INVENTIONS TRANSFORMING THE FACE OF BRITAIN

THE England of the early eighteenth century with its population of five or six millions was an agricultural country, self-supporting in all essentials. Its overseas trade was largely in eastern luxuries (including tea, which then was a luxury) and in carrying slaves from West Africa to America. London had perhaps 500, 000 inhabitants, but other towns, in proportion, contained fewer people than now, and the biggest ones were county towns of the south and east. The century between 1760 and 1860 saw a very considerable increase in population in most European countries, but especially in England; families remained large, generally from six to twelve, while great improvements were now made in sanitation, water supply, inoculation against smallpox and other branches of medicine. People now lived longer, and fewer small children died. There was, too, a marked displacement of the balance of population. The north of England had nascent textile, metal, and mining industries, but it had hitherto been sparsely populated. The inventions concentrated industry in those areas where coal and iron were found together, and where mountain streams were numerous; the iron industry left Sussex, mainly for the Midlands and the North-east coast; the textiles of East Anglia and the West of England were eclipsed by those of South-east Lancashire and West Yorkshire. The metal industry of South Yorkshire and Birmingham grew rapidly, as did the coal mining of South Wales and the industries of the Scottish lowlands and Clyde valley. Population was attracted more perhaps from neighbouring rural areas than from the south, and in the growing northern towns it increased fast. During the nineteenth century the population of England and Wales rose from nine millions to nearly forty millions, besides providing many millions of emigrants to the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.