A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People?: England 1783-1846 by Boyd Hilton

By Boyd Hilton

This used to be a transformative interval in English background. In 1783 the rustic was once at one of many lowest issues in its fortunes, having simply misplaced its American colonies in conflict. through 1846 it was extra a very good imperial state, in addition to the world's most powerful strength and dominant economic system, having benefited from what has occasionally (if misleadingly) been known as the 'first commercial revolution'. meanwhile it survived a decade of invasion fears, and emerged positive from greater than 20 years of 'war to the demise' opposed to Napoleonic France. but when Britain's exterior fortunes have been within the ascendant, the location at domestic remained fraught with peril. The country's inhabitants used to be transforming into at a fee now not skilled by means of any related former society, and its production cities particularly have been mushrooming into filthy, disease-ridden, gin-sodden hell-holes, in flip upsetting the phantasmagoria of a mad, undesirable, and hazardous humans. it truly is no ask yourself that those years must have skilled the main lengthy interval of social unrest because the 17th century, or that the elite must have been in consistent worry of a French-style revolution in England. The governing sessions replied to those new demanding situations and by way of the mid-nineteenth century the seeds of a settled two-party approach and of a extra socially interventionist kingdom have been either in facts, although it's going to were a long way too quickly to claim at that level even if these seeds may take everlasting root. one other end result of those tensions was once the highbrow engagement with society, as for instance within the Romantic circulation, a literary phenomenon that introduced English tradition to the vanguard of eu awareness for the 1st time. whilst the rustic skilled the good non secular revival, loosely defined lower than the heading 'evangelicalism'. Slowly yet without doubt, the raffish and rakish type of eighteenth-century society, having reached a height within the Regency, then succumbed to the recent norms of respectability popularly referred to as 'Victorianism'.

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More than 4,000 ¹³ G. E. Mingay, ‘The Progress of Agriculture, 1750–1850’, 30–6; Hugh C. Prince, ‘The Changing Rural Landscape, 1750–1850’, 128–9; B. A. , 1993), 249. ’, History Workshop, 18 (1984), 53–76. t he e c o no m y: c r i s i s an d s u rvi val 9 Enclosure Acts were passed between 1750 and 1850, encouraged in part by a streamlining of parliamentary procedures, and of these about half occurred during the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. Historians dispute whether enclosed land enjoyed significantly higher yields than the remaining open fields,¹⁵ but most agree about the malign social consequences.

T. B. ¹⁸ It is an oft-told and heroic story of enterprising giants. Traditional manufacturing was based on the so-called ‘domestic’, ‘cottage’, or ‘putting-out’ system, where capitalist masters deposited raw material at labourers’ homes and collected finished goods in return. Yet in the eighteenth century a number of these masters scaled down their ‘putting-out’ operations in order to centralize some cotton and iron production in factories. There are as usual divergent explanations, one of which is the conjunction between 1680 and 1750 of increased demand and a static level of population, leading to labour shortages and a shift in the balance of power from masters to workers.

God made the country, man made the town . . The publishers of the old-canon lists . . ⁵⁵ It is impossible to say how far the revival of ancien régime values was due to technical factors like this, and how far they were a defensive reaction against more ‘modern’ ideas. Either way it is clear that, while Throne and Altar beliefs were current in the early nineteenth century, they could hardly be said to have been inherited from the seventeenth, since outside Oxford these strains had almost completely dried up between 1720 and 1780.

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