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Supervision 1: Population Growth and Agriculture during the Industrial Revolution British Economic History, Paper 5, Part I Essay 1 What conclusions can we draw from British demographic behaviour during the Industrial Revolution concerning the relationship between population and economic development?
The Industrial Revolution in Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth century have seen an unprecedented change in the British economy: Britain was transformed from an agrarian, backward country at the European periphery to the most developed state in the world, being the centre of an empire spanning half of our planet. At the same time, we can observe an enormous rise in the population in Britain. In the time period 1701 - 1841, the British population rose from 5.2 to 14.9 million, which is an increase of 187%, never seen in British history before and by far more than its European counterparts at that time
. So why did population growth take off after centuries of stagnation or even falling population numbers and what were its components? And how do the rise in population and economic growth during the Industrial Revolution relate to each other?
When Thomas Malthus published his "Essay on the principle of population" in 1798, he gained much attention for his pessimistic theories. Malthus assumed that the population in a country, if unchecked, grows at a geometric rate, whereas agricultural production can only increase at an arithmetic rate. As the food supply can not keep pace with the exponential population growth, famines and a life just above subsistence level would be inevitable. But at that time, the British population 1
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