The history of Britain speaks volumes to the current task at hand. In the longest and most demanding understanding of histories, an analysis of modern economic growth of Britain requires this paper to fuse periods in history with the theoretical statements as well as mention of various factors affecting economy at a particular time. This work will focus to understand clearly the meaning of modern economic growth and why Britain leads the pack by looking through the historical lenses.
In the oldest history, back in the early 17th century, Britain was composed of two kingdoms that had their own differences of which later joined in the Act of Union in the year 1603.The England and Scotland joined to form a political powerhouse which gained more strength by the formation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in the year 1802. At this stage, economic prowess catapulted the kingdom as one of the most successful economies of the world. The economic output of the kingdom was at high levels thus triggering an increased standard in living. These were results of the Treaty Union whose major focus centered on the development of new economic arrangements for the whole state.
The formation of The British empire could not just be wished away by competitors and other powerful nations or states since, governing council had set the Royal navy as the icon of conquer and establishment from all perspectives. Therefore, the British Empire, suppressed other colonies and nations by their prowess show of muscle and this had become the policy. It is with his concern in mind that this paper notes that the British Empire was interested in progressing its own agendas and not any other. In this response then, many a colonies that seemed to pose a threat in terms of economic competition would be forced to subscribe to the power of the British rule through the machinery of Royal navy.
In his book, Crafts (1985), observes that this age of Mercantilism far much advanced Britain Empire. It must be noted that in the 17th Century, the age of Puritanism revolution had created a people who had developed systems in an agrarian system that ensured that surpluses were high and could therefore be exported to other colonies and countries. The Britain Empire was largely agrarian, but in the onset of the 18th century, this was to change. Due to surplus productions and increased throwaway income, the need for new goods especially manufactured and textiles was on the rise. At this time, the population of the Great Empire had increased due to the same effects and therefore urbanization as well as secularization was on their way.
In regard to the factors above, the preparation for an economic change had almost been completed by the 18th century. This era ushered in the era of industrial revolution from 1770 to 1830, which saw the change of history with new perspectives. It at this era that inventions in flying shuttle, the spinning jenny, the water frame and the steam engine hit the limelight. The development of the printing press and the spirit of Protestantism forever changed the income of almost every person in the UK and led to development of classes in the society which originated from the previous agrarian societal approaches. The population consisting of merchants and landed elites who had high purchasing power took fore front at the expense of the workers who were considered in terms of wages, toiling in the industries and factories that had developed in urban areas and near rivers, forests and coal rich establishments (Cole, A.H. and Crandall, R. 1964).
The Great Britain at this era had mass production of which the demand could not finfish and therefore external markets had to be looked for. At the same time, the need for raw materials surpassed what the internal colonies could produce and thus imported cotton from Americas found its entry into the Empire. The textile industry resulted major development of the coal, steel and iron industries as well as the construction and development o f the railway system (Schumpeter, J.A. (1954).
In this respect, technology had become the main change of policies and politics catapulting Britain to heavy dominance of the political arena in respect to other countries and colonies. This growth would only get controlled by intensifying its arms to the world stage and expanding its territories all over the earth. It is at this time that wars could not be forsaken as Britain felt huge and indeed it was! Thus it became the ideal and world number one trader that with series of exploration, research and experimentation. The push for free trade in favor of capitalism had on air and thus the previous mercantile policy were to fall with the new age of technological advancement supported large deposits of coal, huge profits from colonies and from world trade and the support of slave trade.
Before the industrial revolution, growth at the period was only in terms of GDP growth while the GDP per capita was almost non existence. The human capital played a major role at the Industrial revolution era and thus children quantity and quality were in focus. The argument that is that Britain gained prominence at this age due to the exposition of scientific method and culture upon the populace. This led to increase in literacy levels which also led to increase in GDP. The concept of human capital literacy concerns led to the adjustment of the family unit as focus shifted to quality rather than quantity. In return, this led to the change in population outlook where every person was expressed in terms of knowledge and skills and ideas that he could bring in to either invent or devise new methods of production (Broadberry, S.N. and van Leeuwen, B. 2008).
This had profound effect on the structure of capitalism. First merchants were replaced by elites who changed things to financial capital and human capital propositions. The organizational structure changed with these new concepts as the population geared to specify in certain areas and sectors of the industries all of which combined to bring new economic change. At certain points the population declined due to delayed marriages and controlled fertility rates among women either consciously or due to effects of urbanization and industrialization. The fact that new challenges had come with population explosion in terms of health, housing and mortality rates posed a serious change in structure of business, society and the family (Clark, G. 1988).
However by this far, Britain had already started experiencing the benefits of modern economic growth. It had positioned itself as the dominant manufacturer of everything that America. Germany or France required since its enemies in the name of Napoleon and Franco Prussian foes had fallen. It expanded its territory to almost all parts of the earth.
This marked the change from Malthusian to post Malthusian view and now the high wages as well high capital could lead to commercialization and emergence of international and national markets. As result this led to high change in technological progress as well as more capital intensive approach in investments by the investors. With urbanization and industrialization almost at the peak commercialization supported by specialization ensured that Great Britain exported its dominance in long distance trade displacing other known powerful traders. The Empire’s products became the most sourced for commodities and therefore positioned Britain as leader in commercialization and integration of markets.
The factor prices, wages and technology gad all conspired to put Britain in the limelight although with major fatalities and embarrassing periods as well as historical injustices. The desire to invest in other countries and colonies led to the opening of foreign trade. This was an increased activity in terms of volumes of manufactured goods and raw materials. This was made possible by the political dominance in the form of colonial control which later culminated to such investments by the late 19th century. Britain at this time experienced competition from other industrialized nations and this would usher in conflict in the scramble for international markets. The Great Britain was under the threat of breaking down from political pressures and international alliances that were different from its ideological pursuits and therefore the rise of even stronger armies and navies in the quest to maintain the economic fronts. Just the way the industrial revolution benefited Britain, it was the same way it contributed to its woes as every nation had reaped these benefits meaning now a struggle to get in front of the pack.
Although Britain was the first to experience the modern economic change, others trading nations could not be left out in the competition and thus Britain would start even to decline in terms of shocking conflicts and national rivalry. The prowess of Britain started diminishing and its dominance and superiority could not be recognized any more (Deane, P. and Cole, W.A. 1967).
The Empire did not have any comparative advantage in the foreign markets when compared to other nations creating a way for protectionism policies that catapulted the era of new imperialism. This in result paved the way for the Great Wars that resulted to great economic depression of the world. After the wars, Britain regained from the impacts of war economy with major problems of unemployment but generally improved standards of living.
As a conclusion Britain in the recent years has seen good and worst years with increased taxes and borrowing as well as concerned and strategic leadership to steer it to the next century. The years of Margaret Thatcher , the Labour Party and the 21st century have worked to wake up again the sleeping giant of all times.
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