Britain 1830-1900

The industrial revolution started in England with the invention of the steam engine in the late 1600’s and continued with various inventions like steam locomotives, cars, textile mills and machines that can shape and treat metal. The consequences of these inventions and all they brought with them have played a vital part in how the world is today. A thing that will be focused upon in this text is the cultural aspect of the changes the industrial revolution brought with it.

Before the industrialisation of the agriculture and the textile industry in the start of the 1700’s, life was hard. Most people lived on the countryside growing crops to feed themselves. Farmers rarely grew more than they needed for themselves and if there was a small surplus it was traded away for other material goods. People were also living in constant threat of that their crops might fail and they would starve. Due to this there was little time to do other things as they had to focus all their work on their crops. Only a select few groups of people enjoyed large incomes; these people either owned land or held office.

When looking outside of England the situation was very much the same for all of Europe. Less than ten percent of the total population lived in cities and manufacturing was very limited. With the invention and improvements of steam-powered machinery in the textile, coal and iron industries between 1720 and 1800 profits from these respective industries skyrocketed. Agriculture also became mechanised which lead to increasing harvests all over the country. Several new banks were also founded to handle the ever-increasingly flow of money. Between 1750 and 1800 the number of banks in London more than tripled. This lead to the creation of a new social class, this was the middle class. The middle class were a class of people who did “intellectual” work such as being doctors, lawyers, journalist, teachers etc. These people made enough money to get by and still have spare time at their disposal. They didn’t have to worry about starvation or not having enough money to pay their rent. They had the time to go on holiday, participate in social events, practice sports, read books or go to the theatre. In short it opened up for much more culture to take place as more people had time and money to appreciate it. Unlike the lower class who had very poor working conditions and low wages. In addition to the rise of the middle-class and increasing profits during the industrial revolution, transportation also became easier. Several improvements in road construction, invention of the car and the steam locomotive made it much easier to travel around the country. This made it possible for people who took interest to travel around the country to gather impressions and this is likely to have inspired quite a few artists, for if they hadn’t had the means to do anything than to grow crops they wouldn’t have written or painted anything. Another thing that also contributed to what eventually became the English cultural “supremacy” during the early 1900’s was also the gradual liberation from devout Christian faith. With the release of Darwin’s “The origin of species” and a myriad of other scientific discoveries, people started to think for themselves again. People could gradually start to say what they wanted. New brilliant minds in literature such as Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson on the Brönte sisters gave out bestsellers in their own lifetime in which they criticised the direction in which the society was developing. Philosophers like John Locke and John Stuart Mill came up with many interesting thoughts concerning the democracy. There was a grand wakening in the general population as a consequence of the industrial revolution. Because people made more money and had more spare time they had more time to realise themselves. This combined with the astounding amounts of colonies the English were in possession of and the amount of people speaking the language, England was well on its way to be the leading power in the world both when it came to political power and cultural power.


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