Throughout history the primary sector for any substantial civilization was agriculture. This began in Sumeria at the dawn of civilization. Agriculture made civilization possible. And this was true for Neolithic Britain as well. Although mining was also of some importance, especially with the advent of the Bronze Age. This was because tin was found on the British Isles. It was the beginning iof the miming sector. Copper was found in multiple areas, however, tin was much rarer. Tin was needed to make bronze and the British Iles had it. As a result, even with primitive maritime technology, ancient merchants found their way to Britain. And this continued throughout the ancient and early medieval eras. During the medieval era, agriculture was the foundation of Feudalism. In Britain's case wool became very important. The modern European economy began in Italy with the Renaissance, but gradually moved north to the Low Countries, here the foundation of the economy became textiles. This did not include England, but England benefited because with its rich pasturage, it was the perfect place to produce wool, the raw material for the textile production in the Low Countries. British monarchs controlled the wool trade and tried to increase actual textile production. Gradually in the early modern era, agriculture continued to be important, but with the economy moving from feudalism to mercantilism, foreign commerce became very important. Slavery and sugar, related economic activities, were specially important. The Netherlands and Britain led the passage into capitalism and the Industrial Revolution began in Britain. This began with the textile industry with imparted cotton becoming the major raw material. Mining also became important because Britain had important coal reserves. And coal powered the 19th century Industrial Revolution. This resulted in the modernization of existing sectors and the development of whole new factors. Britain became the Workshop of the World. Gradually America and Germany emerged as major competitors. The 20th century would be defined by the challenge of the rise of Socialism and the challenge of the great totalitarian powers. America would dominate this challenge, but Britain would play an important role. And the various sectors of British industry would be involved in this struggle. Here the election of a Labour (Socialist) Government would have a major impact (1945).
England became the workshop of the world in the 19th century. This is not something that might have been expected given European history. England was for most of history a European backwater. In Roman times it was the edge of misty edge of Europe. After the departure of the Legions. England was no longer a unknown land, but it was a backwater. As the European economy evolved, England was almost entirely agricultural and pastoral. This is not what would have been expected for what would become the workshop of the world. England became the major wool producer in Europe. England's rainy climate creates the green pastures perfect for raising sheep. The Medieval wool trade was key to the British economy. But the wool was shipped to Flanders, coneniently locvated just across the Channel, not woven in England. Flanders developed as the most valuable province of Europe because the burgeoning weaving industry developing there. The royal Government was trying to get more value added done in England so the monarchy could earn more income, but this was slow in developing. It is from this point that economists debate why it was that Britain would be wear the Industrial Revolution would occur. It actually would have made more sence for it to have occurred in China which was much richer and an engine of technological development. Mogul Induia was also richer. And in Europe France was a more populace and richer country. So what was going on in England and Europe was very important to understand. It is at this time that Spain rises on the world stage witht the endof the Rebonquista and the discvovery of the Americva (1492). Huge quantities of gold and silver began to flow into Europe. England had no way of sharuing in this bonanza at first. At the same time, King Henry VIII began laying the foundation for the Royal Navy that Queen Elizabeth would use to begin seizing Spanish treasure ships. Not only did this earn England some of the treasure, but it is at this time that Britain began to excell at ship building and imprtantly began to standardize production, an important in the development of manufacturing technology. And England's began its maritime mastery with the defeat of the Armada (1588) as well as the first effort to establish an American colony at Roanoke Island (1584). Thus was amateurish compared to the vast Spanish Empire that was developing. The Dutch were earlier to get into the business of empire as part of their war of independence from Spain (1568). Which would lead the development of capitalism in the Netherlands. Something that failed to occur in the much larger Spanish Empire. It was from the Dutch that the British co-opted capitalism which is surely a major reason that thev Industrial Revolution began in England. This was important not only for econoimic reasons, but because a modern financial system would be a major reason that England prevailed in the great struggles with France, a potentially much stronger country. A factor not often mentioned is the frugality of the monarchy forced upon by Parliament while the Spanish and French monarcies engaged in massively indugent spending leading to perpetual debt. And about the same time with the Glorious Revolution (1688), led England to becoming a pillar ofv stability in Europe, another important factor. Another factor is the inventiveness of the English people creating the the early inventions that helped set off the Industrial Revolution. Just why were the English son inventive. We are inclined to think that England was emerging from the Feudal System faster than other countries, meaning that individuals could aspire and be rewarded for invention to a greater extent that countries like France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Spain more mired in the Feudal System.
Land transport thriugh most of human history was minimal. The vast proportiion of humanity was born and fied within a few miles. England was not exceoption. The only serious road building occurred during the Roman era. Land transport continued to be a major problem well into the modern era. Roads were undeveloped. Roads were dangerous places plagued with highwaymen. They tended to be tracks farmers used bringing their animals to the Market. Dicken's stories are full of illustrations of farmers walking their geese to markets. There were horse-pulled coaches, but they were slow and bone rattling. They could transport people, but not any substantial quantity of goods. The first effort in improving land transport in England was canal building, essentilly creating arificial rivers. Canals date back to ancient times, but Britain only began building them in modern times (18th century). Rivers were of very little use in commerce because most are very short and run to the sea. Few are navigble for any distance and none ran north to south. It was canals that addressed this problem. They could be built morth to south. They did not have thec speed needed by passanger traffic, but could move goods at low cost. The Thames is the one exception, eaabling London to become a major sea port. The Mersey with the help of the Manchester Ship Canal connected the port of Liverrpool with the manufacturing center of Manchester. .
Ports were connected to other prts by costal vessels. Even after tthe adven of the rail rodas substantial British domestic goods transport went around the coast into the 20th century. The major anserr to land trabnsport as the rasilrofs which Britain invented. There were predecessors, but James Watt improved the steam engines first used to pump water from deep mines, but was staionasry (1769). Incrimental priogress followed and finally George Stephenson created the first really succesful locomotive (1814) and the improved 'Rocket' launched the British rail system (1829). Rasil son began connecting British cities provided for the inprecedented movement of goods ancd people. Isambard Kingdom Brunel would be va makor force in developing the British rail system. Steam power would be the dominant power system inBritish rails until after World War II. Sail powered ocean commerce for centuries as Britain came to dominate the seas. It was not just the Royal Navy that was important, but also British mrechant vessels. The first real challenge was from America before the Revolutionary War with the developing merchant fleet of the American colonies. The next challenge was from the American clipperships that came todominate the China trade before the adventb iof steam ships. Just as the rails would dominatre land transport, steam ships would revolutionize sea transport. And again Britain would lead the way. Not without mishos. The RMS Titanic was a British ship. But Britain developed the largest fleet of merchant vessels.
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