George IV (1762-1830) r. 1820-1830
By the 1820s, especially in the midlands and north of England, manufacturing towns and districts had been established based around factories and heavy machinery creating a rift between town and country, rich and poor. Cloth and cotton manufacture had now moved into factories and improved roads and canals removed the need for self-sufficiency as villagers now bought manufactured goods from the towns. Wagons replaced pack horse as a means of transport and goods from overseas were now soon delivered across the land to all classes – unlike former times when wines, spices and silks were enjoyed only by knights, nobles and merchants. Simple country tradesmen, like the carpenters, tailors, brewers, millers and blacksmiths as mass production began and a sudden increase in population kept the price of labour low. Farmers were now producing cereals and meat for the town markets, not for home consumption. Former open fields, or ‘commons’ where everyone’s cattle were grazed were converted by major landowners into the now familiar rectilinear mosaic of arable land created by fences and hawthorn hedges as a consequence of parliamentary ‘enclosure’ legislation introduced because the former communal style of living, although beneficial for most people, was inefficient. Vast areas of uncultivated land and old woodland were cleared for agriculture and in these fields improved farming techniques were practiced – including the four-field rotation of crops, manuring, improved drainage, more mechanised seed drilling, improved sowing, tilling and threshing all facilitated by the invention of the modern plough and threshing machine: selective breeding was producing new crops. Stock was fattened more than ever before: fresh beef and mutton replaced the former salted meats. Even though the population had doubled in a century, agricultural output had met the demand. For the growing number of affluent people food choices were moving beyond necessity: the less healthy but more popular white bread made from refined rather than wholegrain wheat was being eaten by all classes.
In London fashionable, expensive and exclusive coffee-houses sold drinks imported by the East India Company as England became a nation of home tea drinkers, tea being regarded as more socially acceptable than spirits or beer – although tobacco was now also found in most homes along with porcelain, and other goods imported from China and India – as well as books, hats and other consumer goods available from large stores. sugar consumption soared. This was the first stirring of a broad-based consumer culture and an erosion of the consumer characteristics that distinguished the classes. Hungry cotton mills became dependent on raw material imported from overseas. Native forests of oak, birch, beech, and pine had now been cleared so timber for ships, houses and fuel was being imported from North America, Scandinavia and the Baltic.
This was a revolution because one economic and social system had been replaced by something totally different. Labourers employed on country estates were now essentially landless and forced to look for employment in the overcrowded towns and cities where crime flourished. Small farms were progressively bought up by the wealthy landowners. Cottage and village were replaced by factory and town. It was disenchanted, hard-working freehold yeomen (minor landholders) forced out of their traditional claims that were to make up a large proportion of Australia’s freehold settlers. Even so, the heavy industrial revolution overlay of coal and iron was yet to come, the full impact of James Watt’s (1736–1819) steam engine was not being felt until the 1850s and 60s. On the River Thames prison hulks were a last resort to hold the overflowing prisons. Following Britain’s defeat in the American War of Independence (1775-1783) it was no longer possible to send convicts to the American colonies and this unsatisfactory situation was compounded as unsettled soldiers and sailors returned from the American conflict looking for work.
Settlers brought to Australia their assumptions about land and its management – assumptions that are still beyond question – the ideas of “enclosure” and “ownership” with fences, hedges and walls; of “agriculture” with its land clearing, ploughing, damming and irrigation, and the importation of domesticated plants and animals; and the trappings of permanent settlement including buildings, roads and infrastructure. brought a new fire regime.
Australia is the only continent on which agriculture did not develop before the colonial period.
The life of the new settlers was also determined to a degree by the former ativities in th ecountry of the Dutch and French, and the memorable days when Cook’s Endeavour had sailed along th eeastern coast, dropping anchor in Botany Bay for eight days of botanising.