Population Growth.

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Population Growth.

What, then, were these changes? For one thing, the nation was growing. There was no Census before 1801, so earlier totals are not very reliable; but it is fairly clear that after creeping slowly upward for many centuries to somewhere under 5 millions the population had suddenly, almost within a generation, started to climb rapidly. From 1700 to 1750 the figures go up a full million - a good 20 per cent. In the next half-century the movement speeded up astonishingly, and by 1801 there were - as nearly as can be ascertained-8,892,000 inhabitants of England and Wales. By 1820 the 1750 population had doubled.

Historians' opinions have varied as to the reasons for this spectacular increase. It now seems likeliest that they had to do with the progress of medicine and were, in fact, the first economic fruits of the new scientific spirit which had begun its work some two hundred years earlier. The doctors turned their new knowledge to practical account before other scientists. The notion that diseases were Heaven's punishment for ill-doing, to be averted by prayer or accepted with resignation, was giving way to the view that they were caused by human mistakes and should be avoided or energetically cured. Hospitals and dispensaries were being founded, methods of midwifery and the care of infants improved, and a number of specific diseases were being studied and at least partly conquered. Acute rickets, from being almost universal, grew exceptional, scurvy was practically wiped out; quarantine extirpated plague, and, most important of all, the death-rate from smallpox was heavily reduced, first by inoculation and then by vaccination.

Better diet due to the agricultural revolution, better housing, the first inklings of the importance of cleanliness and fresh air, all - however low the standards by modern ideas - played their part; drainage lessened malaria, and, as the death-rate fell in consequence, the population shot up.

This growth acted in two ways.

With every mouth, God sends a pair of hands - the new mouths wanted feeding, and so there was a stimulus to the progress of agriculture; the new hands could work, and work moreover far earlier, than they would be allowed to now, and so there was an abundant supply of labour to build the new towns and work the new machines.

The five-million population of England and Wales in the seventeenth century could not have carried through the Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions at all; and on the other hand if those Revolutions had not occurred the population of 1850 - just under 18 millions - would simply never have come into existence.

If it had it would have starved.


Next - Limitations Of Trade Unionism.

An Eighteenth-Century Survey

If we try first to get a bird's-eye view of the state of Great Britain around 1750, in order to see what forces were making towards change, we shall realize how true this is.

It is impossible, unfortunately, to make a survey as full or as accurate as could be carried out nowadays.

There were no Government statistics to speak of then, and what there were very approximate; there were no nationally organized social services as there are now, so there was no way of keeping in close touch with' movements in employment or wages or the national health.

One has to go by the reports of contemporary... see: An Eighteenth-Century Survey


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