Health, Wealth and Population in the Early Days of the Industrial Revolution

Health, Wealth and Population in the Early Days of the Industrial Revolution

Health, Wealth and Population in the Early Days of the Industrial Revolution

Health, Wealth and Population in the Early Days of the Industrial Revolution

Excerpt

This book is a small contribution to that new presentation of modern economic and social history towards which much valuable work has been done in recent years. The general effect of this new knowledge is to present the series of events popularly known as the Industrial Revolution as being far more complex and far less dramatic than did earlier accounts. The popular conception is still, perhaps, that the Industrial Revolution destroyed the primitive virtues and idyllic joys of our more remote ancestors and created in their stead every social and economic difficulty with which we have to contend at present. It is, in fact, the villain of the drama of economic history. But, just as nearly all the picturesquely wicked villains whose stories thrilled us in childhood have been proved by biographers and historians to be much maligned and misunderstood persons, so some compensating virtues are being discovered even in the Industrial Revolution. The modification of previous judgments upon individuals has often been unkindly known as whitewashing, but it is, in fact, due not to a covering up but to an uncovering of evidence and to the realization that no historical judgment which wholly praises or wholly condemns can, in the nature of things, be just.

It may be contended by some that more justly balanced views, whether of individuals or of periods, rob history of much of its romantic quality. Instead of the enthralling clash of hero and villain we have presented the drab blunderings of ordinary men and women. But the grey is only grey at a distant and imperfect view, more closely seen it is a queer, jumbled pattern of sharply contrasted colours. Every historical movement has been the result of a medley of motives; self-seeking rubbing shoulders with altruism and the love of a cause intermingling with personal ambition. An appreciation of the complexity of human motives, together with the scientific approach to history with its careful sifting of evidence, tends to make the modern historian loth . . .

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