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What is the relationship between population growth, urbanisation and industrialisation in the nineteenth century?
The changes that encompassed Europe in the nineteenth century were so momentous as to be compared to the discovery of fire or the invention of agriculture. To any casual observer, it would be clear that populations blossomed, cities expanded and industry rapidly changed from farming and household weaving to the factories and railways most think of when they hear the words "Industrial Revolution". The link between these factors is far from clear-cut, however. This essay will contend that it was the increase in population, resultant from better agricultural techniques and a gradual drop in the magnitude of diseases, that allowed European countries to escape the Malthusian cycle. Without such a mortality rate cap, the populations were able to grow rapidly until a falling birth rate stabilised the matter towards the end of the nineteenth century. In the meantime, the higher population found itself crowded and unsustainable in rural economies, so was forced to move to towns or cities, increasing their sizes in relation to how attractive an economic prospect each conurbation was, dependant of course on the strength of its industry. To simplify, then, in the eighteenth century population growth caused urbanisation and industry. The sustained growth of the population of Europe began in the eighteenth if not seventeenth century, and continued at an accelerating rate until at least 1900 in most countries. There are two primary reasons for this, firstly that agricultural reforms, such as enclosure laws, novel crop rotation, the increased use of crops with less fluctuating yields and of artificial manure, and of a better understanding of livestock breeding, resulted in plentiful food, enough that nobody went hungry and many had a surplus to sell, the last major UK famine hitting in 1709-10. Being well-fed helped people to be healthier and live longer, which leads on to the other primary factor. In the period, speaking very generally, diseases became less virulent and thus people lived longer. Living longer meant that more people grew up to the age of sexual maturity and were able to breed for longer, and also were able to support their children through their formative years. The causes for the drop in diseases' impact are threefold. Firstly, many countries' militaries became adept at cordoning off and quarantining sites affected by epidemics, stopping the spread which would cause a more national crisis. Secondly, diseases were studied and defined in a scientific way for the first time, along with their cures, allowing for a more professional medical establishment and more uniform methods of treatment. Finally, and most crucially, first inoculation then vaccination were discovered, Dr. Jenner introducing cowpox to children for the first time on May 14th 1796. What all of this meant, then, was that by 1800 the mortality rate had fallen, and the birth rate risen. Sidney Pollard argues that "no single mechanism can have been operative for the whole or Europe", pointing out as she does that whilst Britain and Holland's populations grew, so too did Russia's, explaining the Russia was "the most backward region in Europe" and not affected by the agricultural improvements detailed above. However the spoils of Russian expansion, coupled with the drop in mortality, explain even Russia's growth. This leads to demographic figures of impressive proportions: in 1800 an approximate population of Europe would be 187 million, rising 43% to 1850's population of 266 million, and a further 50% to 1900's 401 million people. What is evident here is that not only is the population growing at a fast rate, but that the rate itself is also increasing over the period. These figures seem all the more impressive when one is reminded of the massive emigration from Europe over the same period, with over 50% of Irish and Portuguese living abroad by
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