This essay will explore relevant cause and consequences of urbanisation in Scotland from 1700-1860. A dictionary-defined term would be “the social process whereby cities grow and societies become more urban.”(1. 30/08/2005). Scotland went through huge political and economical changes from the 1700’s onwards. The country went from being a rural, agricultural society with an estimated population of 1.2 million in 1755, to being urbanised, with the population rising to over 2.6 million in 1841(Lenman, p281, 2001).
This figure is what makes the urbanisation of Scotland so interesting. What were the main factors that caused the population to grow so rapidly? The expansion of population over such a short period and the social changes that occurred with this. The great Agrarian and Industrial revolutions had a major part’s to play in the urbanisation of Scotland and this essay will show some enlightenment on why it was so profoundly noticeable in Scotland. Another point that will be investigated is the consequences of urbanisation, how the country ultimately became a modern capitalised country from its rural beginnings.
Before and up until 1750, Scotland was very much a feudalistic country. Lords rented tenants enough land for them to produce food to survive. In return, the tenant would have to labour the Lord’s land as well as his own. The Landlord would reap the benefits, the tenant would survive, and as the majority of the people depended on the land as their lively-hood, it was a means to survival. As Devine states,_” In 1750 only one Scot in eight lived in a town (population of 4000 or over) and there was only four towns with more than 10000 inhabitants”_ (Devine, 1999, p125). This shows the enormity of Scots who were living in rural communities, with the main labour being in agriculture, weaving and fishing. The changes to agriculture began with those known as the improvers, whose main outlook was to modernise the way the land was cultivated.
As the population of the country began to accelerate quickly, the improvers were looking to produce mass food instead of the old way of cultivation. During the period between 1790-1840 new farming equipment was introduced and the land that was formally cultivated using the “infield-outfield and rug and furrow method” was improved by enclosing the land into fields making it more productive for crops and for livestock Crop rotations were also introduced which was making use of the land at all times.
The introduction of single tenant farming as opposed to ferm-touns meant the beginning of the clearances, as well as agricultural tools becoming more efficient. The introduction of threshing machines reduced manual labour and “the Small’s plough – a two horse plough replaced the Scot’s plough which required a team of oxen and horses” (Devine, 1998, p138). These new ideas did create more food but they also left people homeless and jobless, as there was less labour needed, which left people no choice but to move on into the towns and cities where industry had began creating jobs.
The growth of the towns and cities were intricately linked with the agrarian revolution as the mass population relied on the land for the food it produced. The other main point that Devine makes is that as the agricultural market started to accelerate, the need for exchange centres that provided legal, commerce and financial facilities for the rural communities became more prominent, so several towns including Perth, Ayr and Dumfries became the provider of these services. This again contributed to expansion of towns, as people were required to work and live in the towns to facilitate these positions (Devine 1998, p32)
Therefore, we can gather that three major changes occurred at the same time and they contributed towards urbanisation in Scotland: The agrarian revolution along with the population growth, and the expansion of the manufacturing industry.
As T.M Devine States,
_Urbanisation could not have taken place without a substantial increase in food production to sustain the needs of those who did not cultivate their own food supplies. At the same time, agrarian productivity had to improve in order to release a growing proportion of the population for non-agricultural tasks in towns and cities._ (Devine, 1998, p32)
Along with theses changes the manufacturing industry began to grow rapidly. Scotland was a major player in the transatlantic trading industry and due to its geographical position, it was booming in the tobacco trade and it would go on to prosper in cotton and linen too. Scotland’s Geographical position at this time was very important as it is situated between the Atlantic and Europe, which meant trading from one to the other, was very successful.
The two major factor’s of the Industrial Revolution were, the textile industry and the productivity of the steam engine, which was revolutionised by James Watt in 1769 (Watt James online, 2005). Textiles factories and coalmines could produce more goods and they did not need to be near a water source in order to run. Due to this, the larger towns and cities began to grow rapidly.
_Greenock in 1700 had a population of 2000 and by 1831 it had rose to 27500._
_Glasgow went from 31700 to 147000._
_Paisley went from 6800 to 47000._
_Kilmarnock went from 4400 to 12700_
_Falkirk went from 3900 to 11500. All within the time period from 1740-1850 (Devine 1998, p35)_
The population growth over the short period is the most significant point here as this is what made urbanisation in Scotland different. There are many different factors that affected the population growth but some are more significant than others are. Irish Immigration was very prominent and the migration of people from the rural areas had a major impact. For example:_” The majority of the migrants were young adults more concentrated in the marriageable and childbearing age groups than were the native inhabitants. High Migration because of its age composition was therefore likely to fuel natural increase in the urban areas_”.(Devine 1998,p41) At the same time the highlanders were leaving the land either through force as the lord’s applied the new cultivation techniques to the land or through choice. The majority chose to immigrate to America; this did not affect the population growth as many Irish migrants were coming to Scotland looking for employment in the booming industries.
“_Urbanisation meant more jobs, a wider diversity of social contacts and infinitely greater colour and excitement in the lives of the masses_” (Devine 1998 p43)
Mortality rates demonstrate their huge impact on population growth too. It has been suggested that lower death rates, through natural immunity to disease highly contributed to urbanisation, as in the early 1800’s the death rate had fallen to 25 per 1000. This suggests that natural immunity and high levels of unemployment accelerated the population growth (Devine, 1998, p48).
The effect of industrialisation was economically good for the country, but with it came poverty. The majority of the working class lived in overcrowded housing areas known as slums with no sanitation, and were rife with disease. As Devine argues, during periods of industrial recession when employment had slumped, there were also periods of disease epidemic. These began in 1817-1820(Typhoid), 1826-27(Typhoid) and in 1830-1832, a cholera epidemic that wiped out 10000 people. Periods of recession run parallel, the first being 1816-1818, 1825 and then 1836 (Devine, 1999, p168). In 1839, Death rates rose to 29 per 1000. People were forced to live in abominable living conditions with huge sanitations problems, the towns and cities could not cope with the urban growth and disease was the outcome. Overcrowded, sub-divided housing was a problematic issue in all the major Towns and Cities, especially in Glasgow. _”I did not believe until I visited Glasgow, that so large an amount of filth, crime, misery and disease existed in one spot in any one civilised country” (_Butt J, 1987 p41-42).
People were customised to living in filthy dark, damp squalid conditions amongst disease. As the periods of recession were leaving thousands out of work in a state of poverty, the poor law amendment act was passed in 1845, which replaced the old poor relief laws of the parishes taking responsibly for the poor. The new law allowed a claim to be made under supervision of a board of examiners, it came in the form of indoor relief, which would be admission to a poorhouse if subject had lost the ability to work, and outdoor relief, which was for short-term illness, and this may have been in the form of payment or medicine. It could be argued that the industrial revolution was the birth of the working class and capitalism in this country. Those who owned the factories and docks made a great profit and a middle class lifestyle was adopted. This could be said to be the division of the classes, with the help of the industrial revolution, people developed a “working” class or “middle” class attitude,
In conclusion, the evidence points out that several major factors occurred that accelerated the urban growth of the nation. The Agrarian revolution started the mass migrating and the industrial revolution provided the work force in order for capitalism to evolve. The consequences of urbanisation were overwhelming, yes the economy did thrive, but at what cost to the working class people, death, disease and misery.
Courtney from Study Moose
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