Britain was now the undisputed superpower, and the primary reasons were a new revolutionary ethic and technology. In 1688 a group of parliamentarians had asked the Dutch leader, William of Orange, to seize the English throne.
William was married to the staunchly Protestant Stuart, Mary. He bloodlessly did so, ending Catholic rule in England. It was the Glorious Revolution, and the following year a Bill of Rights guaranteed sovereignty in Parliament.
In effect, middleclass had taken over from royalty – a process that was at the heart of future American independence, and initially caused the French and Russian Revolutions. Now, in England, the middleclass had to usurp aristocracy to gain power. New Protestant denominations were thriving. They became known as Non-Conformist, and grabbed the spiritual heart of the nation. And then came a new breed of Non-Conformist entrepreneur and engineer, snatching wealth from the land owning aristocracy in the Industrial Revolution.
Trade had always been behind the need for expansion, and trade required things to be sold. Combined with the ongoing science revolution, this led to new technology. By 1770 Britain had spearheaded industry, with a national canal system for transport, factories turning raw materials from the empire into goods, and coal and steam powering it all. Soon the railway network would take over from the canals, and before long other countries were joining in, transforming the world.
As always, intellect also played its part. The economist Adam Smith gave a moral justification to market economics, arguing that as the rich got richer they would spend. Hence, a trickle-down effect would occur, raising the wealth of the poor. And in 1859 Charles Darwin revolutionized the world with his theory of evolution through natural selection. Species thrived or died out dependent on how they evolved to suit their environment. Soon commentators spoke of ‘survival of the fittest’. Together these two ideas gave a ruthlessness and justification to the growing capitalism.
Middleclass was rising supreme, but at a cost. Up to this point society had been agricultural. Now a workforce was needed to man the factories and the poor flocked to the cities. Despite the attempts of philanthropists, social care did not catch up with the demographic change and the lot of poor actually ended up pitiful. By the time of the affluent Victorian, poverty was becoming a major issue, which fitted into the growing pattern of history.
With the advent of the city, power resided in the God-king. With monotheism, God gave ‘divine right’ to a king to rule. Beginning with Magna Carta, aristocracy eroded the kings power. Then came middleclass, with power now residing in them. And with the lot of poor, influences were set in motion that would eventually attempt to take power down further to the working classes. However, the world was about to explode into war once more.
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