Progress and Poverty: An Economic and Social History of Britain, 1700-1850

By M. J. Daunton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14 Demand, Supply, and Industrialization

In England the several ranks of men slide into each other almost imperceptibly, and a spirit of equality runs through every part of their constitution. Hence arises a strong emulation in all the several stations and conditions to vie with each other; and the perpetual restless ambition in each of the inferior ranks to raise themselves to the level of those immediately above them. In such a state as this fashion must have uncontrolled sway. And a fashionable luxury must spread through it like a contagion. 1

Nathaniel Forster's description of English society in 1767 has encouraged some historians to argue that there was a consumer revolution in the eighteenth century, marked by 'an unprecedented propensity to consume: unprecedented in the depth to which it penetrated the lower reaches of society and unprecedented in its impact on the economy'. 2 But was Forster referring to economic reality, or was he complaining of the demise of social order and deference? The title of Forster's pamphlet should be borne in mind: An Enquiry into the Present High Price of Provisions, with its suggestion that consumerism was harmful because it drove up prices. Writers such as Forster did not necessarily welcome the spirit of equality and emulation, and its expression in 'fashionable luxury'. He was a critic of the governing oligarchy, which was, he believed, sunk in materialism and insensitive to the poor. Far from leading to prosperity and growth, many contemporaries feared that emulation and luxury were dangers to society, undermining deference and social stability.

Luxury was at the centre of a debate in the eighteenth century which raised fundamental issues about the nature of social order, the behaviour of the ruling class, and the basis of national prosperity. In 1700, the dominant assumption was still that prosperity was achieved through a strong balance of payments: luxuries were criticized as exotic imports, and home demand was considered a necessary evil competing with exports. Total demand was seen as inelastic, and it was not

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Progress and Poverty: An Economic and Social History of Britain, 1700-1850
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Figures xi
  • List of Tables xiii
  • Chapter I - Introduction: the Possibilities of Growth 1
  • Notes 19
  • Further Reading 21
  • Part I - Agriculture and Rural Society 23
  • Chapter 2 - Agricultural Production: the Limits of Growth? 25
  • Conclusion 56
  • Notes 57
  • Further Reading 58
  • Chapter 3 - The Rise of the Great Estates and the Decline of the Yeoman 61
  • Notes 87
  • Further Reading 88
  • Chapter 4 - Open Fields and Enclosure: the Demise of Commonality 92
  • Notes 117
  • Further Reading 119
  • Part II - Industry and Urban Society 123
  • Chapter 5 - Diversities of Industrialization 125
  • Notes 145
  • Further Reading 146
  • Chapter 6 - The Domestic System of Manufactures 148
  • Conclusion 169
  • Notes 170
  • Further Reading 171
  • Chapter 7 - The Coming of the Factory 201
  • Chapter 8 - Furnaces, Forges, and Mines 206
  • Conclusion 232
  • Further Reading 234
  • Chapter 9 - Capital and Credit: Financing Industrialization 260
  • Further Reading 261
  • Part III - Integrating the Economy 265
  • Chapter 10 - Integration and Specialization 267
  • Notes 283
  • Further Reading 283
  • Chapter II - Transport 285
  • Conclusion 314
  • Notes 314
  • Chapter 12 - Merchants and Marketing 318
  • Conclusion 338
  • Notes 338
  • Further Reading 339
  • Chapter 13 - Banks and Money 342
  • Conclusion 357
  • Notes 358
  • Further Reading 359
  • Further Reading 361
  • Further Reading 382
  • Further Reading 383
  • Part IV - Poverty, Prosperity, and Population 385
  • Chapter 15 - Births, Marriages, and Deaths 387
  • Notes 415
  • Further Reading 416
  • Chapter 16 - The Standard of Living and the Social History of Wages 441
  • Chapter 17 - Poor Relief and Charity 447
  • Notes 471
  • Further Reading 472
  • Part V - Public Policy and the State 475
  • Chapter 18 - The Visible Hand: the State and the Economy 477
  • Notes 502
  • Further Reading 503
  • Chapter 19 - Taxation and Public Finance 507
  • Further Reading 530
  • Further Reading 530
  • Notes 557
  • Further Reading 558
  • Chapter 21 - Conclusion 565
  • Notes 566
  • Chronology 567
  • Statistical Appendix 573
  • Index 591
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