Reaction Versus Progress 1815-1848
Chapter XI Sections 52-57 pp. 453-499
Two revolutions took place between 1785 and 1815. The first was political, in Europe: organization of
government, taxation, individual rights, and class power. The other was economic, almost entirely in England:
techniques of manufacture, formation of capital, and distribution of products. After 1815, the effect of each
revolution deeply affected life in all of Europe. Conservatism and “reaction” had won out on the Continent,
but industrialization was to enlarge the business and wage-earning classes and make it harder for monarchs
and aristocrats to monopolize public power.
Industrialism grew up within capitalism, with control of capital through private ownership, and most capital
owned/controlled by the few. In West Europe, property was considered the basis of personal independence and political
liberty; commercial capital came from trade and agricultural production of previous generations. In the rest of the world,
productive capital was owned by the public and controlled by the state. Where capital and western traditions are lacking, the
state has typically dominated innovation, planning, decision making, and control.
Europe, for a time, would be “overwhelmingly more powerful than other parts of the world, leading to a world-wide
European ascendancy in the form of imperialism....by the twentieth century, it provoked a retaliation, in which
other countries tried hastily to industrialize in self-protection, or to improve the condition of their peoples,
desperately hoping to catch up with the West while loudly denouncing it as imperialistic and capitalistic.”
52. The Industrial Revolution in Britain
A. Introduction: The term Industrial Revolution refers to the shift from hand tools to power machinery,
beginning in Great Britain between 1780 and 1830. People are conservative, and the shift required a
“certain mobility of people and wealth. Such mobility may be produced by state planning, as the
industrialization of the Soviet Union in recent times. In England a high degree of social mobility existed
in the eighteenth century because of a long historical development.”
B. The Agricultural Revolution in Britain
l. From 1688 to 1832 the British government was in the hands of the squirearchy, landowners residing
on their estates who, seeking to increase their money incomes, began experimenting with improved
techniques: the use of animal fertilizer and scientific crop rotation; scientific breeding; growth of new
crops, such as turnips (“Turnip” Townshend); and use of new implements, such as the drill seeder
(Jethro Toll) and horse-hoe.
2. A major barrier was the old village system of open fields, common lands, and semi -collective
methods of cultivation--by farmers bound by custom. Parliament passed “Enclosure Acts” by which
the old common lands and unfenced fields were enclosed. Small farmers now could not make a living
from their own plots, and land ownership became concentrated in the hands o f a relatively small class
of wealthy landlords, with land rented out to a small class of substantial farmers. As a result,
productivity of land and labor was increased. Labor was released for other pursuits --with country
people working as hired hands or as cottage workers under the domestic system. This labor force was
thus dependent on daily wages, was mobile, and was available to move to the new cities.
C. Industrialism in Britain: Incentives and Inventions
l. Britain, and only Britain, had the essential preconditions:
a. Colonial empire, world markets, huge mercantile marine
b. Markets were available for woolen cloth, and the possibilities in cotton cloth were enormous,
if ways of producing more could be developed.
c. Capital was available and mobile due to the rise of banking, credit, and stock companies
2. These conditions induced a series of successful textile developments: the flying shuttle to improve
loom efficiency; a spinning jenny, which was a mechanized spinning wheel, and power-driven
looms and spinners. The key to the use of cotton was the cotton gin, then technology for making
better quality thread.
3. Meanwhile, the steam engine had been developed
a. Wood shortage of early 1700’s brought a charcoal shortage for making iron; smelters turned to
coal, but mines had water problems.
(1) Thomas Newcomen developed an inefficient steam engine in 1702 to pump out the mines
(2) James Watt produced a much more efficient model in 1769; precision engines were
being produced by 1800, leading to the development of transportation systems.
C. Some Social Consequences of Industrialism in Britain
1. Between 1750 and 1850 the population of Britain tripled from 10 to 30 million, mostly in the new
industrial cities of the midlands and the north (coal/iron centers)
2. The population was also urbanized--with 31 cities over 50,000
*3. Manchester expanded from a market town organized as a manor to a city of 450,000 people, but it was
unable to incorporate to deal with the urban problems such as crime, water purity, sewers, garbage.
Such new cities in general were drab, sooty, dark; homes were poorly built and closely packed.
Family life disintegrated in the slums.
*4. Mills required unskilled labor, with low status and pay--largely by women and children.
Conditions were poor, hours long, work repetitious and regimented.
5. Workers were “a mass of recently assembled humanity without traditions or common ties.
Each bargained individually with his employer, who was a small businessman, facing a
ferocious competition with others...held his ‘wages bill’ to the lowest possible figure....”
6. “The factory owners, the new ‘cotton lords,’ were the first industrial capitalists. They were often self-
made men, who owed their position to their own intelligence, persistence, and foresight. They lived
in comfort without ostentation or luxury, saving from each year’s income to build up their factories
and their machines. Hard-working themselves, they thought that landed gentlemen were usually
idlers and that the poor tended to be lazy. They were usually honest...; they would make money by
any means the law allowed.... Most of them disapproved of public regulation of their business,
though a few.... would have accepted some regulation that fell on all competitors equally. A cotton
magnate, the elder Robert Peel, in 1802 pushed the first Factory Act through Parliament. [This act
never provided for factory inspectors, a “continental bureaucracy,” and so was ignored.]
D. Classical Economics: “Laissez Faire”
1. The attitude of industrialists was strengthened by the new science of “political economy” begun by
Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations--a work which had attacked government interference in favor of
the natural working out of the laws of production and exchange. Smith was followed by the
Manchester School of classical economics which worked out the theory of laissez faire capitalism:
a. Free market works according to natural laws --as the law of supply and demand and the law
of diminishing returns.
b. Each individual must be free to follow his own enlightened self-interest.
c. Government should do little besides securing life and property through reasonable laws and
reliable courts to assure private contracts, debts, and obligations.
d. Education and charity should be left to private initiative.
2. David Ricardo: The working man must expect only a bare minimum living. The operation of an “iron
law of wages” shows that a worker receiving more than a subsistence wage breeds more children, who
eat up the excess and reduce the working class again to subsistence
3. Thomas Malthus: The growth of population proceeds geometrically while food production increases more slowly; the
surplus population--those who cannot find work--must starve to keep the population in check.
4. Were things really worse after the Industrial Revolution? (Read page 463)
53. The Advent of the “Isms”
A. Introduction: Between 1815 and 1848 appeared a variety of “isms”. Often the ideas were not new; many
originated in the Enlightenment or even earlier. But: “The appearance of so many ‘isms’ shows rather that
people were making their ideas more systematic. To the ‘philosophy’ of the Enlightenment were now
added an intense activism and a partisanship generated during the French Revolution.”
B. Romanticism: A new way of sensing all human experience: Love of the unclassifiable --moods,
impressions, experiences, idiosyncrasies. Valued emotions, the subconscious--feeling as well as reason.
Love of the mysterious, of strange and distant societies; nostalgia for the middle ages. Concern for the
expression of inner genius, which makes its own rules and laws --genius of an individual, a people
(Folksiest), or an epoch (Weltanschauung): Herder.
C. Classical Liberalism: represented the ideas of men of business, professions.
1. Belief in “modern,” efficient, reasonable. Desire parliaments, with responsible government, free
press, speech, assembly. Fear or “mob rule” --that is, democracy.
2. Rights of man, but emphasis on property. Favor laissez-faire, limiting government actions. Supported
lower tariffs, free trade so each nation could produce what it did best. Progress through wealth,
technical change. Anti-military.
D. Radicalism, Republicanism, Socialism