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Sally Cooper 1994
Sally Cooper - A Level Study - Chapter 2

This work was done by Sally Cooper as her A Level History ''Personal Study''. Sally entitled her project
'' The growth of the shoe industry and its effect on the growth of Rushden''.

In 1851 the Great Exhibition opened in Hyde Park, London, and was meant as a celebration of British Industry and Craftsmanship. It was a concept of Prince Albert in an attempt to gain world peace through world trade. It also marked the beginning of a prosperous age for British industry, the likes of which had never been seen before.

It is true that Britain had been a prosperous nation prior to this, the Country had a healthy export trade during the 1700's of cloth and textiles which was boosted by the growth of the British Empire during the 17th and 18th Centuries. However most of Britains industry' was domestically based, which prevented the mass production which was seen in Victorian times, and can be considered to be a Golden Age of British Industry.

There were many reasons why the industrialisation process of Britain came about and saw a shift of manufacture from the home to the factory. The population had increased dramatically in the years leading up to Victoria's accession. In 1700 the population was estimated to be 6,045,000 but 100 years later it had risen to 10,500,000 an increase of nearly 60percent. By the Great Exhibition of 1851 the population had doubled to 21,000,000. This meant that there was both a workforce to make British goods but also an increased market to buy them.

Many technological advances had also been made, one of the most important of these being James Watt's commercially viable steam engine which revolutionised production techniques and through this the first factories were created, which were able to produce much cheaper goods than had ever been known before.

With the revolution of British Industry came a shift of population from the Countryside to the town.  In 1801 the population of London was 864,845, but in 1851 this had increased to a staggering 2,362,236 and by 1951 the population had risen again to 8,346,137. Similar situations can be found in the major cities.

The growth of the railway system also helped to turn Britain into a prosperous industrialised nation. An extensive rail network existed by 1846 and had been increased from 2,044 miles of track to 14,000 miles 30 years later in 1873. All these factors boded well for the British economy.

It also had far reaching social effects. A new middle class was created with the founding of small factories and living conditions greatly improved for these people. However conditions were often worse for the workers as they moved into the crowded living conditions of the cities, with health problems such as T.B and Cholera. There were also dangers to be encountered in the factories, where little protection was offered for workers. There was also the problem as C. P. Hill states in British Economic and Social History 1700-1964. "The threat of unemployment was nearly always present, and he had no security against its effects except what he might obtain through his own savings in a Friendly Society".

It can therefore be said that the Victorian era was a prosperous age for Britain as a whole and for some of the wealthy members of society. But often for the workers quite the opposite was true, improvements were made by Trade Unions, the Poor Law and the eventual creation of the Welfare State.

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