chapter  3
6 Pages

Some Statistics of the Industrial Revolution in Britain

The years between 1760 and 1830 saw a series of changes in British life so spectacular as to lead historians to attach to the period the somewhat misleading title of the Industrial Revolution. Early observers, impressed by the developments associated with the names of Arkwright, Crompton, Watt, Cort, Stephenson, and many others, tended to regard the technical innovations as the hinge on which all else turned. It was only later that scholars began to ask why these men of invention appeared just when they did. Historians, obsessed as most of them are with the affairs of government, were at first disposed to give the answer in terms of policy. Some attributed the outbursts of invention and enterprise to the action of enlightened rulers who, they believed, had built up a powerful mercantilist society in England, with widespread connexions overseas: the inventions and the new methods of organization were the response of industry to the demands of trade. Others argued that it was not positive measures of statecraft, but the gradual decline of attempts at regulation and stimulus that threw open the door to innovation. One group of writers, looking at the social and religious affiliations of the industrialists, finds the source of the technical changes - and much else besides - in seventeenth-century puritanism and eighteenthcentury nonconformity. Another, pointing out that the changes in technique were, in fact, less sudden than had been imagined, presents them as the fruit of a tree springing from the work of Newton, Bacon, and still earlier scientists. And yet another school of writers treats the whole movement as a

Science, ~rechnology, product of the new systems of speculative thought and political theory to which the eighteenth century gave rise.