The economic effects of the French wars between 1793-1815 resulted in the government borrowing monies from the Bank of England to pay British allies for defence during the Napoleonic wars. Although no wars ever took place on British soil the war had a lasting effect on the social and economic status of the nation and because of the distress and discontent in the post war years between 1815-1822 there were growing demands and pressure for parliament to reform. (Taylor, 1988).The decision to borrow capital impacted on the living wage of the working class since the government introduced income taxes in 1799, and thereafter purchase taxes imposed on foodstuffs and most consumer goods.
(Taylor, 1988). As a result of the warfare France boycotted British imports and this had an immediate impact on certain industries which would struggle to survive. The retaliatory consequences of the British navy inevitably involved America who objected to being blockaded and intercepted, although successful this led to war with America between 1812-1814, which resulted in a shortage and supply of raw cotton for the Lancashire factories.
(Taylor, 1988).Taylor (1988) stated that as cotton and pottery industries lost contracts in the European markets some of the national industries expanded. A high demand for iron products such as armaments, chains and cannons were on order to support the wars, chemical industries supplied explosives and the navy commissioned more ships to be built. Uniforms were ordered boosting the woollen industries. Steam engines were ordered as they were required to transport the raw materials and finished goods.Trading in Britain would falter around 1812 and again as the European wars were nearing an end in 1815, this would affect factories and the workers. As these factors had an impact on the income of the working population the government would intervene increasingly to keep the standard of living above the poverty line. (Fortune, 2015).The events of the Agrarian Revolution changed the rural landscape forever just before and after the 1800’s. With new farming processes reducing the need for robust farm workers the result was a mass migration of rural workers joined by Scottish migrants and the Irish immigrants increasing the overcrowded industrial urban areas in the north. (Fortune, 2015).Living in housing slums, conditions worsened with no sanitation and water only available through hose pipe only a few hours a week. These poor living conditions brought about disease and a lack of social discipline which often went unrecognised due to the abject poverty conditions and a general lack of interest from the government. (Fortune, 2015). Factory working conditions were unsafe which impacted the workers being exposed to a high incidence of accidents whilst working up to 16 hours a day. Woman and children were employed because they were easier to manage and cheaper to pay. A further disadvantage of the working class was the basic lack of education which was seen by the middle class to encourage revolutionary thinking. (Fortune, 2015).Unfavourable working and living conditions brewed discontent amongst the industrial workers which inevitably gave rise to working class movements and the necessity for parliament to intervene. The unskilled workers, often the lowest paid became a class of labouring poor to be exploited by unscrupulous factory owners and for the poor, aged, sick, unemployed or destitute poor relief was administered by the parish under the Old Poor Laws of 1601 until new legislation followed. (Taylor, 1988).Fortune (2015) states that as a result of industrialisation, a strong middle class had emerged which comprised of wealthy merchants, tradesman, industrialists, financiers, professionals and entrepreneurial men who invested and grew new business which created more wealth and power. Adopting upper class behaviours and attitudes they built substantial homes just outside the city in leafy suburbs and holidayed abroad, and they began to question the wealth and privilege of the old order. Unlike the poor children middle class children could be educated at private or grammar or schools. When the emerging classes finally challenged the privileges and the ruling political powers the result was that the working class demanded to overthrow the existing political system whereby the middleclass wanted the inclusion in parliament and the right to vote. (Hobsbawm, 1999).By 1815 parliament had become unbalanced and was unrepresentative of the population. The ruling party had capitalised from taxations around the 1800’s but still required money to pay the navy and the army. The reliance on the middleclass money resulted in parliament passing The Reform Act 1832, which qualified certain households the right to vote. (Taylor, 1988).Since the events of the European wars and the execution of the French King, the ruling party was anxious at the thought of any revolutionary ideas penetrating Britain and as a result passed The Combination Acts of 1799-1800 which abolished the gathering of 50 people or more. The impact was friendly societies formed but Riots continued between up until 1820. Termed as unsuccessful The Combination Act was repealed in 1824. (Fortune, 2015).Morgan (2004) states that social legislation to protect workers really only became common in the 1830’s with the Whig Governments. Until then the laissez-faire policies of early nineteenth century governments, were lobbied by the wealthy factory masters who opposed any regulation. Trade unionism existed only in a rudimentary form and was unable to influence governments who did not want to support laws for protecting workers conditions and rights. Following Robert Peel’s Health and Morals of Apprentices Act (1802) a long hiatus of industrial legislation was passed. Furthermore, agriculture was transformed into an industry and flourished which resulted in 1815 the landowning classes anxious to protect their own interests passed the Corn laws to protect the home-grown grains against cheaper imports. (Fortune, 2015).Fortune (2015) states that although the Factory Acts of 1833 and 1844 were passed to improve the plight of the women and children they subsequently reduced household incomes considerably resulting in the fall in living standards. Industrialisation had changed the lives of half the working population in the urban centres but not always for the better. The deterioration of the conditions for the poor and the workers suggested a decline in living standards. With the poor relief increasing significantly between the end of the American Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars it was replaced by The New Poor Law Amendment Act of 1934, whereby workhouses were given a higher priority. Relief was more difficult to come by and was applied in an increasingly harsh fashion during the Victorian era. (Morgan, 2004).Although railway workers could rely on a steady wage, it was viewed that the government intervened increasingly to protect and raise living and working conditions before and after 1815 when food and goods increased, and wages remained constant. The railways provided transport to working classes only later years for workers to seek work further afield as employment would once again become unstable and emigration had begun. (Royle, 1987).