Industrial Britain

Industrial Britain

In geological age, in complexity of rock structure, and even in relief, as well as in location, the industrial sections of Great Britain stand between the old Paleozoic Uplands and the younger Mesozoic and Tertiary Lowland. They form a more or less transitional zone or borderland because their location depends on coal measures dating from the Carboniferous period near the middle of geological time. One set of coal deposits is found in the Scotch Lowland, a second on the western side of the Lake District of Cumberland in northwestern England, and a third in South Wales. Far more important, however, is the U-shaped series of Carboniferous beds which swing around the Pennine Chain in the northern half of England. These begin in the northeast with the Newcastle coalfields near the sea. They continue southward in the Leeds and Sheffield region. South of the Pennines they swing around to the west in the intensely active Midland section from Nottingham to Birmingham where the size of the detached coal areas in A288 is no criterion of the amount of manufacturing. The coalfields end in still another extremely active area west of the Pennines around Manchester.

The Scotch Lowland

The most northerly industrial section, stands out clearly as a sunken portion of the old block which in ancient geological times formed a westward extension of Europe. Two facts about the geological structure of this block are especially significant. First, its sunken position permitted relatively young and soft strata to be preserved beneath the old peneplain. Second, these younger strata, which are really of middle age geologically, contain coal. To the softness of the down-faulted strata is due a large part of central Scotland's habitability. If these rocks had not been worn away with relative ease, there would be practically no extensive area low enough and smooth enough for agriculture. Before the industrial era agriculture was the main reliance of the great majority of the Scotch, and today the Scotch Lowland is remarkable for its large yields of grain, vegetables, and even fruit-probably the largest per acre anywhere in so high a latitude. The Lowland, however, is somewhat rugged, for large masses of hard igneous rock produce such features as the Ochil and Pentland Hills which make Sterling and Edinburgh so picturesque.

In modern times the presence of coal has permitted a great expansion of both commerce and industry. That of the western section gave impetus to the enormous manufacturing industry of the Glasgow region because the coal seams were intermixed with iron ore and so facilitated the iron-and-steel industry. The Glasgow industrial development, however, has spread eastward, and agriculture has been gradually overshadowed by manufacturing. Today half of the five million people of Scotland are in the Clyde Valley around Glasgow, and another quarter in the rest of the lowland. All but a small fraction of these are urban, or at least suburban, and either industrial or commercial. The suburbs of Glasgow and Edinburgh almost coalesce.

In spite of the eastward spread of industry the Lowland still has a markedly dual character. Edinburgh on the Firth of Forth stands for an old, aristocratic, agricultural, political, and commercial development with its face toward Europe. Glasgow, only 40 miles away on the Firth of Clyde, stands for a modern, democratic, industrial, and commercial development with its face toward America. Edinburgh, because of its eastern location, had all the advantages at first. It is drier and sunnier than Glasgow and hence better adapted to agriculture. It not only faces Europe, but is on the same side of Great Britain as London and the richest agricultural part of England. Then, too, the configuration of the hills causes the east coast route from England to Scotland to be the easiest, and Edinburgh stands near the entrance of this to the Scotch Lowland. Thus for many centuries Edinburgh was not only the beautiful capital of Scotland, as it still is, but also the chief city while Glasgow was still a village. The discovery of America and the invention of power-driven machinery changed the situation. Although Glasgow is only 40 miles from Edinburgh, its sea route to America is fully 400 miles shorter than that from Edinburgh, even if the ships make the stormy trip around northern Scotland. So when tobacco became the great article of commerce from America, the Glasgow shipmasters imported it at great profit. When the steam engine and cotton gin made cotton a major material for clothing, the wealth amassed in the tobacco trade provided Glasgow with capital for large cotton factories. Many such factories still flourish in some of the suburbs, especially the thread town of Paisley. Then, too, the coal beneath the surface began to be important. When iron replaced wood in ships, Glasgow with its deep firth, its coal, its ore, and its wealth was able to become the world's greatest ship-builder. Other sorts of engineering works and metal industries have followed ship-building, as have chemical works that depend on heavy imported raw materials such as oils. Glasgow is noteworthy for the great variety and well-balanced quality of its industries in contrast to the specialization which is so pronounced in most of the English cities. This growth has attracted great numbers of Irish as well as other people from outside Scotland. So today Glasgow is wealthy and prosperous, but Edinburgh is much more Scotch, and far more interesting historically and architecturally. Glasgow is famous as a place in which to work and Edinburgh as one in which to live.

Aberdeen and Dundee, north of Edinburgh, illustrate not only the character of the Scotch, but also the general principle that success depends upon energy, intelligence, and reliability far more than upon natural resources. Having a hinterland which is both too small and too cool for much except grass, oats, cattle, and sheep, Aberdeen's only conspicuous natural advantage is the excellence of its climate for human activity. Nevertheless, the industry of its own people, and the skill of immigrant weavers from Flanders, made its woolen cloth unrivaled in the seventeenth century, and its hosiery in the eighteenth. When the Industrial Revolution and Aberdeen's lack of coal and iron crushed these home industries, wood from Scandinavia was used for ship-building, but iron ships soon put an end to this. Next Aberdeen turned to fisheries, and the making of fishing equipment and paper, using Scandinavian wood. Then, as prosperity and wealth increased in Great Britain, it took to polishing and exporting the granite of its hills. The reason for dwelling on this is that it so well illustrates the way in which competent people turn from one natural resource to another, and thus maintain high standards.

Dundee illustrates the same thing. Aside from the intelligent activity of its people there is no compelling reason why this city should be pre-eminent in the jute industry and a great center for linen. The raw jute comes from India and the linen from Ireland and continental Europe, and the finished sacking, canvas, ropes, carpets, etc., are sold to the British navy and to many countries all over the world. The same Scotch qualities which hold onto this industry in spite of geographic disadvantages are seen in the growth of educational institutions and the elimination of slums. Dundee is likewise known for its marmalade made from oranges brought north in exchange for fish. The bridge over the Tay at Dundee is famous for its great length, over two miles.

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