the mines absorbed them; and child labour was more deliberately exploited during this place as never before. And of course it became more visible.
Certainly it was a hard world for children.. poor children, but for their parents it is less easy to generalize. Probably their standard of living was higher in the towns than before, and they were healthier. Some inventions like Hargreaves Jenny, could be used in domestic industry, a large class of semi-independent capitalists, minute capitalists, men employing one or two workmen in the back shed.. were created. In every industry and craft the domestic system vigorously survived. The worst conditions, long hours, irregular payment of wages, truck, gross exploitation of female and child labour were to be found, in small-scale and domestic industry.
For the profit margins were smaller but more essential, if the owner was to struggle up the ladder of success.
For the poor who worked in the great factories life was bitter and hard, discipline..
The Industrial revolution caught the English between faith and reason The laws of God were seriously eroded, no-one in the beginning even thought of applying them to the practical business of running industrial society. On the other hand the idea that man was in sole command of his destiny and must himself write the rules had not emerged, so that the approach was half-scientific and half obscurantist.. it failed to differenciate natural forces which were irresistable and social forces which were controllable or which could be reversed. And here we come to the tragedy of the Industrial Revolution in England - a tragedy which is still with us. The economists took over. and they forgot Bacon's assertion.. that the object of analysing nature was to learn how to control it. They confined themselves to elucidating the law and allowing it to enforce itself on people who were intimidated by it. The Industrial revolution was pragmatic and it developed in an intellectual climate of blind theory. A few men who were very close to it, physically tried to intellectualise it, e.g. Robert Owen, in his "observations on the effects of the manufacturing System". Forecast that the revolution will produce the Most lamentable and permanent evils unless its tendency is counter-acted by legislative interference and intervention." He was completely ignored. Those who were heard were not men of action e.g., Malthus was a clergy man, who knew nothing of the life in factories, except as observer. Like Malthus they tried to solve the countries problems, in the quiet of their studies, or in their heads They helped to set up new strict laws of wages and theories of value. The language they used appealed to the intellectual elite (not practical industrialists) Those who did not agree were denounced as obscurantists and enemies of progress.
Very little scientific enquiry took place, and that was concerned with trade and finance, with credit and the money supply, with paper money (currency) and the and the bullion problem.. such matters were analysed and debated constantly in Parliament. In a curious way the factory system revolution had grown and developed outside of the financial system: for the most part it (the Industrial Revolution) was local or self-financed. It produced dramatic consequences for the trading and financial community, which was closely linked to Parliament and administration. It was those consequences which were analysed.. the basic industrial causes were ignored. So that throughout the industrial revolution, the English: saw themselves as a "trading" and not an "industrial" nation..and they still do. English snobbery played a great part and a destructive role throughout this period. The machine men were not welcome in "society", to be so they must pass through the transfiguring process of acquiring property.. a landed estate.
And - because many of them did, the industrialists never became an assertive, self-protective and influential class. They escaped into respectability, peerages and political power that went with them. Money was the sole materialistic incentive of industrial pioneering.. all others, social position, political influence, public esteem, intellectual approval were non-industrial.. were infact anti-industrial. The Industrial Revolution emerged from the unplanned activities of small men and it remained decentralised, composed of tiny or medium sized firms, often highly specialised; there was no public or private pressure to produce an integrated national, or even regional, structure. Those factors still effect us to-day.
J. K. Galbraith claimed that in fact during the late 1950's and the 60's actually succeeded in solving that problem (the affluent society.. Cons: Macmillan's government) But.. Galbraith wrote.. "To have failed to solve the problem of producing goods would have been to continue man in his oldest and most previous misfortune. ..BUT.. to fail to see that we have solved it and to fail to proceed to the next task would be as tragic". The next task he held/to be investment in men. As we saw last week I think that I am of the opinion the England did not solve her social or economic problems precisely because the most successful.. important people went into Politics.. Law.. the Church.. and that at a crucial period in England's economic history .. when an appropriate economic, industrial decision had to be made England made a political one because that was what she was best at.