CHAPTER VII. THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
Commerce rather than industrialism or agriculture is the distinctive feature of English economy during the seventeenth and first half of the eighteenth century. By means of newly developed trade-routes, the East and the West were tapped for such products as tobacco, tea, coffee, cocoa, sugar, rum, spices, oranges, lemons, raisins, currants, silks, cotton, rice, and others with which England had previously somehow or other dispensed; and the principal bone of contention was the carrying trade of the world. Shipbuilding was the most famous English industry; and when Peter the Great visited England, he spent most of his time in the Deptford yards. For some of these imports England paid by her services as carrier; and so far as India was concerned it was a case of robbery rather than exchange. But exports were more and more required to pay for the ever-increasing imports. It is impossible to state categorically either that the imports provoked the exports or the exports the imports; for the supply creates the demand as much as the demand creates the supply. There can have been no conscious demand for tobacco in England before any Englishman had smoked a pipe; and when an English merchant in Elizabeth's reign took a thousand kerseys to Bokhara, he did so without waiting for an order. Both exports and imports, however, can only develop together; the dimensions to which English commerce had attained by Walpole's time involved exports as well as imports; and the exports could not have been provided without developing English industries.
In particular, England had to export to the colonies because the colonies had by the Navigation Acts to export to England; and Walpole's abolition or reduction of duties on colonial produce illustrated and encouraged the growth of this trade. In return for colonial tobacco, rice, cotton, sugar, England sent chiefly woollen and afterwards cotton manufactures. These woollens had long been manufactured on the domestic system in the sheep-rearing districts of England, particularly Yorkshire; many a cottage with its four acres for farming had also its spinning-wheel, and many a village its loom; and the cloth when finished was conveyed by pack-horses or waggons to the markets and fairs to be sold for export or home consumption. But between 1764 and 1779 a series of inventions by Arkwright, Hargreaves, and Crompton, transformed the simple spinning-wheel into an elaborate machine capable of doing the work of many spinners; and once more an advance in national productivity was made at the expense of the individual workers who took to breaking the machines to stop their loss of work.
Similar changes followed in cotton-spinning and other industries, and the result was to alter the whole economic structure of England. The cottager could not afford the new and expensive machinery, and his spinning-wheels and hand-looms were hopelessly beaten in the competition. Huge factories were required for the new inventions, where the workers were all huddled together instead of working in their scattered homes; and large populations grew up around these new and artificial manufacturing centres. Their locality was, however, determined by natural causes; at first water-power was the best available force to drive the new machines, and consequently towns sprang up along the banks of rivers. But Watt's application of steam- power to machinery soon supplanted water; and for steam-power coal and iron were the greatest necessities. Factories therefore tended to congregate where coal and iron were found; and the need for these materials created the coal and iron industries. Moreover, the pack- horse, the waggon, and the old unmetalled roads soon proved inadequate for the new requirements of transport. For a time canals became the favourite substitute, and many were constructed. Then Macadam invented his method of making roads; finally, Stephenson developed the steam locomotive, and the railway system came into existence.
Closely connected with these changes was a renewal of the inclosure movement. The introduction of turnips and other roots, and the development of the rotation of crops increased the value of the soil and revived the stimulus to inclosure; and hundreds of inclosure acts were hurriedly passed by a parliament which contained no representatives of those who suffered from the process. It was assisted by the further specialization consequent upon the industrial revolution; while the agricultural labourer gave up spinning under the stress of factory competition, the spinner deserted his cottage and four acres in the country, to seek a dwelling near the factory which employed him; and the Elizabethan Act, insisting upon the allocation of four acres to each new cottage built, was repealed. But for that repeal, factory slums would be garden cities, unless the incubus of this provision had stopped the factory development. The final result of the inclosure movement upon the country was to deprive the public of most of its commons and open spaces, to deprive the agricultural labourer of all right in the soil he tilled, and to rob him of that magic of property which, in Arthur Young's phrase, turned sand into gold.