In the early 1700’s Britain was a very different place to what it is today. Everything was different; the houses were dirty and smelly even in the few towns. The towns were very small and peaceful. Cars, planes and all mechanical transport hadn’t been invented, although they had a horse and cart. The roads were bumpy and muddy tracks apart from some important roads, which were stone, or any natural material nearby. There were no factories as the idea had not been invented and also there was no steam power. Most of the population lived in remote villages – farming or trading.
At the beginning of the 18th century the population was about 6 million people living in England and Wales. These figures aren’t exact and weren’t until 1801 when the first census was carried out. The figure is a good estimate though and was worked out using the parish registers. Most of the population lived in villages or small market towns working as traders or farmers. The south, southwest, Wales and the north above Manchester had a low population density. From just below London, to Bristol and up to Norwich had a high population density. The people lived there because of the fertile farming land, they have resources such as coal, are warmer then the rest of the country and aren’t hilly like Wales.
In the 18th century the average family size was 10 people, compared to today they were very big. There were so many children in the families because about half of the children died before they reached the age of five. This made the rate of population growth low and so there weren’t as many people in the U.K. the children normally died from diseases such as small pox, dysentery, consumption and typhus. These diseases affected the poor more than the rich; this is because the diseases were allowed to spread easily – travelling on rats and such like. Another reason is they lived in a dirtier world, which would keep their defences down while they fought off other diseases as they were exposed to disease because they lived in inadequate shelter. The poor also drunk excessive amounts and because they were poor they drank cheap and dirty gin which cost a penny a pint. The drinking became less of a problem in 1751 because parliament greatly increased tax on spirits and strongly enforced it.
The population of England and Wales in 1801 was 9 million. 3 medical improvements around this time, which helped increase the population growth
Rate was a better diet and living conditions, which helped, improve their immune systems. More food was produced and coal was used domestically to keep people warm in winter. Also improvements were made in the practise of midwifery introduced by Dr William Smellie.
The village was still the main centre of English life. Most people worked in agriculture or rural craft e.g. blacksmith, farmer, carpenter, Wheelwright, thatcher and miller. The villagers hardly ever had to go beyond the nearest market town because the village community was very self-sufficient. When the villagers went to the nearest market town they would sell their surplus produce and buy shoes or clothes. All the most important things to a villagers diet were grown locally. Wheat, rye, barley or oats were grown for things like cereals and bread. Ale was also brewed locally. Other products produced by farms were wool, meat, dairy produce, fruit and vegetables, although meat was a luxury amongst common people.
Nobility held the highest political officers, the top positions in the church, army and navy. A nobleman’s park usually measured around 80 kilometres around the perimeter. Members of the nobility lent most of their land to smallholders. Gentry were next to nobility in the social scale, they were the major landowners in the country that were not of noble birth. He also lent out most of their land to smallholders. In the village the main landowner was called a squire. He often took part in politics, he kept peace in the village, his manners were the same as the villagers, he spoke similarly and much of his time was devoted to foxhunting. Just below the squire was the parson. In those times the world was a more religious place.
The parson helped the parishioners (workers in the parish church), he owned a small plot of land (a glebe), he often taught children and he also received a tenth of the produce of all the other farms. Freeholders came next. These were people who didn’t rent but owned the land they farmed this made the socially superior to people who rented their land. Smallholders were below free holders in that they rented the land they farmed from members of the nobility or gentry. This is the only thing that made them socially imperior to freeholders. Otherwise they were the same; they spoke and acted the same.
London had a population of over half a million in the 1780’s. This was huge compared to other towns, which were about a tenth of the size. It dominated English life a lot more than it does today. The pool of London or the port of London was the centre for the nations shipping. It dealt with nearly all European, Mediterranean and African trade. As well as some of the sugar and tobacco from the American and west Indian colonies and practically all the trade with India and the Far East. In addition most counties in Britain sent food and raw materials to London by sea so that London would send back foreign goods. The largest towns outside London were Norwich and Bristol. Norwich was a trade centre for the East Anglian clothes, Where as Bristol was the major western port. Up in Scotland Edinburgh was nearly as big as Norwich and Bristol because it seated the Scottish government. All these towns only had around 50,000 inhabitants. Although some of the biggest cities of today such as Birmingham were smaller than Bristol or Norwich. The 6 early industrial towns were:
* Birmingham – metal trade
* Newcastle – coal and Baltic trade
* Liverpool – trans Atlantic trade
* Hull – Baltic trade and ship building
* Leeds – textile trade in Yorkshire and Lancashire
* Manchester – textile trade in Yorkshire and Lancashire
All these towns had a population of around 10,000 or less.
In the 18th century the village was the centre of industry rather than towns or cities. Industries were scattered around the countryside were mining and quarrying, timber cutting, iron smelting and a wide range of manufacturing industries. Most trades were carried out in the home. The children as young a four years old were forced to work long hours so that the family could stay alive. The centre of industry was woollen cloth it was traded since the Middle Ages and was the main export of Britain. It was sold in Europe, Africa, America and India. Iron was mined and smelted in places where timber was easily available so that charcoal could be mad to fuel the blast furnace. The Manufacturing of metal goods was centred around Birmingham and the west midlands in places like Sheffield, which was renowned its cutlery. Coalmining was well-established and big industry in
The Northeast of England especially near Newcastle. It was hard to transport goods because the roads were so poor and the rivers were no use. This is one main reason why industry in the 18th century was only on small scale. Until it improved it was hard to transport goods in bulk. Steam engines were not used to their full potential in the 1700’s, they were only used for pumping water out of mines. The main power source was water wheels on streams and rivers all industry used human strength instead of machine.
Overall the 18th century would probably have been a horrible place to live compared to today, with crime and poverty so bad. Also the technology was so poor. But they were used to it.