To what extent by 1830 had economic developments made Britain into an industrial nation?
By 1830, Britain had undergone essential and irreversible structural changes in the economy and industry. Its urban labour force was also considerably altered and had grown tremendously in the previous 50 years to the expense of agricultural labour. However not all the characteristics of an industrial nation were present by 1830 and a lot was still to be done.
One of the features of an industrial nation is a large rate of economic growth, 2% p.a., which was achieved by Britain well before 1830. Industrial production expands at a higher and more sustained rate in an industrial economy than in a pre-industrial economy whose characteristics are low productivity and low output per head. Britains industrial output in the 18th century increased 4 times! The output increase was biggest in the four following areas: cotton, coal, Iron and Wool. Cotton increased 57 times, Coal 6 times, Iron furnaces in the South of Wales and Yorkshire expanded and became more productive, even wool production increased rapidly. However, the output increase was not as extreme for the other areas in industry and cotton, iron and engineering only accounted for 1/4 of manufacturing output.
The fact as to whether factories are a distinction of an industrial nation is widely deliberated. It is true that it was in the areas where factories were most common, that the most rapid growth was found; however, even in the 1880s workshops were very popular and it was mainly the textiles that moved into factories in the 1830s. By 1835 304,000 people were working in cotton factories and even those factories were small: only 3% of 973 factories employed more than 1000 men. In other areas production increased without any change in the kind of work done, this might suggest that factories are not essential in an industrial nation. There were a lot of working masters in Britain at that time, 3240 in West riding employing from one family, very popular in the 18th century to 1000 in the 1830s or even more in the case of Thomas Kay who employed up to 3000.
A change in labour patterns is undoubtedly crucial in making a pre-industrial society into an industrial one. Like the presence of factories, the destruction of craft skill is widely thought of to be a crucial characteristic of an industrial nation however during the whole of the18th and 19th century as many skills were created as destroyed and skilled labour wages remained high and prevented the substitution of skills by mass production and unskilled or semi - skilled labour. Britain in 1830 had not made one of the more important changes in labour patterns, it remained unorganised and the workforce found itself moving constantly, as very few jobs were permanent. What was needed and didnt happen until the late 19th century was a "blurring of distinction between skills and an attack on restrictive artisan practices "which would have developed a mass market. However, a crucial change was made by 1830 in labour, work discipline, essential in making an industry as productive as possible was reformed whereby owners forced their employees to be punctual and sober which marked the end of pre-industrial culture.
A characteristic that an industrial nation cannot lack is an absence of poverty. An industrial nation has greater wealth and a higher living standard; people spend less money on food and more on manufactured goods. This is what happened in Britain in the 18th century. Eversley suggests that 3m people in 18th century Britain were drawn above the income line of £50 per annum which separates substance from comfort. Britain witnessed the domino effect, a term used to describe a situation when one change enables a whole series of changes, and here it means that because of the increase in the quantity and quality of food, the farmers income increased which in turn stimulated the manufactured good production as the farmers had more money to spend on non-essential commodities.
A direct result of the change in labour (from agricultural to industry) was urbanisation which is therefore an indispensable characteristic of an industrial nation. Urbanisation is crucial in that it emphasises the change from self-sufficiency, a characteristic of a pre-industrial society to market dependence, a characteristic of an industrial society. In Britain in 1800, 24% of the population lived in towns and in 1880 80% lived in towns which shows that the process was only partially completed in 1830. The raise in incomes in middle class families is also due to urbanisation as Rule suggests: "The expansion of middle incomes purchasing powers owes a great deal to Englands unique rate of urban growth".
Most of the changes that enabled Britain to transform into an industrial nation required capital and people investing in them hence entrepreneurs are a vital characteristic of an industrial society. However not only entrepreneurs invested in projects, the wealthy and even middle class families invested in industry, trade and transport. Domestic investment as proportion of GNP in 1821 was 3 times higher than the 1700 level and between 1760 and 1800 share of capital investment in industry, trade and transport increased from 5% to 26%. Entrepreneurs invested in new machinery thus causing a domino effect.
A good transport network is a key characteristic of an industrial nation. By 1830 it has started to develop but has yet to fell the impact of railways. However it should not be forgotten that there were a lot of turnpike trusts which privatised the ownership of roads, over 40 acts per year between 1750 and 1772 which considerably improved roads if they were in the hands of concerned trustees who employed men such as Metcalf, McAdam or Telford. Canals were also very popular and largely invested in. There were 51 acts between 1791 and 1796 which is enormous considering their costs. To handle all the investment and generally the movement of money there had to be a developed banking system. By 1830, many changes had occurred. There were 70 private London banks by 1800 and country banks numbered 900 by 1815. New systems of banking such as payment by cheque, bills of exchange or cost book system were introduced between 1750 and 1830 as well as bill brokers and corporate banks outside London.
Although there were many characteristics of industrialisation present by 1830 not all the regions witnessed the same degrees of change. In Kent and Sussex the Weald industry declined and in Gloucester and Wiltshire the textile industry suffered. By 1830 most of the traits were there and "the country was on the path towards full industrialisation and urbanisation and for many the means of wealth creation were revolutionised".
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