joi, 30 noiembrie 2017

The 19th century is called an ‘age of paradox’

“The only true wisdom
 is in knowing
you know nothing.”
- Socrates




In this essay I have discussed and explained the 19th century time frame and what made it called an “age of paradox” in Britain and Europe. Understanding the idea of what a paradox is leads us to a easier and more concrete comprehension of the main subject of this essay.
A paradox is a statement that contains antagonistic ideas. Simpler put it is a concept that contradicts itself.
In all Europe the 19th century (1801-1900)  was a period of great changes and significant developments. New discoveries and technological advances were rapidly transforming the face of the world. During this tremendous times at only eighteen years Alexandrina Victoria of Kent was succeeding her uncle, William IV, becoming Britan’s most commemorated monarch (crowned 28 June 1838) and also the longest-serving British monarch. Victoria became the Queen that navigated her way in an era of countless advances in science, invention, education, exploration, commerce, transports, arts, agriculture and policing but also confronting the difficulties and problems that this fast changes brought with them.
The Victorian era, developed in an age of dramatic changes and shocking divisions between rich and poor. The first railway had been built and open and the Parliament had his first reform. London’s population rapidly grew from 2 million to 6.5 million by the time of Queen Victoria’s death. This rapid population growth led to insufficient space for living and poor accommodation conditions.

One of this remarkable forward was the industrial revolution and the building of factories with coal power-steam engines. The industrialization lead to a growth in trade and capitalism, as a result the quality of life improved. Yet this made the 1830’s and 1840’s a “Time of Trouble” due to economic and social difficulties associated with the fast industrialization.
            The agriculture benefited with machineries and improved mechanized farming techniques led to labourers being unnecessary. Though the cities with factories were prospering, the rural unemployment led to massive migration and created rapidly a vast urban working class. Which leads us to the following paradox: Despite the increase of jobs, due to factories, the number of people needing a place to work grew larger. This made poverty to widespread and made families to compromise for survival and live in slums with poor sanitation. But the compromise did not end there, work was unsafe and badly paid and even children were now forced to work.
           
Also, with this technological progress the Jevons paradox (or Jevons effect) got known in economics. It is perhaps one of the most widely known paradox of 19th century in environmental economics.
            Jevons William Stanley (1865), tells us that this technological progress that increases the effectiveness of use of a resource, does not reduce the consumption of the resource but it boosts it, because of increased demand. He noticed that the increased performance of coal-use led to a larger consumption of coal in an expanded range of other industries. Claiming that, opposed to common intuition, technological progress will not lead to a reduce fuel consumption.
With this enlarged industrial operations sever air pollution started, especially in London where it got to low visibility and endangered public health.
            On the matter of public health this issue influenced all trough 1800s, philanthropists, writers and religious figures highlighted the plight of the working class. Florence Nightingale, one of the first women nurses accepted, was writing letters and giving advices about the benefits of clean air. She believed in the miasma theory and insisted that bad smell must be eradicated from hospitals trough cleaning. Later on, Nightingale insisted on open balconies and air wards, her designs were preventing any hospital-generated miasma, influencing hospital architecture for decades in Britain. The hospitals were now built beside the Thames, were the air was now clean due to Bazalgette’s drainage system improvements.

            Another paradox of the 19th century was that while the European state and also Britain could start war to a new level now, due to the military technological improvements the actual involvement in war decreased. Mostly because industrial progress was less hazardous and represented a more secure source of state funds than warfare. While wars became more violent and destructive, “as societies become more industrialized their proneness to warfare decreases”  (Cohen, 1986; 265). On the other hand Thomas Hippler speaks in “Paradoxes of peace in Nineteen Century Europe” about the “restoring peace” or “keeping peace” concepts being used as a pretext for military intervention.
           
In conclusion 19th century was named an age of paradox because of numerous studies and observations on economy theories and strategies. Economy historians like Jevons William Stanleyt that talked about subjects that in theory seemed positive but in reality they had a rather negative outcome. Although the building of factories was meant to provide more jobs, the mechanizing of many other industries led to a larger number of unemployment. Better steam-engines led to a larger use of coal and spreading of pollution.






Bibliography:

1.      Judy Parkinson , “Remember, Remember”, London, Michael O’Mara Books Limited, 2008
2.      Chris Williams, “A companion to 19th-Century Britain”, John Wiley & Sons, 2006
3.      Thomas Hippler and Milos Vec, “Paradoxes of Peace in Nineteenth Century Europe”, Oxford University Press, 2015
4.      “Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace & Conflict”, Academic Press
5.      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons's_paradox ,Beyond by Ken, 2017



Nota bene!
Information for  English Civilization, 2016

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