The Romantic age was an age of revolution, social and technological, philosophical and literary. The harnessing of steam-power, the consequent development of mass-production, and the movement of population from rural areas to the growing urban areas of industry and commerce, marked one of the crucial turning-points in modern history. Cities were built, fortunes made, and workers’ lives rendered dismally laborious in applying the laissez-faire principles of the economist Adam Smith (1723–90), whose study The Wealth of Nations (1776) encouraged the pursuit of individual profit as the route to national prosperity. The Industrial Revolution transformed the face of the countryside and thrust workers together in the new urban environments, packed and smoky.
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