Section 3 - History



  • 1865 = height of economic and industrial power
  • Economic strength and industrial output = Britain dominated the world
  • Lasted into the early 1870s 
  • Accompanied by technological advancements in Britain's key industries
  • Coal mining, iron and steel, engineering and the textile industry 
  • Rapid increase in production
  • Increase in scientific knowledge 
  • Boosted British agriculture = period of High Farming
  • British goods were exported around the globe in British ships
  • Unchallenged by another other power
  • Limited interference in the working of market economy by the Government
  • Tax was low
  • Free trade encouraged
  • Years of peace and prosperity
  • People enjoyed the rewards of working hard with higher incomes and increased consumption
  • Better education and public health 
  • Standard of living rose but some poverty still remained 
  • Began to face competition and rate of growth was slowing 
  • They needed to adapt to meet the challenge 
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Progress in Industry

  • 1851 = Great Exhibition took place in London's Hyde Park
  • Show-cased the variety, inventiveness and skill of British manufacturing industries
  • Exhibits from competitor countries were included to underline Britain's committment to free trade and to emphasise by comparison the excellence of British-made goods
  • Exhibition also reflected anxiety about Britain's position, free trade and peace 
  • Spin off = rapid increase in export orders, and a growth in overseas markets 
  • 1/3 of all British goods were exported to the British Empire
  • Coal was exported to Europe
  • Many goods went to America because their own industries were not sufficiently developed to cope with the demands of a fast increasing population
  • Perid of unprecedented demand for British goods abroad
  • Producers and manufacturers were working flat out to meet the increasing orders
  • Britain = workshop of the world
  • Imported raw materials, manufactured goods, exported the finished products around the world
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Progress in Industry

Iron and Steel Production (thousand tonnes)

1860-1864 = 1,500

1865- 1869 = 2,000

1870-1874 = 3,000

Coal (million tonnes)

1860-1864 = 7

1865-1869 = 9

1870-1874 = 12

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Progress in Industry

Cotton Textiles (million yards)

1860 - 1869 = 2,000

1870 - 1879 = 4,000

Woolen goods (thousand yards)

1860 - 1869 = 240,000

1870 - 1879 = 311,000

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Progress in Industry

Several reasons for such marked industrial progress:

  • Britain = first industrial nation 
  • 1865 = far outstripped other countrie in establishing markets at home and abroad for it's vast range of quality goods
  • Britain controlled vital sea routes to and from its colonies and other overseas markets
  • Plentiful supply of natural resources, principally coal and iron ore
  • Had the technology to exploit resources
  • Able to forge ahead in design, engineering processes and production
  • 30 million population provided a large workforce and an expanding home market
  • Mobility of the workforce and carriage of goods was made possible by the extensive railway network across Britain, which linked every major town and sea port and facilitated industrial development 
  • Move towards free trade had also encouraged overseas trading and stimulated British industry
  • Profits were ploughed back into existing businesses, and used to further enterprises
  • Large amounts of capital were avaliable for reinvestment as a result of developments in banking facilities, and assured London's position as a world monetary centre
  • Key industries = coal and iron
  • Textiles still remained staple and Britain continued to be an exporter of cotton cloth
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Coal Mining

  • Growth = immense
  • 1865 output = 98 million tonnes 
  • 1875 output = 130 million tonnes
  • Drop in the price of coal + an increase in demand helped to stimulate increased production 
  • 1870 = the iron industry was buying one third of coal produced in Britain
  • Coal was needed to power steam engines and these were used in most major industries
  • Other countries began to develop and import coal from Britain
  • Implications for the running and organisation of the coal mines
  • All coal mines = privately owned
  • Landowners made vast fortunes but coal was still dug out by hand
  • Absence of mechnical powers blamed on continuing private ownership of coal mines
  • 1860's attempt to create a coal cutting machine failed 
  • Population growth meant a steady supply of labour 
  • Some successful technical developments 
  • Introduction of the wire rope and steam-driven winding gear at the top of the coal shaft replaced the hemp rope and the systen of horse gin 
  • Dealt more efficiently with the 600-800 tonne daily haul of coal in some pits
  • Steam locomotives and iron rails facilitated the transport of coal from the pit head to a wider distribution network and into towns, iron works, factories and sea ports 
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Iron, Steel and Engineering

Iron and Steel:

  • Industry expanded = demand for high quality iron increased
  • Technological developments improved the quality of the iron 
  • Responsible for the continuing increase of iron ouput through the 1860s and 1870s
  • Many engineering projects = dependent on production of Iron from Britain
  • Iron ore production = 10 million tonnes in 1865 
  • 15 million tonnes = 1875 
  • New processes enabled steel to be produced quickly and cheaply in large amounts:
      • Henry Bessemer's Converter which produced semi-steel and mild steel that halved the cost of steel production
      • William Siemens' Open Hearth Process, which allows the cheap production of mild steel in bulk 
  • As a result, by 1870 many rail companies had replaced iron track with steel 
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  • Linked to the expanding of coal and iron industries
  • Most dramatic and far-reaching = the growth of the railways
  • Played a vital role in economic expansion
  • 1860 = more to do with expansion 
  • Laying railway track across the Scottish Highlands = challenging because of the difficult terrian and sparse population 
  • Costly exercise but essential in that it linked reote areas of Scotland to the rest of Britain
  • Most was to set up branch lines, often linking seaside resorts to larger towns 
  • Entirely new industry of tourism
  • Created many jobs, beyond temporary work such as laying new track
  • Railway companies needed permanent staff to run offices, to drive and maintain trains and to proide a service to their passengers 
  • 1870 = railway employment was the largest in the country
  • Became concerned with producing better, faster annd more reliable engines 
  • Led to the development of precision engineering 
  • Companies set up to produce more modern rolling stock and locomotives 
  • Led to the development of prosperous railway towns such as Crewe and Derby
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  • 1865 = 11,000 miles of railway track in Britain
  • Carried over 200 million passengers and 100 million tonnes of freight 
  • Earned the railway companies = £15 million in ticket sales and £18m is freight charges
  • 1875 = 14,000 miles of railway track
  • Carried 500 million passengers and 200 million tonnes of freight
  • Ticket revenues = £24m and £32m in freight charges 
  • First London Underground opened in 1863
  • Before the electrification of the railways 
  • Smoke and fumes, sickly smell of oil lamps in carriages = unpleasant ride
  • Matropolitan line carried 10 million passengers in the opening year 
  • The Bessemer Steel Rails = further boost to the railway industry 
  • Cut production of costs and increased profits, producing more capital for investment 
  • Invested in railroad building overseas in India, Canada, America and Argentina 
  • No other efficient method of carrying large quantities of heavy goods or people 
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  • British shipping dominated the world
  • Sailing ships = made up majority of the mercantile marine
  • Steamships had been built earlier in the 19th century, but were expensive to run and build
  • Growth of world trade was important for increasing shipbuilding in the 1860s
  • Massive increase in production of cheap iron and steel 
  • Made it possible for Britain to forge ahead in the development of steamship 
  • Monopolise shipping routes
  • The Suez Canal opened in 1869 = cut the time to India, China and Australia
  • Too narrow for a large sailing ship 
  • Further boost for the British steamship 
  • 1866 = Atlantic cable across the ocean between Britain and America
  • Information could be relayed amost instantaneously using a semaphore system
  • Telegraph services opened up and became part of the Post Office in 1868
  • First step in the gigantic communications industry with which we are now familiar
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The Cotton Industry

  • Impetus for the industrial revolution before 1800
  • Major industry after 1865, but its rate of progress was slower
  • Share of Britain's export market began to fall in the 1860s 
  • British manufactured cotton cloth still accounted for 2/3 of the cotton sold in world markets until just after 1900 
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Summary of Industrial Output

  • Coal output:
      • 100 million tonnes = 1865
      • 130 million tonnes = 1875

  • Iron Ore:
      • 1865 = 10 million tonnes 
      • 1874 = 15 million tonnes

  • Steel:
      • 1865 = 100,000 tonnes 
      • 1874 = 500,000 tonnes

  • Railway:
      • 1875 = 14,000 miles of track 
      • 1875 = 500 million passengers
      • 1875 = 200 million tonnes of freight
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Summary of Industrial Output

  • Employment in all industries = substantial
  • Railway: 300,000 workers 
  • Coal mining: 400,000 workers
  • Iron: 200,000 workers
  • Cotton: 500,000 workers 
  • Created a demand in the economy because their wages had risen 
  • Newly acquired spending power and desire for consumer goods 
  • Created further prosperity 
  • Produced an annual economic growth rate of 2%
  • Output was far beyond the requirements of home consumption 
  • Boom in Britain's export market and accounted for almost all of Britain's exports 
  • Profits raised capital for further investment at home and overseas 
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Progress in Agriculture

  • Fear that the price of home-grown wheat would collapse against competition after the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846
  • This didn't happen
  • By 1865 = Britain was enjoying a Golden Age of agriculture 
  • Harvests produced successive high yields 
  • Prices were steady 
  • Farmers' incomes increased
  • Technological innovation and improvements were carried out
  • 1873 = abrupt end and the farming industry entered a long period of economic downturn 
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A Period of Prosperity for British Farmers

High Farming: 

  • Farming practices adopted by many farmers during the years after the repeal of the Corn Laws, until the depression hit in 1873
  • James Caird = called for more intensive farming, taking account of new farming methods and improvements
  • High farming was popular over the next 20 years and coincided with the Golden Age of British Agriculture 
  • High farming mehods increased productivity
  • Many farmers moved from purely arable to mixed farming
  • Hedged their bets on growing wheat and root crops, as well as stocking cattle, sheep and pigs
  • They would be cushioned against a sudden downturn in price of either crops or livestock 
  • The surplus crops fed the animals and the animals' manure fed the crops
  • Increasing interest in animal husbandry (stock farming) 
  • Some farmers specialised in specific breeds of cattle such as Aberdeen Angus 
  • Much of the profits in farming at this time came from livestock rearing
  • Increase in scientific knowledge = artificial fertilisers, such as superphosphates, were marketed and guano from Peru were imported in large quantities 
  • Growing market in animal feedstuffs, made from cotton seed 
  • Eased the pressure on farmers to pursue mixed farming and made it easier for them to specialise in either arable or livestock 
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A Period of Prosperity for British Farmers

  • Problems of poor drainage were met b the manufacture of clay pipes
  • Loan schemes introduced for farmers to invest in drainage pipe systems 
  • Improved drainage with the use of fertilisers made improvements in crop yield
  • Ready supply of cheap labour - machinery introduction was slow
  • Gang system = a gang master would hire out casual labour to farmers, using a group of men, women and children, who depended on him for work continued
  • Pay was poor, long hours and work was seasonal
  • Widespread developments in farm machinery = better ploughs, seed drills and stream-driven threshing machines
  • Steady growth of population = increased demand for food
  • New prosperity brought to Britain from the Californian Gold Rush
  • Increased amount of money led to rise in wages and prices, which in turn increased the demand fro the produce of the land
  • Demand = met by agricultural improvements
  • Development of railways helped as food could be transported quickly 
  • 1860s = farmers' benefitted rom the higher prices of meat, milk, butter and cheese 
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A Period of Prosperity for British Farmers

  • It is not difficult to achieve success in a market that lacked competitors?
  • Many mercantile ships still remained under sail
  • Transporting goods by sea = slow 
  • No foreign competition
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Rising Living Standards/Social Improvement

  • Growth in economy meant money was avaliable for social improvements 
  • Government = reluctant to intervene due to laissez-faire
  • Social improvements did occur through limited government intervention 
  • Public health and factory legislation
  • Introduction of a State education system
  • Industry and export trade had expanded rapidly
  • All returning huge profits
  • Entrepreneurial spirit led to some profits going in overseas investments
  • Owners of businesses formed a growing prosperous middle class
  • Built substantial houses on the outskirts of industrial towns (Edgebaston)
  • Afford good furniture, several domestic servants and carriage luxury
  • Limited the size of their families
  • Education their children privately
  • Best medical attention possible affordable
  • Small percentage of the middle class as a whole - 25% of total population
  • Upper class = 1%
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Rising Living Standards/Social Improvement

  • Broader definition = those who could afford to keep a domestic servant
  • 1871 = 1.4 million domestic servants 
  • Increasing number could afford to move from old town ceners to new suburbs 
  • Not possess their own carriage, but might travel to work by rail
  • Very real poverty still existed in Britain
  • 1870s = all round improvement in standards of living for working classes
  • Average wage rose by 40% between 1862 and 1875
  • Increased spending power
  • 15% of working class = skilled artisan workers earning £2 a week
  • Life = less than harsh
  • Membership to the Cooperative Society increased
  • Co-op stores began to spread, particularly in northern industrial towns
  • Factories producing cheap goods 
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Rising Living Standards/Social Improvement

  • 1871 = 65% of the population lived in urban areas 
  • Plenty of jobs and wages were higher than in rural areas
  • Rapid growth of industrial towns created problems in provision of basics 
  • Problems = constant supply of water, proper drainage ans sanitation, well-lit streets
  • Working class houses = inferior quality, lack of light, ventilation, running water and sanitation
  • Some attempts made to address these problems 
  • Still problems of laissez-faire
  • Role of local government in urban areas = put improvements into operation
  • Municipal Reform Act of 1835 had set the pattern of municipal self-government 
  • 1870 = still indepedent bodies who took responsibility for services such as street cleaning
  • 1871 = Royal Commission = Sanitary Law should be made uniform
  • The Local Government Board was set up as a result 
  • Reorganised health administration as an office of central government
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Rising Living Standards/Social Improvement

  • 1866 = cholera epidemic claimed the lives of 20,000 people 
  • Disease such as smallpox and TB took its toll
  • The Sanitation Act of 1866 compelled local authorities to make improvements
  • Positive result = sanitary regulations were enforced in factories 
  • Gladstone's Public Health Act of 1872 established both Urban and Rural Sanitary Authorities
  • Resposible for public health in local areas 
  • Not a great success due to inadequate funding 
  • Still no medical officer of health in every area
  • Lack of conformity over arrangements for urban sanitation and water supplies 
  • Major step forward = Disraeli's Public Health Act of 1875
  • The Metropolitan Board of Works = set up in 1856 to coordinate public works across London
  • Forerunner of the London County Council
  • Organised the construction of a sewerage system in London
  • 1866 = most of London's was connected to an efficient sewage network 
  • Helped to clean up London's water supply
  • Removed sight and smell of foul waste along banks of the river Thames
  • Reduced mortality rates 
  • The Victoria and Albert Embankments opened in 1870 
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Rising Living Standards/Social Improvement

  • Construction of sewers = major civil engineering project 
  • 82 miles of intercepting sewers below London's streets 
  • Epitomised a period of progress and prosperity 
  • Lack of commitment to improve housing too 
  • Demand for housing exceeded supply 
  • Landlords looked for compensation 
  • Little enthusiasm for a programme of slum clearance 
  • 1866 = Treasury made loans avaliable to local authorities for house building 
  • Little interest shown
  • 1868 Torrens Act = bound landlords to keep property in a good state of repair
  • Little action of local auhotiries and central government to improve housing stock
  • Exception = Birmingham where Chamberlain carried out far-reaching improvements in housing
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Rising Living Standards/Social Improvement

  • Trade Union Act (1871) = trade unions won legal status
  • Able to offer their members support over conditions of employment
  • Factory Reform movement = campaigned for better conditions and limited hours in 1870 
  • Local authorities opened public institutions such as libaries, parks, baths and wash houses
  • Simple commodities became more easily avaliable and affordable 
  • Food was cheaper 
  • Still little security for when workers lost their obs
  • They may have set aside money in the Post Office Savings banks introduced in 1861
  • Also may have set money aside in their Friendly Society
  • May have to rely on family or neighbours 
  • Unskilled workers = turned to the only State provision avaliable
  • Poor relief and the Workhouse 
  • Humiliation and stigma that brought to a hard-working man and his family 
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Ideas of Laissez-Faire

  • Adopted as the economic doctrine in the 19th century 
  • Basic laws of economics that did not change 
  • Price equilibrates supply and demand 
  • Goods = short supply and demand was high, prices would be high 
  • Goods = plentiful supply and demand was low, prices would fall
  • Government regulation would not make a difference
  • Term gained wider meaning
  • Used as an argument against government social reform
  • Laissez-faire became the norm and people had little expectation of government interference
  • Jeremy Bentham proposed a theory of Utilitarianism 
  • Based on a view that minimal government interference in lives would bring 'the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people'
  • Duty of government to try to achieve this by imposing few restrictions 
  • Also by making the government as efficient and meaningful as possible
  • This suited the new Liberal and Radical political thinking 
  • Non-interventionist policy became favoured 
  • Gladstone = laissez-faire reinforced 'peace, retrenchment, reform'
  • Limited reform to basic safety measures in the workplace 
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Free Trade and Self-Help

  • 1860 = almost all trade restrictions had been removed 
  • Britain could call itself a free trading nation
  • Had becoe Gladstone's main objective as chancellor of the exchequer
  • Gladstone = logic of free trade was clear 
  • Lower the duties = more cheaply they could produce the goods
  • Then sell them at a competitive price both in the home and abroad market
  • Adoption of free trade led to a huge increase in the volume of trade 
  • Provied a stimulus for further economic growth
  • Laissez-faire = emphasis on the importance of the indiviual
  • Growing belief that everyone should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential
  • They also had to take personal responsibility for their actions
  • Be prepared to work hard to achieve their aim
  • Not blame other circumstances for mishaps that occurs 
  • Clear belief in progress through freedom (laissez-faire) and individual effort (self-help)
  • Greater strides were made in industry and farming
  • Improved communications in a period of increasing prosperity
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Free Trade and Self-Help

  • Reverse side of this coin - not everyone aspired to, or could, attain a decent standard of living
  • Many remained in poverty, unable to help themselves
  • Society looked down on these indiviuals 
  • 1870 = the princple of laissez-faire was being questioned
  • Government, society and the economy had become much more complex 
  • Government began to accept the need for introducing laws to regulate society 
  • Need to address the mst basic needs of their citizens 
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The onset of the Economic Depression

  • 1873 = Britain experienced an economic downturn
  • Divided on the cause of the depression and whether there was a depression at all
  • Several fators that pointed to the start of a period of decline
  • Industry was still expanding but at a slower rate and capital was still invested abroad
  • Production still increased, but supply was overtaking demand at home and abroad
  • Fall in prices and a reduction in profit margins
  • British trade and industry was facing more competition
  • Continuing increase in imports over exports, especially in manufactured goods 
  • Signs of a rise of unemployment 
  • Reluctance in manufacturing firms to consider new science-based industries
  • Coal and textiles industries always made money 
  • Failed to see the need for hange and began to feel effects of foreign competition
  • British workforce was falling behind countries such as Germany 
  • System of education in Germany was focused on industrial training 
  • This would have encouraged innovation
  • Most British working class children left school at 12 without any training 
  • Share of total world manufacture of all types of goods began to decline 
  • America's share dramatically increased by the end of 19th century 
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The onset of the Economic Depression

  • Challenges = America and Germany 
  • By 1870's = both had potentially stronger markets than Britain 
  • Wet summer and poor harvest in 1873 ended the Golden age of Agriculture 
  • Start of severe depression in farming, particularly in arable 
  • Several years of wet summers and disappointing harvests
  • Increasing import of cheaper grain from overseas, particularly North America
  • Money from British investors had allowed railroad building in America to compete with Britain
  • Prices and profits fell
  • Results = catastrophic for many arable farmers
  • One government remedy would have been to introduce tarrifs on imported foodstuffs
  • Disraeli now accepted a policy of free trade
  • Took the political decision not to protect British agriculture 
  • It would need to adapt and change to survive
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The onset of the Economic Depression

  • During the years 1865 - 1873 = Britain continued to enoy a period of immense prosperity in both agriculture and industry which had begun in 1850
  • Economic progress was sustained by its free trade policy 
  • Reduction in tax allowed individual entrepreneurs and businessmen to build up their private fortunes, as well as the wealth of the nation by investing the lage sums of avaliable capital in enterprises at home and abroad 
  • Maintaining peace encouraged economic stability 
  • Potential economic rivals = sidetracked by war
  • End of Gladstone = start of the depression
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