The time of Elizabeth I
Maria’s death cleared the way for Anna Boleyn’s daughter, Elisabeth I (1558–1603), who steered back to the middle course in church politics. The Act of Uniformity (1559) restored her father’s state church. This resulted in a front position not only against the Catholics, but also against Spain and Scotland, where from 1561 Queen Mary II Stuart, who was connected to France through her first marriage and remained Catholic, ruled. When she had to flee from Scotland, which was now also turning to the Reformation, in 1568, Elisabeth left imprison them. She only decided to sign the death sentence, which was carried out without her knowledge, in 1587, prompted by Mary’s conspiracies with her opponents. Since 1585 England, which had previously challenged the Spaniards with privateers in American waters and which also secretly supported the rebellious Dutch in their fight against Spain, was in open war with Philip II. With the English victory over the Spanish Armada (1588) the decline of Spain and the rise of England as a sea power began.
When, in the course of this development, Antwerp, previously a trading center for the flourishing English wool and cloth export, was occupied by Spain in 1585 and the city’s decline was sealed with the closure of the Scheldt estuary by the Dutch, the global expansion of English foreign trade began. England began to base its power increasingly on overseas trade and financial connections that complemented and soon surpassed European trade. The Muscovy Company was the first to be founded in 1553, followed by the Levant Company of Turkey Merchants in 1581 and the East India Company in 1600. The early capitalist Sir T. Gresham led the establishment of the London Stock Exchange in 1571, which sought independence from the Antwerp capital market.
In the domestic economy, too, important impulses and decisions were made in the Elizabethan era. The increasingly continued enclosures of common land and open corridors led to the development of private capitalist methods and ownership structures in agriculture and thus to a noticeable increase in productivity. In 1568, the first industrial companies were privileged in metal mining; textile production (center Yorkshire) was controlled by well-funded traders. At the same time, the state intervened to regulate and created legal requirements for the organization of working conditions, apprenticeship training and poor welfare, which had to be implemented in detail by the organs of local self-government, the justices of the peace and city councils.
Politically, Elisabeth was advised by Lord Burghley . According to Politicsezine, parliament supported them because their foreign policy corresponded to the aspirations of its members; their mercantilist economic policy allowed the bourgeoisie and the landed gentry to prosper. The spiritual life reached its climax with W. Shakespeare and F. Bacon.
Since Elisabeth was opposed to all marriage projects in order to preserve her political independence, the Tudor dynasty died out with her death in 1603. It testifies to the stability of the Tudor monarchy that the rule to the next right male heir, King James VI. of Scotland, who, when he came to power, united England (called James I there) and Scotland, which had fought each other again and again since the 14th century, through a personal union. This had reduced the centuries-old danger that France could play Scotland off against England.
British successes in foreign policy and trade were important prerequisites for the breakthrough of the industrial revolution that emanated from Great Britain in the last third of the 18th century. As a pioneer of industrialization, Great Britain achieved a leading position in world economy and world politics. Industrial economic development was based on pre-industrial growth. It could be seen in the volume of trade, but also in agriculture, in which Great Britain became an international leader and in which there were very high increases in production in the 18th century as a result of further privatization of arable land and new cultivation and breeding methods. This made it possible to cope with the population growth that began in the middle of the 18th century. Further favorable conditions for industrialization were a duty-free domestic market, good transport conditions, sufficient resources with raw materials and an efficient money market (replacement of Amsterdam by London as the world financial center). Great Britain also emerged in the field of technical innovations from the early 18th century onwards. In 1712 the first steam pumping machine was installed in a coal mine for drainage. The foundry man used it around 1709 A. Darby first coal coke instead of charcoal for blast furnace firing. The prerequisite for semi-mechanical weaving was created by J. Kay in 1733 with the flying shuttle. In 1740 B. Huntsman discovered steel production using the crucible casting process. In 1769 J. Watt patented his steam engine.
The first revolution towards industrial mass production took place in the cotton industry (spinning machine 1764, mechanical loom 1784). In Lancashire, with Manchester and its cotton industry, which formed the leading sector of economic growth, the first industrial landscape in world history characterized by factories and traffic routes (roads, canals, later also railways) emerged in the 1780s.
The second phase and actual consolidation of the industrial revolution, which spread gradually and concentrated in a few regions, took place in the 1830s in the field of iron and steel production. Railway construction gave the new age its character.
After the steam locomotive for passenger transport had been developed in 1813/14 and the locomotive construction had been started by G. Stephenson, the first passenger railway between Stockton and Darlington was opened in 1825, and in 1830 the Liverpool – Manchester route. After the flood of railway stock corporations, the British main line network went into operation around 1840. The first electric telegraph line followed in 1844. London became the center of steamship construction; In 1845 the first British iron ship crossed the Atlantic. Iron production tripled in 1830–48. Great Britain became the “workshop of the world” and demonstrated its superior level of performance at the London World’s Fair of 1851.
In addition, it became an international leader in the field of services (shipping companies, insurance companies, banks). The middle of the century was also the point in time at which stable economic growth set in after the fluctuations of the first half of the century. This went hand in hand with the final liberalization of the economy (abolition of the grain protection tariffs in 1846). It was an essential prerequisite for defusing the contrast between the new class of industrial entrepreneurs as members of the rising bourgeois middle class and the land-owning aristocracy, who continued to set the tone in government and parliament, but who responded to the new social and economic realities (including the concerns of the Working class) was open-minded. In addition to traditional craft workers, there were industrial workers, including women and children, who worked in factories and mines and were ruthlessly exploited until the state began to regulate working hours and conditions. With the Chartism was the first political organization of the labor movement in Great Britain. Since the middle of the century, when the standard of living rose noticeably, workers v. a. in trade unions that were legally recognized as partners of employers from 1871–75.