England in 1700

England in 1700
1690 map of the British Isles
Map of British Isles in c. 1690
by Carel Allard, Koninklijke Bibliotheek
Population8.2 million
LeaderQueen Anne

1 Population of England in 1700

The total population of the British Isles in 1700 is estimated at 8.2 million. The population of England and Wales in 1700 at 5.1 million, that of Ireland at 2.0 million and Scotland 1.1 million. In England and Wales between one-sixth and one-third of the population lived in urban areas, the figure depending on the method used to determine urbanization. In England and Wales about 30 towns had more than 5,000 inhabitants in 1700.

2 Agriculture and Manufacturing in 1700

2.1 Agriculture still dominant

The English economy of the early 1700's still employed more than half the population in agriculture. By 1700 agriculture was dominated by cereal growth in three field rotation. The first field was planted with rye (Fr: Seigle; Ger: Roggen; Dutch: Rogge) or winter wheat (Blé; Weizen; Tarwe). The second had spring oats (Avoine; Hafer Haver) or barley (Orge; Gerste; Gerst). The third field was left fallow (empty). Threshing these grains manualy with a flail was one of the most time-consuming activities of the rural population.

2.2 Mining and Connected industries

England was the leading producer of tin, mined in Cornwall. In other areas massive coal mining operations had been started. Way before the industrial revolution had started, England was the by far largest producer of coal. By the end of the 1500's Tyneside was shipping out about 165,000 tons per year1. There was even special ship type, the 'Collier' (in Dutch 'Koolhaalder') dedicated to moving coal. All this coal was handy for heating houses, but also enabled founding an iron and steel and arms industry, and even the manufacture of window glass.

2.3 Sugar industry

In the Caribbean the English had settled Barbados in 1627. Other islands followed, and in 1655 they conquered Jamaica. This led to the establishment of a plantation economy based on slavery. Sugar was a principal crop and required machinery for the sugarcane mills. Another crop was indigo, and that came in handy for the domestic cloth industry.

3 Trade of England in 1700

3.1 Trade with northern Europe

Just like the Dutch the English had an extensive trade with the Baltic. The English imported goods like flax, hemp, wax, skins and furs, but not much grain. They exported cloth, salt and lead. For the trade with Russia the Muscovy Company was established.

3.2 Trade with the Mediterranean

English merchant exported fish, grain and cloth to the Mediterranean. For the trade with the Ottoman Empire and Venice there was the Levant Company

3.3 Trade with the East Indies

The trade with the East Indies was monopolized by the East India Company. The English East Indies company was not as mighty as the Dutch, but was lucky in coming into more profitable markets than the Dutch. It moved into cotton, silk, indigo, saltpetre and tea products that were becoming more important than spices.

4 Financial System

4.1 The Glorious Revolution strengthened the financial system

From Queen Elizabeth onwards the English government was often pennyless. It did not succeed in establish a significant permanent level of taxation. The House of Commons successfully defended the English constitution, and when James II made a serious attempt to overthrow it, he was deposed in the Glorious Revolution. From then on it was clear that taxes would only be levied with the assent of the House of Commons.

The effect of the Gorious Revolution on public finance, was that there would not be public expenditure that was not covered 2). This meant that people could do business with the government and be sure to get paid. The public could also borrow money to the government and be sure to get it back with interest. The result was that the government only paid a modest interest rate. In this way the Glorious Revolution strengthened the financial system by limiting the power of government.

4.2 The Bank of England

The events of 1688 had led to the establishment of a modern financial system based on the Dutch. In stead of simply loaning money from the public, the lenders were incorporated as the Bank of England, which was thus founded in 1694. This made credit available to the government, and gave the public a reliable place to store its assets. The English rule of law eventually made this plan successful.

Another important measure was the currency reform 1694-1699. It aimed to put a reliable form of silver coins into circulation, and to put an end to the clipping of coins.

5 Notes

1) Revolutionary Empire, page 49
2) To be more specific: This also meant 'sustainably' covered. As (representatives of) the taxpayers the Commons were not for levying a tax that was not sustainable.