5N – THE ROMANTIC AGE: THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND NOV. 2015
The term Industrial Revolution generally refers to Britain’s economic development which rapidly transformed it from an agricultural to an industrial country.
The Industrial Revolution involved the use of new sources of power (like coal and the steam engine), important technological inventions (like the mechanisation of the textile industries, the improvement of iron-making techniques) and the development of the factory system (division of labour and specialization of function). Trade expansion was enabled by the improvement of transports: new waterways were built and road conditions were bettered.
There were also great changes in agriculture. The Agrarian Revolution was connected to the Industrial Revolution because they both used technological inventions. The Agrarian Revolution took two principal forms: massive enclosure of “open fields” and common land, and improvements in the breeding of cattle and in farming techniques.
During the Industrial Revolution, power and wealth began to move from the land-owning aristocracy to factory owners and other employers based in the cities. In this period cities expanded rapidly thanks to the arrival of rural farm workers who became industrial labourers. Women and children were especially employed because they could be paid less and were easier to control. The new urban masses lived in conditions of terrible poverty and overcrowding and the atmosphere was polluted by smoke from factories. Small towns, the so-called “mushroom towns”, were constructed to house the workers; they lacked the most elementary sanitation.
The old feudal order of agrarian society was going to be replaced by a nation divided between rich landowners and industrialists on the one hand and the restless urban poor on the other.
The policy of “laissez-faire”, based on thedoctrine that an economic system functions best when there is no interference by government, proposed by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations (1776), served to increase the gap between the rich and the poor.
The fear that the French revolutionary ideas would spread among the working class led the government of William Pitt the Younger to pass theCombination Acts(1799-1800) which made Trade Unionism illegal.
The employers took advantage of the situation and dictated their terms, workers’ frustration led to protests such asLuddism - between 1811 and 1816 workmen attacked factories and destroyed laborsaving textile machinery in the belief that such machinery would diminish employment.
A protest in 1819, thePeterloo Massacre, where soldiers fired on and killed workers at a meeting, led the government to pass new acts to makemeetings illegal (Six Acts, 1819).
Gradually, a new political awareness began to be felt and an age of important reforms started. In 1824 the Combinations Acts were repealed and the firstTrade Unionswere founded. In about 1830Socialismarose as a reaction to the economic and social changes associated with the Industrial Revolution; it advocated the abolition of class differences and the redistribution of wealth. In 1833 theFactory Actswere passed to limit the exploitation of child and female labour in industry.
The conflict arose from growing tensions between residents of Great Britain's thirteen North American colonies and the colonial government, which represented the British crown.
The colonists argued that the British parliament was not entitled to tax American colonists who were not represented in that parliament (the "notaxation without representation" theory).
On 4 July 1776, Congress adopted theDeclaration of Independencewhich was drawn up byThomas Jeffersonand in which the natural rights of all people were proclaimed.
France entered the American Revolution on the side of the colonists, turning what had essentially been a civil war into an international conflict. In 1781, the war ended. In 1783 the British recognized the independence of the United States.
The same thirst for freedom and equality, claimed in the American Declaration of Independence, marked the event which most influenced the European political and intellectual thought at the end of the 18th century: the French Revolution.
In Britain it gave rise to different reactions: on the one hand, the ruling classes were terrified of “Jacobinism”, as sympathy with the cause of French Revolution was called; on the other side, the majority of intellectuals and Romantic poets enthusiastically supported the Revolution. Disillusion soon followed with the Reign of Terror and the imperialistic tendencies of Napoleon, and some Romantic poets turned from radical to conservative in the early 19th century. Even so, the hope of regeneration and change was reflected in Romantic poetry.
George II was succeeded by his grandson George III. He was the third British monarch of the House of Hanover, but unlike his two Hanoverian predecessors he was born in Britain, spoke English as his first language, and never saw Hanover.
His life and reign were marked by a series of military conflicts involving his kingdom, much of the rest of Europe, and places in Africa, the Americas and Asia.
Early in his reign, Great Britain defeated France in the Seven Years' War, becoming the dominant European power in North America and India. However, many of its American colonies were soon lost in the American War of Independence. Further wars against revolutionary and Napoleonic France from 1793 concluded in the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
In the later part of his life, George III suffered from recurrent, and eventually permanent, mental illness. Medical practitioners were baffled by this at the time, although it has since been suggested that he suffered from blood disease. After a final decline in 1810, a regency was established, and George III's eldest son, George, Prince of Wales, ruled as Prince Regent. On George III's death, the Prince Regent succeeded his father as George IV.
George III was succeeded by two of his sons George IV and William IV, who both died without surviving legitimate children, leaving the throne to the only legitimate child of the Duke of Kent, the fourth son of George III, Victoria, the last monarch of the House of Hanover.
The First Reform Bill was passed. It extended the right to vote to middle-class men, who acquired more political power as a consequence; it excluded the lower middle classes, the working classes and women.