Atlas of Industrializing Britain 1780-1914

Atlas of Industrializing Britain 1780-1914

Atlas of Industrializing Britain 1780-1914

Atlas of Industrializing Britain 1780-1914


This atlas draws together crucial social and economic data on England, Scotland and Wales between 1780 and 1914, and gives a clear guide to the industrial development of Great Britain during the modern period.


John Langton and R. J. Morris

Aims and ideals

The initial demand for the atlas came from those who simply wanted a collection of maps to illustrate their teaching. We rapidly realized that here was an opportunity for something more than a cartographic anthology re-drawn to uniform conventions. Amongst those involved in the two societies were a number of people whose knowledge would enable us to map the spatial patterns and relationships of a wide range of human experience during the industrial revolution period in Britain. We began with the basic headings of ‘economic history’ as it stood in the 1970s, and looked for ways in which the broad concerns of that literature, with inputs of raw materials, labour and capital, with technologies of power and transport, and with the changing nature of output (Mathias and Postan, 1978), could be expressed cartographically. We also drew in those who were outlining and explaining the social aspects of this period of change.

This does not mean that the atlas pretends to be a theoretically coherent whole. Our choices were limited not only by the basic constraints of space and cost but by our sense of what was readily mappable given the current development of our subjects. the gaps remain as a challenge to those who have the time and ingenuity to fill them. More important, users of the atlas must not be led by the necessary ordering of material within the book to imagine that the editors conceived a rigid theoretical plan. By placing environment and population first we are not suggesting a cause-effect relationship with the patterns of economic activity which follow. Nor by placing sport, language and religion last do we intend to reduce these to the status of mere epiphenomena. Indeed the major lesson of laying out such a variety of human activity spatially has been to suggest to us that the pressures of causation move in many directions. We hope that one result of mapping this variety of human activity ranging from manufacturing and wealth accumulation to sport and dialect publishing will be to counter the regrettable tendency for economic and socially orientated concerns to become separated in current academic discourse. Although transport and settlement patterns have a greater place here than in most economic histories it is fair to say that the initial ordering of the material depended very little on theories with a substantial spatial element in them. This is important for the conclusions implied by the maps clearly do have an important spatial content.

We determined that the atlas should refer to the industrial revolution in Britain, that is England, Wales and Scotland. Despite its importance Ireland presented problems of data availability and compatibility and indeed involved key processes and directions of change that were fundamentally different, so that we felt it should properly be left to historians of that island. the insistence on including Scotland caused enough problems of data acquisition and standardization especially for English contributors. As ever, the Scots found it easier to deal with English data. Even so, the different legal and institutional frameworks of the two parts of Britain mean that map users must be careful to allow for the different basis in time and practice between series from Scotland and from England and Wales. in a few cases we have inserted a small guttering at the border as a reminder. the poor law and the religious census were two cases where national differences influenced the collection of data.

We emphasized to our contributors that we conceived the ‘industrial revolution’ not as an event but as a process operating over a considerable period of time, and operating in different ways at different times and places in a variety of aspects of human activity.

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