Sunday, July 27, 2014

Role of Walpole and Political Stability under the Whigs in Industrial Revolution

The political stability that England enjoyed during the Whig rule in the 18th century created the right atmosphere for industrial development. Business and industry can grow only in a peaceful condition. The dominance of the Whig aristocrats in English politics began after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and it continued uninterrupted till the accession of George III in 1760. During this fairly long period England witnessed an environment of peace and tranquillity as she had done never before. The Hanoerians, if not very popular among Englishmen, at least did not try to create problems in politics and left the responsibility of running the government to their favourite politician, Robert Walpole, the first ‘Prime Minister’, and his cabinet colleagues.

The Whigs were closely attached to trade and commerce and the wise financial policy of their leader, Walpole, brought prosperity to England. Political stability, and competent financial management went had in hand and prepared the ground for the Industrial Revolution.
The interesting point is that several large-scale wars were fought in the 18th century which involved England, like the War of Spanish Succession, the War of Austrian Succession, Seven Years’ War, the Battles of Plassey and Buxar and the American war of independence. In addition to these, England was continuously at war with France from 1793 to 1815 – the Era of Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. But, fortunately for England, none of them was fought on the English soil. So, they did not cause much damage to the English economy. The freedom of England from external aggression contributed to industrial growth. Factories and foundries could work without the fear of destruction by invading forces, and cropj could grow on fields without being grabbed by foreign invaders.

The Whig rule prepared the ground of the Industrial Revolution in another significant way. It somewhat helped the ideals of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 to get to the common folks. It unleashed a liberal and tolerant attitude and fostered the feeling of ‘personal freedom’. It meant that remnants of feudalism were losing ground, and the poor peasant were no longer forcibly tied to the lands of their aristocrat masters. They gradually secured the personal freedom to move out of the lands of their masters and go elsewhere to seek livelihood. Many of them moved to towns to work as labourers. Thus, labour was available in English towns and cities right from the beginning of the 18th century. This was unthinkable in other parts of Europe, much of which was still straining under feudal system. We shall see later that the Enclosure Movement and the population growth helped the availability of labour. But the trend got further impetus during the Whig period.

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