« AnteriorContinuar »
This work is concerned with the period of English history when changes were going on which have commonly been described by the term industrial revolution. There is no agreement, however, even among historians, as to the meaning of the phrase. There is a tendency to use the term in connection with a long succession of historical events, with a continuing process that is in reality evolutionary in character.
If the word revolution is to be used at all in reference to historical phenomena, a tolerable exactness seems to demand that the history of the slow-moving evolutionary tendencies which culminate in relatively rapid and overpowering change, and of the ultimate consequences which are traceable thereto, be distinguished from the history of the crisis, the breaking of the dam, so to speak, in the current of change. In accordance with this conception, the term industrial revolution in English history may properly be confined to the initial, decisive change in England by which, in the technique of manufacturing and allied industries, power-operated machinery took the place of preeminence formerly held by the hand and the hand tool; and by which, in the organization or administration of industry, large establishments for the utilization of machinery, with an unprecedented concentration of capital and regimentation of labor, gained ascendancy over the simpler home industries, handicraft shops, and "putting-out” system.
There were minor instances of such changes before the eighteenth century; and there are today, even in England, industries which are still carried on largely in accordance with the older technique and organization. Continued improvement has been made in the major English industries since their original transformation; and in imitation of the initial changes, there has been an extension of the industrializing process—a series of in
a dustrial revolutions, if the term is to be used—by which subordinate and newly developing English industries and the industries of various other countries have come under the sway of machine technique and of factory organization. But in the more important industries of England, the essential steps in the great economic transition had been taken before the end of the eighteenth century-indeed, by the time of England's intervention in the wars of the French Revolution. It is this original and portentous change connected with the devising of machines and the building of factories in the dominant industries of England, and not the consequent extension of the new technique and the new organization, that is of unique significance in modern economic history. This fact has been recognized in a general way, but the intensive cultivation of the field has been somewhat neglected, due, perhaps, to the relative obscurity of the sources of information and to the more dramatic nature of the wars of the American and French Revolutions.
It is with this particular phase of English history that the present work is concerned. But it deals primarily not with the technical and administrative changes in themselves (wherein consisted the essence of the great economic transition, by whatever name called), but rather with the impelling forces back of the transition and with the social readjustments attending it. The causes of changing economic conditions, and the manner in which social institutions and ideas are adjusted thereto, are perhaps more significant subjects of study than the nature of the changes themselves. Any society must, indeed, have an understanding of the economic changes going on within it if its readjustments thereto are to be adequate; and the state of knowledge in late eighteenthcentury England is another significant field of inquiry included in the scope of the book.
Recently, in the general field of the present study, new sources have come to light, new points of view have been reached, and several important books and articles based on original investigations in special fields have been published. In this work, older sources commonly used have been reinterpreted, newly discovered records have been examined, and the results of recent writings on related subjects have been incorporated. Such a survey of the field has inevitably placed the writer under many obligations. A general acknowledgment is far too conventional and inadequate, particularly in the case of that revered master to whom innumerable craftsmen are indebted, Professor Edward P. Cheyney. A painstaking criticism of the manuscript by Professor Frederick L. Nussbaum was notably helpful. The author's thanks are due to the American Historical Review for the privilege of utilizing certain passages in his articles published in that journal.
W. B. University of Pennsylvania
September 15, 1924