NEVERTHELESS, no other nation approached England in the IN speed of her industrial development. The torpid southern nations and the war-exhausted German countries could not compete. It is, however, more surprising that France, Holland, and the United States of America did not keep pace. But Holland was in a phase of apathy, and her lack of coal, iron, and water power put her out of the new developments. The United States was still a small agricultural republic, and the energies of its citizens went chiefly into the opening up of new territory for agriculture. France had produced inventors at the same time as England, was ahead of her in textiles and transport, and could certainly have copied the steam engine very quickly. But there came the French Revolution and the wars of Napoleon. In the extremely disturbed political conditions of 1789-99, no one would hazard savings in new enterprises, which even in normal times were risky. Under Napoleon, France was unprofitably absorbed in European wars. England, meanwhile, enjoyed security and political stability, and she had always been inclined towards commerce rather than war, thanks to her island position and comparative freedom from invasion, and also to the early disappearance of internal tolls. She was able from 1793 to 1815 to trade with overseas markets and sources of materials, while the commerce of France was interrupted by the English blockade. England's continental trade was indeed affected by the extension of French control over much of the Continent, but this mattered less.
As a result, " the nation of shopkeepers" gained a considerable start. To him that hath is given, and England continued to hold her lead until about 1880. She was again assisted, especially between 1848 and 1871, by the internal disturbances and foreign wars in which her potential European and American rivals were engaged. In her turn, she was destined to lose during the War of 1914-18 a part of her industrial primacy to nations which were less deeply involved.