Очерки по краткой истории Британии. Гурьева Ю. Ф. The 18th century - of wealth, technological revolution and power

Key words, terms and concepts:


A 1. War for Spanish Succession


2. The Duke of Marlborough


3. Blenheim and Gibraltar


4. The Union with Scotland (1707)


5. The Hanoverian Dynasty


6. The National Debt


7. The South Sea Bubble


8. Robert Walpole


9. Jacobite revolts – the old Pretender and the Young Pretender


10. William Pin "the Elder"


11. George III, "the Patriot King"


12. Boston Tea Party


13. The Declaration of Independence


14. Adam Smith "The Wealth of Nations"


В 1. Technological Revolution


2. James Watt


3. J. Wedgwood


4. Admiral Horatio Nelson, the Battle of Trafalgar (1805)


5. The Battle of Waterloo–the Duke of Wellington


6. Robert Owen


7. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelly, Keats


8. Turner, Constable


The end of the 17th century and the start of the new century, were the periods of wars in Europe. Brit­ain was involved into the Nine Years War (1688-1697) and the War for Spanish Succession (1702-1713). France had be­come a permanent enemy, and the grand strategy of Britain was to stop the French expansionist policies: to struggle against the French competition in trade, and also to interfere in the affairs of the Spanish Empire.


The Whigs in the British Parliament supported the interventionist foreign policy of William III of Orange and his favourite general – John Churchill who was already the Duke of Marlborough. After the death of Mary and William they were succeeded by Anne (1702-1714). Marlborough was the commander of the Army and was successfully fighting against the French attempts to place a French prince on the Spanish throne. The established Church and also gained free trade with England.


English flag


England, Scotland and Wales were united and became Great Britain.


The Tones opposed the military actions of their successful opponents, the Whigs.


The Duchess of Marlborough, who had been very friendly and close to Queen Anne, was replaced by a lady, support­ing the Tories. They came to power in 1712 and began negotiating peace with France. The Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1713 according to which the Crowns of France and Spain were never to be united, Britain gained many advan­tages–new territories, such as Gibraltar, Minorca, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and the right to sell slaves to the Spanish colonies. Great Britain had be­came a great European power.


Queen Anne was the last Stuart monarch, she died in 1714; and according to the Act of Settlement, she was succeeded by Protestants of Hanoverian Dynasty. George I (1714-1727) was an elderly and unpreposessing German who could speak no English.


The consequences were that the Whigs surrounding the King were handed over many of the royal prerogatives and their leader became the Chair man of the King's Council. That was the beginning of the Cabinet system of Government in Great Britain, with a Prim Minister presiding over the Cabinet.


The Whig domination lasted for half a century. It was troubled by the Jacobite Rebellion in 1715 and by the growing National Debt. It had been create to help to pay for war, and by 1713 it had risen to £54 million.


The Duchess of Malborough


The Duchess of Malborough


Georges II


Georges II


"Bonny" Prince Charlie is greeted by crowds in Edinbourgh


"Bonny" Prince Charlie is greeted by crowds in Edinbourgh


In 1717 one of the Whig ministers Robert Walpole (later known as the first Prime Minister) introduced "the sinking fund" to be used to paying off the Debt from the taxes.


The South Sea Company, founded in 1711 to trade in slaves, offered to take over a large part of the Debt which was followed by a great rise of the value of its shares. "The South sea bubble" burst up in 1720, collapsed like a pitched bubble and ruined many investors.


Robert Walpole was called to remedy the financial situation in the country. In 1721 he became the first Prime Minister and an outstanding statesman. The main objectives of his policy were peace and prosperity.


His motto was "let the sleeping dogs lie". He had been in office for twenty years and stabilized the financial situa­tion with the help of taxes imposed on goods sold within the country.


The taxes on tea and coffee were a success, but the taxes on wine and to­bacco aroused protests of his opponents and people in the country.


When George II became king (1727-1760), he continued his father's policy and relied upon R. Walpole as Prime Minister. But the opponents from the Tones were attacking Walpole, especially the young talented politician W. Pitt (the Elder), – and much against his will, the Prime Minister was forced to start a war against Spain. But he didn't direct it prop­erly in the opinion of his Parliamentary critics, and had to resign. But he contin­ued to have an influence on George II. Sir Robert Walpole became a very rich man, had a rich collection of paintings which was sold by his grandson to Ca­therine the Great of Russia.


1745 was the year of another Jacobite attempt to restore the Stuarts. James, the Old Pretender, had been recognized by the Scottish opposition as James III, toasts had been drunk "for the King be­yond the sea", but James was passive and didn't undertake any steps. His son and the grandson of James II, Charles Edward or the Young Pretender, landed in Scotland together with his seven followers. They were enthusiastically greeted by the Highlanders, who revolted in support of this romantic handsome young man and called him Bonny Prince Charlie. The Jacobite rebels captured Edinburgh the capital of Scotland but failed to withstand the attacks of the regular English army, they were defeated at the Cullodon Moor and scattered. Charles Edward escaped back to France. The Highlanders were subjected to cruel punishments and repressions. The old clan system was destroyed, it was forbid­den to wear a kilt or to play bagpipes. Leaders were executed, many Highland families left the country. The Highlan­ders were brought under the control of the central Government.


The most important opponent of Sir R. Walpole was William Pitt "the Elder", later Lord Chatham who was determined to strengthen the economic power of Brit­ain and to defeat France in the trade com­petition overseas. He agreed with Daniel Defoe the author of Robinson Crusoe, who had written in 1728 "Trade is the wealth of the world, trade makes the dif­ference between rich and poor, between one nation and another".


When Lord Chatham became the sec­retary of state he directed British efforts at destroying French trade and driving the French from North America; that policy culminated in the capture of Que­bec, Montreal and other triumphs of the "Year of Victory" (1759). In India the British became the masters of Bengal. India became the "jewel of the Crown" of Britain's foreign possessions. In 1760 George II was succeeded by his grand­son George III (1760-1820). He was the first Hanoverian to be born in Britain. He declared himself Patriot King and was determined to take a more active part in the government of the country. His Go­vernment, his Cabinet included the To­nes who were described as King's Friends.


A highlander


A highlander


Georges III and queen Charlotte with six of their fifteen children in 1770


Georges III and queen Charlotte with six of their fifteen children in 1770. From left to right: William, Duke of Clarence; Prince of Wales; Frederick, Duke of York; Princess Augusta, Princess Charlotte and Princess Elizabeth


The Bell of Liberty


The Bell of Liberty


William Pitt, the Elder, had resigned as his new military plans did not find an understanding of the young King, who wanted to make peace with France (1763) and other European countries.


Meanwhile there were deteriorations in the relations with North American colonies. The colonists objected to the taxation from Westminster declaring their demands – "No taxation without representation". The King's new minis­ter Lord North didn't stop George III from mismanaging the affairs in North American colonies.


The Boston Tea Party in 1773 was the protest against the Stamps for tea taxes, when the colonists threw the East India Company's tea into the harbour. The Parliament undertook repressions though the opposition of Whigs were against this disastrous policy.


There were military conflicts near Lexington and Concord near Boston. The Congress of the United Colonies at Philadelphia elected George Washington, of Virginia commander of their armed forces (1775). A year later, on the 4 of July, 1776, the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.


The English army was defeated in the battle of Saratoga and was forced to sur­render. The war of Independence was won by the American forces supported by the French and when the Peace treaty was signed in 1782 in Paris, thirteen North American colonies transformed themselves into the United States of America with George Washington as their first President.


The defeat of Britain in North America ended the period of George III personal rule. The new Tories were his only hope, and in 1783 the King invited William Pitt, the younger, Lord Chatham's twenty-four year old son to form a Cabinet.


Georges Washington


Georges Washington


Declaration of Independence


The reign of George III was the pe­riod of the great activity of the Literary Club, headed by the literary and linguis­tic dictator Dr. S. Johnson among whose members were Sir Joshua Reynolds, Goldsmith, Burke, Fox, Gainsborough, Sheridan and Adam Smith. The book by Adam Smith "The Wealth of Nations" appeared in the year of the Declaration of Independence; in it the great econo­mist presented the first classical system of economic activities of people. James Watt in 1782 improved the steam engines and his inventions made possible the In­dustrial Revolution.




1. What were the English gains in the War for Spanish Succession?


2. When did the United Kingdom of Great Britain appear and how?


3. Who was the first Prime Minister in Britain?


4. In what way was George III different from his father and grandfather in his attitude to the government of the country?


5. Speak of the reasons and the outcome of the War of Independence in North America.


James Watt


The technological Revolution was a new breakthrough in the eco­nomic and social development of Great Britain. It was a British way of bourgeois development, in contrast to the French Revolution. Chronologically its begin­ning is referred to the middle of the 18th century; and the first achievements were in the production of agricultural prod­ucts due to the new farming techniques.


Mechanical inventions facilitated the unprecidented growth of iron and coal production. By 1800 Britain was produc­ing four times as much coal as it had done in 1700 and eight times as much iron. John Wilkinson was making iron bridges, an iron chapel, iron boats. James Wattmade a steam engine in 1769. In 1764 a spinning machine was invented that could do the work of several people. The machines for spinning and weaving revo­lutionized the cloth making industry and transformed it from a cottage industry into a factory industry which was run and controlled by factory owners. Cotton tex­tiles played the leading part in Britain's economic expansion.


Britain was importing raw cotton from its colonies and exporting the fin­ished cotton cloth to sell in Europe and in the colonies as well. Manchester be­came the centre of the cotton textile in­dustry.


A Wedgwood vase


A Wedgwood vase


In the Midlands manufacturing of china goods was developing successfully and large quantities of bone china were exported. The most famous factory was one started by master potter Josiah Wedgwood. His high quality bone china and blue china became popular, and now Wedgwood is the trade mark of most exquisite English china. The area of this industry's location is known as "the Pot­teries".


The industrial revolution involved a revolution in transport. Man-made ca­nals together with rivers linked the main ports of England, roads were improved and a service of post coaches was started in 1784.


The end of the 18th century was the period of social disintegration – the wealth of the few was growing while the misery and poverty of the majority of people were increasing equally rapidly. Deprived of the means of production workers had lived in slums and worked long hours for very low wages in facto­ries and mines. The country was splitting into two nations – the rich and the poor.


There were many reasons for discon­tent in Britain, but the Revolution in France in 1789 was first welcomed in England by liberals, but it was becoming ferocious and bloody, the British ruling classes were frightened that similar events might happen in Britain. The Book by E. Burke "Reflections on the Revolution in France" was a serious warning of the dangers of radicalism. The Government took tough measures against the work­ing class movement and organisations that were appearing: mass meetings were forbidden, associations of workers were declared illegal.


Pitt had been Prime minister after 1784 almost all his life. But the King (George III) was an old sick man, who was not always in his right mind, so the position of the P. M. was extremely im­portant. Pitt was determined to maintain peace, but Revolutionary France de­clared war in 1793. The British troops were defeated in the Netherlands and the French West India, and the situation be­came more dangerous when a New French general appeared on the political scene – Napoleon.


The British were rescued by their Navy. The commander of the British fleet, admiral Horatio Nelson won bril­liant victories over the French navy, near the coast of Egypt, at Copenhagen and near Spain. At the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 Nelson destroyed the French-Spa­nish fleet, but was killed by a sniper. He became one of Britain's greatest national heroes. His words to the English fleet be­fore the battle of Trafalgar "England ex­pects that every man will do his duty" are preserved in the memory of the na­tion as a historic example of partiotic duty in the time of danger.


The battle of Tragalgar, 1805


The battle of Tragalgar, 1805


The greatest general of the British army in the actions against Napoleon be­came the Duke of Wellington (Sir Arthur Wellesley 1769-1852).


After the disastrous invasion of Rus­sia (1812) Napoleon was defeated by the European coalition in the Battle of Na­tions at Leipzig (1813), was imprisoned on the isle of Elba and escaped from it to reappear in Paris again. The last battle was fought in Belgium at a small place called Waterloo (1815). The British army led by Wellington and the Prussian army under Marchal Bluher defeated Napoleon, he had to abdicate and was sent to St. Helena in the South Atlantic and died there.


The Congress of the European Powers held at Vienna made peace and Britain emerged from the "Napoleonic Wars" a great empire: to Canada, Australia and most of India she added Cape Colony (South Africa), Ceylon and Guinea as well as a number of small provinces.


But this newly enlarged great power was suffering from internal problems: political and economic reforms had been long overdue, the years of the war had been a period of repressions, and the po­sition of the workers and the poor had deteriorated.


The first political measure of the Gov­ernment was a Corn Law prohibiting the import of cheap foreign grain. It was fol­lowed by riots and more repressions, some demonstrators were killed in the "Massacre of Peterloo" in Manchester. The people had their progressive cham­pions who criticized the established institutions and created "new settlements of the greatest happiness of the greatest number". Robert Owen, the philan­thropic factory owner and a theorist of Utopian socialism, who influenced the de­velopment of the working class move­ments–cooperative retail societies and trade unionism was one of them.


The social and political changes in the world involved a revolution in the arts. A brilliant galaxy of writers and poets looked for inspiration to nature, to emo­tions and to the spirit of freedom. Lyri­cal Ballads of Wordsworth and Coleridge were published in 1798. The works of Byron, Shelly and Keats were romantic and emotional. Jane Austen was not car­ried away by the Romantic Movement and in her domestic miniatures described the adventures of young lovers in the English country houses.


Painting was equal to the achieve­ments of poetry. Landscape painting pro­duced two great but very different gen­iuses – Turner and Constable.


The old King (George III, 1760-1820), blind, insane, died in 1820 and was succeeded by little respected George IV (1820-1830) who had been Prince Re­gent for the last nine years of his father's life (1811-1820).


galaxy of writers and poets


House of Hanover




1. In what way is it traditional to compare the French bourgeois revolution and the Technological Revolution in Britain?


2. What branches of industry were progressing immensely in the Technological revolution?


3. What social situation was developing due to the technological revolution in Britain in the middle of the 17th century?


4. What were the military developments in the Napoleonic wars against France?


5. What were the victories of the Anti-Napoleonic coalition and what military heroes glorified Great Britain?


6. What territorial advantages did Great Britain gain out of the Vienna congress?


7. What were the internal problems of Britain at that time?


8. What were the revolutionary changes in arts?


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