This detailed map of England and Wales, created by engineer W Smith in 1820, provides an insight into the country’s rapid industrialisation in the early 19th century. It indicates the coal-mining districts – coal being the essential fuel to power England’s steam engines and therefore its factories and transport. Also listed are the railways and canals that enabled the transportation of England’s materials and products. Materials listed here include coal, iron, clay and stone. The country appears as a densely organised and efficient network.
As the map illustrates, coal-mining was concentrated in the north of England. Regions once rural soon became heavily industrialised.
What the map doesn’t show is industrialisation’s drastic social impact. Industrialisation demanded increasing numbers of people to propel its progress and expansion, which in turn affected working conditions, health, education and wages – negatively and positively. Throughout the 19th century journalists, politicians and industrialists – as well as the workers – debated both sides to these socioeconomic issues. A number of authors, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Elizabeth Gaskell, used their fiction writing to voice criticisms.
- Article by:
- John Mullan
- Technology and science, The novel 1832 - 1880
The first railway line in Britain opened in 1830, transforming how the public travelled and communicated – and read fiction. Focusing on the work of Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens and George Eliot, Professor John Mullan explores the influence of the railway on Victorian novels.
- Article by:
- Emma Griffin
- Childhood and children's literature
Industrialisation led to a dramatic increase in child labour. Professor Emma Griffin explores the dangerous, exhausting work undertaken by children in factories and mines, and the literary responses of writers including Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
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