We noted in Chapter 3 that population was increasing rapidly, particularly after 1750, largely as a consequence of falling marriage ages. But we also noted that while falling marriage ages were linked in some way to the process of industrialisation, historians as yet remain largely unable to agree on what these links may have been. The riddles of population, however, do not stop here. With a fourfold increase in population between 1700 and 1870, we might reasonably expect most villages, towns and cities to swell to something like four times their original size. This though is far from what happened. Growth across the country was extremely uneven, with the population of the largest cities increasing an incredible thirtyfold while that of some provincial towns and villages either stagnated or actually declined. In other words, people were not simply increasing in number, but they were also moving from some parts of the country to others — a clear sign that new patterns of economic opportunity were being established throughout the land. In this chapter we shall complete our analysis of population trends in the period 1700–1870 by looking at population movement and assessing what light the evidence from internal migration might shed upon the British industrial revolution.
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- Chapter 4