Economic History of Europe in Modern Times

By Melvin M. Knight; Harry Elmer Barnes et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
GROWTH OF ENGLISH INDUSTRY SINCE 1800

GENERAL SURVEY OF INDUSTRIAL PROGRESS

ENGLISH industrial supremacy in the nineteenth century rested upon a complex group of factors. All were closely linked with two historical facts, both associated with her insular position: (1) the earlier occurrence of the Industrial Revolution in England; (2) her territorial isolation from the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars of the Continent. By encouraging the establishment of colonies, Great Britain had been able to obtain markets which were not likely to be influenced by the continually recurring political disturbances on the European Continent. Her markets were therefore reasonably stable and capable of expansion. If England had depended solely upon Europe for the disposal of her surplus goods, her commerce would have been far more frequently interrupted and her manufacturers would have suffered as did their competitors on the Continent, who were directly exposed to the devastating effects of the wars of the nineteenth century.

The insular position of Great Britain has been a factor as important in the almost uninterrupted progress of British industry and commerce as it was in their early establishment. British markets have been easily accessible and her opportunities for obtaining raw materials almost unlimited. In the struggle for industrial supremacy, she was greatly aided by the fertility of her soil, by a temperate climate, and by an absence of difficult geographical barriers to the development of the means of communication. The construction of canals and of railways was for England a relatively simple matter in comparison with other countries less favored. Moreover, the two basic raw materials upon which modern industrial organization largely depend, coal and iron ore, were found in

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