Classic History Books

The History of England by A. E. Pollard

Similar changes followed in cotton-spinning and other industries, and the result was to alter the whole
economic structure of England. The cottager could not afford the new and expensive machinery, and his

spinning-wheels and hand-looms were hopelessly beaten in the competition. Huge factories were

required for the new inventions, where the workers were all huddled together instead of working in their

scattered homes; and large populations grew up around these new and artificial manufacturing centres.

Their locality was, however, determined by natural causes; at first water-power was the best available

force to drive the new machines, and consequently towns sprang up along the banks of rivers. But Watt's

application of steam- power to machinery soon supplanted water; and for steam-power coal and iron

were the greatest necessities. Factories therefore tended to congregate where coal and iron were found;

and the need for these materials created the coal and iron industries. Moreover, the pack- horse, the

waggon, and the old unmetalled roads soon proved inadequate for the new requirements of transport. For

a time canals became the favourite substitute, and many were constructed. Then Macadam invented his

method of making roads; finally, Stephenson developed the steam locomotive, and the railway system

came into existence.

Closely connected with these changes was a renewal of the inclosure movement. The introduction of
turnips and other roots, and the development of the rotation of crops increased the value of the soil and

revived the stimulus to inclosure; and hundreds of inclosure acts were hurriedly passed by a parliament

which contained no representatives of those who suffered from the process. It was assisted by the further

specialization consequent upon the industrial revolution; while the agricultural labourer gave up spinning

under the stress of factory competition, the spinner deserted his cottage and four acres in the country, to

seek a dwelling near the factory which employed him; and the Elizabethan Act, insisting upon the

allocation of four acres to each new cottage built, was repealed. But for that repeal, factory slums would

be garden cities, unless the incubus of this provision had stopped the factory development. The final

result of the inclosure movement upon the country was to deprive the public of most of its commons and

open spaces, to deprive the agricultural labourer of all right in the soil he tilled, and to rob him of that

magic of property which, in Arthur Young's phrase, turned sand into gold.

The inevitable adjustment of the population to these altered economic conditions entirely changed its
distribution. Hitherto the progressive and predominant parts of England had been the south and east;

conservatism found its refuge in the north and west, which rebelled against the Tudors and fought for

Charles I. The south and east had been the manufacturing centres because iron was smelted with wood

and not with coal. Now that coal was substituted for wood, the juxtaposition of coal and iron mines in the

north attracted thither the industries of the nation, while the special features of its climate made South

Lancashire the home of cotton-spinning. The balance of population and political power followed. To-day

southern England, apart from London and some other ports, hardly does more than subsist, and its

occupations are largely parasitic. The work and the wealth and the trade which support the empire and its

burdens have their origin and being in the north.

The population not only shifted, but rapidly increased. The uprooting of peasants from their little plots of
land which acted in medieval England and acts to-day in France as a check upon breeding, and their

herding in crowded tenements, weakened both moral and prudential restraints in the towns; while in the

country the well-meant but ill-considered action of the justices of the peace in supplementing the

beggarly wages of the labourers by grants out of the rates proportioned to the number of each man's

children produced a similar effect. The result was an increase in the population welcome to patriots who

hoped for hordes of soldiers and sailors to fight Napoleon, but startling to economists like Malthus, who

inferred therefrom a natural law constraining population to outrun the earth's increase. Malthus did not


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