The Technical Innovations
'ABOUT 1760 a wave of gadgets swept over England.' So, not inaptly, a schoolboy began his answer to a question on the industrial revolution. It was not only gadgets, however, but innovations of various kinds--in agriculture, transport, manufacture, trade, and finance--that surged up with a suddenness for which it is difficult to find a parallel at any other time or place. The quickened pace of development is attested by the catalogue of new patents, the lengthening list of Acts of enclosure, the expanding figures of output and exports, and the course of prices, which, after remaining roughly steady for two generations, now began an ascent that was to continue for more than half a century. The story of a period the opening decade of which alone saw the innovations associated with the names of Brindley, Roebuck, Wedgwood, Hargreaves, Arkwright, and Watt can hardly be told in terms of an evolutionary process.
It has already been suggested that this period of time was propitious for invention and expansion. The fall in the rate of interest, coinciding as it did with an expansion of markets at home and abroad, provided the incentive. Pelham's conversion of the Debt from 3 1/2 to 3 per cent had been completed in 1757; and although the Seven Years War pressed down the price of Consols, and closed some doors to British trade, the return of peace in 1763 brought with it a rate for public borrowing which did not exceed 3 3/4 per cent, and an opening of new areas of enterprise and capital in the Far East and elsewhere. At the same time the barriers imposed by the shortages