Technological Advances in Britain | Economies of India and China to the Early 1800s | The British in India, Ceylon and Burma, to 1825
Afghanistan and the British, 1831-50 | First Opium War | India's Sepoy Mutiny | The Taiping Rebellion and Second Opium War
Britain in India, ideology and Economics to 1900
British agriculture advanced in the 1700s with the use of crop rotation that had been in use in the United Netherlands – the periodic planting of turnips and clover, which return nitrogen compounds to the soil. Potatoes were being grown. And a seed drill was being used to put seeds deeper into the ground, away from the wind and out of reach of birds. The planting of grass and root crops improved the soil, eliminating the need to leave one-third of a field fallow every year. Larger herds provided more manure. Food became cheaper to buy and the average person had more money to spend on manufactured goods.
Britain's economy benefited from stable government, security in holding private property and relatively free enterprise. Britain was a leading nation in world commerce. Britain's economy benefited from an effective central bank and from well developed credit mechanisms. Internally Britain was without tariff barriers. All of England was connected by waterways, with no place no more than twenty miles away from water transport, and in the 1700s this inland transportation was being improved with more canal building. Government believed in and was friendly toward commerce, and it had an extensive middleclass, whose values included industry, thrift, initiative and education in matters practical. A spirit of audacity contributed to initiative. The shackles that had been put on Galileo were off. And complaints that if God had intended this or that He would have made it so were ignored.
Some in other nations described the British as a nation of shopkeepers, while the British were moving ahead of them economically. Improvements had created a belief in progress, and while working in the sciences and tinkering with mechanics a few people were able to come up with new ways of doing things. New machines were developed. There were the Luddites – workers in the spinning industry during hard times who feared being replaced by machines and who rioted. This was in Nottingham in 1811. A few were hanged. The rioting resumed over much of Britain in 1816, but power was on the side of the mill owners, and prosperity was returning. By the 1830s, mechanization had increased productivity in the spinning industry in Britain between 300 and 400 times what it had been decades before.
The production of steel made steam engines possible, and in 1765 a Scottish instrument maker, James Watt, created a condenser for steam engines that made them more efficient and practical. Steam engines were used to pump water from mines, and steam engines began replacing waterpower in the cotton spinning and flour mills, in the crushing of sugar cane in the Indies and in driving bellows in iron and steel production.
A part of technological change was a change in use of energy. Traditionally, it was animals and humans burning calories that did the work: a horse pulling a plow, a woman behind her spinning wheel using her hands and arms. Wood had been the source of energy for the British, but much of Britain's forests had been chopped down and replaced by fields of grain and hay. The new source of energy was coal, which, fortunately for the economy, was abundant and close to the surface in Britain, eliminating the need to trade for it or to transport it across the seas. In 1800, Britain was producing 90 percent of the world's output of coal.
In the coal mining industry, men pulling carts of coal on rails had improved pulling efficiency – rails being a better surface. The first railway came in 1825 with the transporting of coal on rails seven miles between a mine in Durham and Britain's coast.
The rise in technology in Britain helped it in international commerce. Britain had been a consumer of India's quality cottons. Then British manufucting reversed this. In 1820, Britain exported 11 million yards of cotton textiles to India. By 1840, Britain was exporting 200 million yards of cotton textiles to other European countries and 529 million yards of cotton textiles elsewhere in the world. British competition put India's cotton industry in decline, producing, in the words of some, the deindustrialization of India.
The historian Jan Morris writes of changes in England by 1837, the year that Victoria, at age nineteen, became Queen. There had been the movement of labor from the towns. "The stylish English cities of the eighteenth century were invested now with by tenements and factories." Britain was between an agricultural society and industrialization. According to Morris, "...at least one in ten of the British people were paupers, naked women pulled wagons through mine shafts, poor little children of eight and nine were working twelve-hour days in the dark factories of the north." But as a nation of commerce and military power Britain was riding high. Writes Morris: "To liberals everywhere England had replaced Napoleonic France as the hope of mankind." Britain's navy "was recognized as the ultimate arbiter of the world's affairs." London was the world's largest city and also the world's principle financial exchange. (Heaven's Command, pp 22-23.)
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