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

By M. J. Daunton | Go to book overview

Floud, that gains in real wages in the second quarter of the nineteenth century 'were bought at a very high price', producing a stunted population in an unhealthy environment. 34 The data could, however, be read differently: Britain had a volunteer army which tended to be an employer of last resort, so that it could be that workers were better able to obtain well-paid jobs without being forced to join the colours. The debate over 'well-being' remains inconclusive.

It is possible that workers experienced a psychological decline even if 'economic welfare' improved, after taking account of the cost of urban disamenities. The attack on common rights, the erosion of entitlements, the decay of artisan production, and political repression could make workers feel that they were losing their rights as free-born Englishmen:

It is quite possible for statistical averages and human experiences to run in opposite directions. A per capita increase in quantitative factors may take place at the same time as a great qualitative disturbance in people's way of life, traditional relationships, and sanctions. People may consume more goods and become less happy or less free at the same time. 35

Factory employment could, for example, reduce the amount of leisure, so that higher per capita consumption was at the expense of free time. But did workers consider this to be a rise or fall in their standard of living? Much depends on whether leisure time in the eighteenth century was 'worthless' or valued. Perhaps the more limited and defined time for leisure in the early nineteenth century was valued more highly because towns offered greater facilities for recreation. Work discipline in the factory was more onerous, but was compensated by freedom from the supervision of squire and parson, and the ability to form independent clubs and chapels. Neither should politics be excluded from the assessment of workers' 'well-being'. They could, during the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, feel powerless as legislation on apprenticeship or wage regulation was abrogated, and the Combination Laws challenged their right to organize. Social change coincided with the French Revolution and the attack on Jacobinism and 'it is the political context as much as the steam engine, which had most influence upon the shaping consciousness and institutions of the working class'. 36 In the end, purely statistical measures of real wages, per capita consumption, economic well-being or height must be integrated with social and cultural behaviour and attitudes in the growing towns.


NOTES
1.
B. Disraeli, Sybil; or, The Two Nations ( 1845), 198-9.
2.
T. S. Ashton, "'The Treatment of Capitalism by Historians'", in F. A. Hayek (ed.), Capitalism and the Historians ( 1954), 41.
3.
Disrael, Sybil, 261-2.

-441-

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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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