Great Britain since 1688: A Modern History

Great Britain since 1688: A Modern History

Great Britain since 1688: A Modern History

Great Britain since 1688: A Modern History

Excerpt

In 1689 the spirit of science had not yet transformed the outward and visible forms of Britain's economic and social life. She was quick with the thought of Newton, but had yet to be delivered of her industrial progeny. Although the age of statistics was in embryo -- for Petty was its parent, and Charles Davenant applied statistical methods in his studies of the balance of trade, and John Gaunt examined bills of mortality in his study of the expectation of life in London -- England was still agrarian and pastoral in her way of life. The cottage and not the factory was the center of her life. A vital part of her life was on the ocean wave, but while every Englishman had seen a sheep, many had never seen the sea. But in many hamlets and countinghouses interest was being directed to the things that could be measured and weighed and calculated. Fewer men were searching the Scriptures and bearing arms and more were studying trade and their accounts. A census was not possible until 1801 because it was believed that it might incur divine displeasure, destroy the liberties of freemen, and give comfort and military secrets to her enemies. But if the government might not count its subjects, those subjects were coming to the opinion "that whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together."

In 1688 Gregory King had made the first fairly accurate estimation of the population of England and Wales. It was about five and a half millions. Scotland had about a million and Ireland perhaps two million. The center of population in England was well to the South. More than half lived south of a line from Worcester to the Wash, and a quarter of the total was in and around London, which had a population of about 540,000 compared with the 488,000 of Paris and the 125,000 . . .

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