The Western World in 1815 The starting point in the early nineteenth century is a Europe recovering from the Napoleonic Wars, Japan still basically feudal and USA about to embark on the expulsion of Mexico and its European friends from the southern territories. The Russian Tsar and his Empire have repelled Napoleon and appear to be a stable force in Europe, albeit autocratic, and populated by an enserfed peasantry. Both Russian and German leaders are highly distrustful of France, its revolutionary inclinations and indeed of all aspects of modernisation, democratisation and urbanisation. Britain is the most advanced nation economically and, though this is not necessarily apparent in the early years, has the industrial strength together with assured naval and mercantile power to be dominant militarily. The laissezfaire which emanates from Adam Smith’s teaching provides some intellectual background for a society with a thriving private sector and public sector limited to law, order, defence but also with limited local health and sanitation facilities, about to be exposed by rapid urbanisation. The political geography and key resource endowments reveal many underlying tensions in the early nineteenth century. As Map 1.1 in the previous chapter shows, Germany was a hotchpotch of small principalities (like Berg) and merchant towns (like Hamburg) adjacent to the huge territories of Prussia and Bavaria. Internal and external trade was frustrated by guilds, tolls, differential tariff systems and fragmented transport links. Prussia after 1815 started to forge a path to German unity. It was well endowed with coal, iron and skilled artisans in the Ruhr and Silesia but had limited access to the cheapest form of international transport – the sea. It continued to perceive a threat from the eighteenth century hegemonic, France, and, on the east, from Russia. The latter’s hard climate, especially in the central areas around Moscow, was associated with low land yields so that constant additions to the extensive margin were vital. Prussia and Sweden blocked further gains westwards so the more likely options were southwards in the Ukraine and Turkestan where the Turks would have to be confronted. Colonisation eastwards was the easiest option though, in all such expansion, given the autocratic nature of the government, more extended bureaucratic power would be needed. Strengthening the military, it would eventually be

learned, required industrialisation, but that clashed with Tsarist fears of urbanisation and modernisation with their democratic threats, so that in the early part of the nineteenth century, few reforms were undertaken. As an island economy, Britain had no threats from contiguous nation states, certainly now that Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. It was well blessed with coal and its navy was dominant. There were no immediate strategic concerns about resources or communications so the private sector was allowed to prosper with a continuing eye on the old French enemy who now faced a growing land threat from Prussia. France was well endowed with iron ore but the location in Lorraine was not ideal. So also for its limited coal supplies. Its merchant fleet was small relative to Britain’s and the French economy, though advancing reasonably well, lagged behind Britain’s and the shelter afforded by the Continental System during the Napoleonic wars, took a new form after 1815, but still gave significant protection to domestic manufactures. To be more specific, Table 2.1 shows that in the early nineteenth century Russia had the largest population and, with probably more than 80 per cent of this in low productivity agriculture, its income per head was, with Japan, the lowest of the countries due to dominate as major powers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The extension of its huge land area had not yet come to an end: hence the 836,000 military personnel recorded for 1830, more than the rest of the combined strength of the other major powers. These absolute magnitudes are therefore strategically important and explain why France with a large population and large total national income, though not the most economically developed nation, had a huge army and a merchant fleet which was inferior only to Britain’s. (Comprehensive data on warships are not available for these years but probably mirror the merchant fleet pattern.) Moreover the absolute total of French industrial output in 1800 was no less than the UK – both accounted for about 4.2 per cent of world industrial production.1 Thus France was a force to be reckoned with though it did have a lower share of its population in industry than the UK and income per head, coal output and pig iron production were well below the UK level. One related feature was that the population, that core source of France’s strength, was destined to grow very modestly in the nineteenth century (cf. Chapter 6). Fertility control set in earlier in France than anywhere else so the size of its military and industrial labour force declined relative to other major nations. USA in the early nineteenth century was not yet a major power. It did have a sizable fleet but with a population of only ten million, a total of 11,000 military personnel and 70 per cent of its labour force still in agriculture it was not a strategic worry even though average living standards were relatively high, below those only in the UK.