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Achievements of the English Revolution

1. Why was so much blood shed? Why were so many pamphlets written? Why is social revolution necessary?

2. The power has shifted towards the formerly miserable and insignificant "The House of Commons", i.e. misters moneybags. First, it was the gentry, large capitalist-run estates, that dominated the power in England. Then, came the industrialists and financial barons.

3. The English revolution has led the country towards the Agricultural revolution in XVIII century. This was characterized by: 1) enclosures of common land, 2) disappearance of small farmers, "the yeomen", 3) the rise of large capitalist farmers, 4) introduction of scientific methods into agriculture, 5) hence, a significant increase in the productivity of land.

4. Between 1485 and 1517 approximately 100 thousand acres of common land were enclosed. The amount of land enclosed from 1800 to 1830 alone equaled 3.5 million acres!

The following verse is a comment on the process of enclosure:

They hang the man and flog the woman.

That steals the goose from off the common

But leave the greater criminal loose

That steals the common from the goose

The enclosures of land have created preconditions for large capitalist farming.

5. On the introduction of scientific farming, Trevelyan writes: “the age of enclosures was also the age of new methods of draining, drilling, sowing, manuring, breeding and feeding cattle, making of roads, rebuilding of farm premises, and a hundred other changes, all of them requiring capital … Owners of large compact estates took the lead … Townshend and Coke introduced into Norfolk new crops and new methods - above all, root crops and the marling of light land. Their example put their backward county at the head of English agriculture. Between 1776 and 1816 Coke so improved the land as to raise the rental of his Holkham estates from 2200 to 20000 pounds a year, and yet make the fortunes of the tenants who paid these higher rents…” Up to 600 people meet regularly at these example estates to learn how to work the land and feed the sheep scientifically.

6. During the first half of XVIII century, conditions necessary for further development were created. First, England was the largest territory in the world for free trade. Trevelyan writes: “The shrewd Venetian envoy, Mocenigo, at the end of his residence in our island, reported to his masters in 1706 that freedom from internal duanes was one reason why ‘industry was further advanced in England than in any other part of the world’”.

Second, a system of canals was set up that allows for fast and cheap inland transportation. Effects of this on the general population are described by Thomas Pennant in 1782: “The cottage, instead of being half covered with miserable thatch, is now covered with a substantial covering of tiles or slates, brought from the distant hills of Wales or Cumberland. The fields, which were before barren, are now drained, and by the assistance of manure, conveyed on the canal toll-free, are clothed with a beautiful verdure. Places which rarely know the use of coal are plentifully supplied with that essential article upon reasonable terms; and, what is of still greater public utility, the monopolizers of corn are prevented from exercising their infamous trade.” Articles from overseas trade could now spread throughout the country: “Sugar from the British West Indian islands was now on every table.” 

Third, because of colonial trade and war, large capitals were accumulated in private hands, which was necessary for creation of modern large-scale industry, e.g. the railroads.

Fourth, cultural level of population rose substantially. Traders and manufacturers began to attend coffee shops where they had a chance to exchange economic and political news. First newspapers were published, which gave people from provinces a chance to find out in a few days the news from London.

Fifth, in XVIII century we see a beginning of the general public education. For this purpose, charity and Sunday schools were established. However, ordinary textbooks were boring, and the lower classes – farmers and cottagers – often obtained their education through reading ballads and short articles glued to the walls of the pubs. For example:

The ballads posted on the Wall

Of Joan of France and English Moll

Fair Rosamund and Robin Hood

And the little children of the Wood

7. The class of large capitalist farmers takes charge of intellectual development of the nation. For example, English poet William Somerville (1675-1742) writes about his contemporaries:

A rural squire, to crowds & courts unknown

In his own cell retired, but not alone;

For round him view each Greek & Roman sage,

Polite companions of his riper age

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) represented the gentry in literature (gentry - people connected to large landed estates). His "Robinson Crusoe" has instilled in us dreams of adventures and discoveries on the seas - a necessary component for the future British Empire.

David Hume (1711-1776) and Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) were representatives of gentry in philosophy and history. Hume became famous for posing "an induction problem" - how do we know that "X" causes "Y"? If one follows the other doesn't mean that one is the cause of the other. Gibbon wrote one of the most scholarly works on "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire".

These were the most advanced minds of its time. Here is, for example, how David Hume describes his reception in Paris in 1763, where he obtained a place in the English embassy: “Those who have not seen the strange effects of modes will never imagine the reception I met with at Paris, from men and women of all ranks and stations”. We should remember that this was the age of Enlightenment, and Paris was full of brilliant writers, musicians, philosophers, etc.

However, these same people had a presentiment of "the decline and fall" of the future British Empire. David Hume, writing to Gibbon in 1776 said: “the prevalence of superstition in England prognosticates the fall of philosophy and the decay of taste.” In 1782 Gibbon described the fellows of Oxford, where he himself studied: “From the toil or reading or thinking or writing they had absolved their conscience. Their conversation stagnated in a round of college business, Tory [conservative] politics, personal stories, and private scandal; their dull and deep potations [drinking] excused the brisk intemperance of youth.” This sounds very similar to what we see in colleges and universities today in the United States.  

A special mention should be made of John Cleland (1709-1789). He wrote an erotic novel Fanny Hill: or, the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. This novels is remarkable for its truthfulness. In fact, it was forbidden for a couple of centuries, its copies were sold illegally. In XX and XXI centuries it is an enjoyable reading for volunteers at Librivox and it has been made into a movie (several versions). This book confirms our hypothesis that a social revolution carries with it also a human, “inner” liberation. Such a novel as “Fanny Hill” would not be possible in a feudal England.

8. Revolution in England has made possible a large increase in population of England. We notice a moderate growth of population in the epoch of Tudors, i.e. from the middle of XV century, and in the epoch of Elizabeth, i.e. second half of XVI century. Then, because of pre-revolutionary crisis and the civil war, the population of England decreased. But in the following epoch, there is a fantastic growth of population. Arnold Toynbee, in "The Industrial Revolution in England in XVIII century", writes that for decades up to 1751 the highest increase of population was 3%. For the next three decades, the increase equaled 6%. Between 1781 and 1791 it was 9%; between 1791 and 1801 it was 11%; between 1801 and 1811 - 14%; between 1811 and 1821 - 18%. Another English author, D. McDowall, in "An Illustrated History of Britain", writes: “In 1815, the population was 13 million, but this had doubled by 1871, and was over 40 million by 1914.” Conclusion is that growth of population is a part of the general growth of productive forces of a society. If a society is rolling backward, its population is decreasing, e.g. the USSR in 1990's. If a society is stagnant, its population is stagnant as well, e.g. modern Europe. And if society is progressing, its population is increasing, as in early modern England.

9. After the agricultural revolution, we see the Industrial revolution in England. It's highlights were the invention of the steam engine by James Watt at the end of XVIII century, leading to mechanization of large-scale production. In particular, this has led to the improvement in the means of transportation, such as the steam train and the steamboat. 

Friedrich Engels wrote in 1845: "60-80 years ago this was country like others, with undeveloped and uncomplicated industry, and rare, but comparatively numerous agricultural population; but now it is a country very different from all others, with a capital of 2.5 million people, with large factory towns, with industry which supplies the whole world with its products, and almost all things it produces with the help of complex machines, with active, intelligent and dense population, 2/3 of which are busy in industry, which consists of very different classes, one might say even represents a totally different nation, with different customs and needs from the one before". England became a vibrant land, like China of today, "a workshop of the world". This made possible the world-wide domination of England throughout the XIX and early XX centuries.

 


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