Pre-Industrial Society Essay, Research Paper
Change and continuity were both features of pre-industrial society. (Discuss with reference to Britain)
Pre-industrial Britain was a period of gradual change in the way people lived and worked as well as a time when continuity of traditional values and beliefs persisted. Many new technologies were been developed and put into practice due to new demands. This began to revolutionise traditional forms of industry, transport and government. Different classes in society were given a fresh incentive to find new ways of practice which resulted in the birth of capitalism demanding innovation. However much of this change was simply an unconstrained continuance much like a chain reaction, one thing leading to another, therefore not completely replacing established society. The reorganisation of pre-industrial Britain was brought about by the combination of many different social, economical, climatic and technological facets. Amidst these were the fast evolution of industry and machinery, the advancement of transport, population growth, British colonisation and also importantly the fortunes of agriculture, which in essence acted as a catalyst to the changes.
The good fortunes of climatic systems, new machinery and the concept of capitalism made agriculture slowly begin to take a different form during the pre-industrial period. People no longer only harvested enough food for their villages but began, with the incentive of profit, to start trading excess amounts of produce. This was made possible for several different reasons. The weather of the time was very unseasonal. The region s climate had altered from a cold icy one to a more Mediterranean climate. This meant that the crops could be grown better. With the growing population and good weather conditions an increased demand for food occurred. This necessity made people look for better ways of doing things and brought about many changes to agriculture. An especially important change was that implemented by Jethro Tull. He pioneered the wheeled seed drill that replaced the scattering of seeds by hand. He also introduced the horse drawn hoe which eliminated weeds growing between the rows of plants produced by the seed drill. Wooden ploughs gave way to iron ones, drawn now by horses rather than oxen. There was a strong spirit of innovation beginning to arise in agriculture. Robert Bakewell experimented with scientific stockbreeding, for sheep and cattle. Aristocratic landowners were quick to introduce leases on land and also more intensified farming methods, replacing the medieval method of fields and fallow. Lord Townshend harvested the idea of growing turnips and other small rooted plants for stock to eat during the winter, therefore making it possible to keep stock over winter. With much of agricultural produce needing to be taken to cities, transport was also developing by necessity. Two Scottish engineers, Telford and Macadam redesigned roads, they introduced the modern science of road building. These improved roads were so durable that they were soon built in all parts of Great Britain. Canals were also springing up all over. There were many changes made during the pre-industrial society, however landowners took a long time to take to these ideas and therefore the growth of change was slow and allowed for the continuation of village life in most parts of Britain.
The change to industry was also a slow and gradual transformation. At the start of the eighteenth century industry was mainly domestic. The workers would labour within the confines of their cottages. In the making of some textiles, the whole family would take part. However change did come but there was no revolution as such, the old ways were simply being put into practice with gradual alterations. This meant that the transition from cottage to factory industry was very slow and almost not visible. In 1709 a method for smelting iron with coal or lime stone was discovered. This iron was fundamental in the making of machinery, therefore perhaps puts it at the heart of the evolution of factory industry. Later Darby smelted iron with a substance called coke thus producing a strong metal that could be used in construction. The textile industry also began to pick up pace. In 1718 a large silk factory equipped with water-powered machinery opened in Derby. The factory employed over three hundred people and was such a huge success that a second was opened in Sheffield. These silk mills served as examples for cotton factories and some were even later switched over. The manufacturing of cotton had its first advancements in 1733, when Kay patented a flying shuttle. The flying shuttle was simply fitted to old machinery and could double a worker s output. The overseas colonisation by England strengthened the textile industry, which meant raw products could be imported to British factories at low costs. Then the finished textile could be exported back to a colony and sold at a profit due to free trade. Many merchants became rich entrepreneurs and this could be seen as the birth of capitalism. There had to be willingness to take risk, although it appears that economic growth may have produced entrepreneurs rather than vice versa and there had to be capital to invest. Nonetheless the great improvements that machinery fashioned weren t taken on widely, people were very sceptical about machines in industry due to the fear of machines taking over. This meant that the factory system didn t completely take over from the cottage till late in the nineteenth century, human and animal power weren t replaced all together, simply slowly supplemented by machine and inanimate power, hence the continuity of the cottage industry.
Life, culture and thought also began to change and develop. In the early eighteenth century Britain for most was a place of brutality and drunkenness. The average person didn t have a primary school education, and it was only the rich few that gained tertiary educations. The living conditions and poverty of the poorer classes was appalling, most lived in what is modernly referred to as ghettos. With factory industry and free trade to British colonies becoming more prevalent many people were forced to move to cities in order to obtain work. Some people were beginning to accumulate small wealth and therefore needed a place to keep it. In 1750 there were only twelve banks in Britain, by 1790 there were four hundred and fifty. Political idealism was also given much thought by an emerging middle class society. The old venal political practices where votes were openly bought and sold had to change. The masses began to gain power and a working democracy slowly developed. However this change was slowed profusely by public drunkenness. What was known as the nation s vice, it affected all sections of society from rich to poor. After much time of widespread public intoxication the government took steps to control this evil. With the start of a working democracy people demand more liberalism. This meant that women were starting to be looked at as equal citizen, however this was only being looked, at not practiced. With liberalism established people began to exercise their freedom of speech, mainly by written works. New religious ideology sprang up with the birth of new religions such as Methodism in 1729. One more notable event of the pre-industrial era was the printing of the first mass produced newspaper. They were read almost in secret due to government censorship in coffeehouses, which were the centres of political and literary discussion of the time. The papers aired the views of many different sections of society. These social changes to religion, thought and politics were fairly widespread. However, many people at first, but as time went on, fewer and fewer, held on to the traditional way of social life. Therefore this meant there was some continuity of social life during pre-industrial society which to this day is still continuing.