Britain from the High Middle Ages, like all other Western European nations, was increasingly part of integrated economies, and centre of this system were the cities. The paper explores particular conditions that led Britain to be the home of the industrial revolution, and rise of gentry as a key driving force…
In the Span of 300 years, majority of the population who was working in the agricultural industry dropped to only a quarter , meanwhile, the population of Britain doubled. Historically, when the population levels in the Middle Ages bubbled in such a fashion, Malthusian checks came into play. Disease and famine became the order of the day, and finally, the back of feudalism broke in England. On the other hand, France was under the oppressive control of feudalism. As I will demonstrate in later part of my research, France also experienced a Malthusian check, even though there was short sea between the two countries
This essay explores the evidence on emergence of a non-feudal class, known as the gentry to Tawney , and the role it played in industrial revolution. This particular class is considered as one of the primary agents that facilitated the path for successful transition from feudalism to an economy that is equipped to embrace the industrial revolution. This research also present the evidence that this non-feudal class rose in the context of: an economic atmosphere in their favor; an opportunity to ascend that was presented primarily through the dissolution of the monasteries; decline of the aristocracy and the centralization of the monarchy; and changing religious atmosphere that became encouraging for entrepreneurship and profit maximization. This economic, religious, and political transformation was not for England alone, the entire continent experienced it. However, the gentry, a particular class was unique to England that was able to escape the cycle. 2. Who were the Gentry? In order to discuss the role of this class in Industrial Revolution, it is crucial to recognize who they were. England, the birthplace of the industrial revolution, had a unique organization of the aristocracy. Unlike the rest of the continent, primogeniture was the order of the day, and thus, title and privilege of nobility and an intact estate were awarded only to the eldest son. Whilst rest of the offspring were considered commoners3.Another distinguishing feature was that English nobility did not rule entire regions or districts, rather their estates were dispersed across the British Isle’. These features proved to be the driving factors that enabled a non-feudal class to emerge. The aforementioned class was also known as the Peerage, and had the right to sit in the House of the Lords. In contrast, the gentry dominated the House of Commons. The gentry was a distinguished group of people with high social standing4 in English society, ranked right below the nobility, and above common people. Economically, this class drew their finances from several arenas including, but not limited to: rents of their farms, town property, investments, and working in law5. Primarily, the major difference between the Peerage and the Gentry was a legal distinction6. The discussion over gentry's role in Britain's development has been extensive, much of the disagreement about their role stems from the absence of a standard classification of gentry7. Trevor-Roper argues, to distinguish between Peerage and Gentry was mere conjecture, rather the differences between the two were minimal since the era was an aristocratic one. The groups were homogenous, and identified by similar lifestyles, interests and values8. Gentry had a greater possession of ...
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