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The Georgian period was a one of both change and confrontation. Agricultural developments were followed by The Industrial Revolution, and this in turn led to increased urbanisation. With these changes to, came increased population and increased wealth (but not for all). Confrontation came initially at home with the Jacobite rebellions, but, as the eighteenth century progressed, the theatres of war expanded and Britain became involved in conflicts with Napoleon in France, in India, and also  with her American colonies. However, because of its increasing financial and military strength, the British tended to prevail and went on to become the world's first modern society.

The early years of George I reign were marked by two major crises, firstly the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, and then, in 1720, by the South Sea Bubble stock market crash. However, these apart, Britain was now entering two decades of relative peace and stability. Locally, government was largely left in the hands of large estate owners, who, as justices of the peace, settled the majority of legal disputes. They also administered roads, bridges, inns, and markets as well as supervising the local operation of the Poor Law, which aided orphans, paupers, the very old, and those too ill to work. Nationally, many Britons came to take pride in their government, which now successfully combined the monarchy, the hereditary House of Lords, and the elected House of Commons, and also provided for an independent judiciary.

The reign of Queen Anne had been marked by parliamentary elections every three years and by keen rivalry between Whig and Tory factions. With the coming of George I, the Whigs were given preference over the Tories, With the Septennial Act of 1716, parliamentary elections were now required every seven years rather than every three, and direct political participation declined. Parliament was made up of 122 county members and 436 borough members, with virtually all counties and boroughs sending two members to Parliament. However, each borough, whether a large city or a tiny village, had its own method for choosing its members of Parliament. Even those Britons who lacked the right to vote could claim the rights of petition, trial by jury, and freedom from arbitrary arrest.

Between 1739 and 1763, Great Britain was constantly at war. The war with Spain soon merged with the War of the Austrian Succession, which began in 1740, pitting Prussia, France, and Spain against Austria. Great Britain became Austria's chief ally, and British armies and ships fought the French in Europe, in North America, in India, where the English and French East India companies competed for influence, on the high seas. In 1745, the Scottish Jacobite's, took advantage of Britain's involvement on the Continent, and made a further attempt to recover the British throne for the Stuart dynasty. Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in Scotland, won the allegiance of thousands of Highlanders, and in September captured Edinburgh and proclaimed his father King James III. He then marched south into England, and came within a hundred miles of London. He failed to attract support from the English, and in December retired to Scotland. The following April he was defeated at the Battle of Culloden and fled to France.

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During the mid-1750s the British found themselves fighting an undeclared war against France both in North America and in India. In 1756 formal war broke out again. The Seven Years' War (1756-63) pitted Britain, allied with Prussia, against France in alliance with Austria and Russia. For Britain the war began with a series of defeats in North America, in India, in the Mediterranean, and on the Continent. Under strong popular pressure, King George II then appointed the fiery William Pitt the Elder as the minister to run the war abroad, while his colleague, the duke of Newcastle, oiled the political wheels at home. Pitt was an expert strategist and conducted the war with vigour. The French fleet was defeated off the coast of Portugal, the English East India Co. triumphed over its French counterpart in Bengal and elsewhere, and British and colonial troops in North America captured Fort Duquesne (on the site of present-day Pittsburgh, Pa.), Québec, and Montréal. Although Pitt was forced from office in 1761 and the British negotiated separately from Prussia, the Treaty of Paris (1763) was a diplomatic triumph. All French claims to Canada and to lands east of the Mississippi River were ceded to Britain, as were most French claims to India. Spain, which had entered the war on the French side in 1762, ceded Florida. The Treaty of Paris established Britain's 18th century empire at its height.

In 1760, the aged George II was succeeded by his 22-year-old grandson, George III. The new British-born king had a deep sense of moral duty and tried to play a direct role in governing his country; to this end he appointed men he trusted, such as his onetime Scottish tutor, Lord Bute (1713-92), who became prime minister in 1762. Bute's ministry was not a success, however, and four short lived ministries followed until 1770, when George found, in Lord North, a leader pleasing both to him and to the majority of Parliament. During the 1760s, politicians out of office spurred a campaign of criticism against George III use of his patronage powers. A sharply critical newspaper publisher, John Wilkes, was convicted of seditious libel (1764), imprisoned, and barred from the parliamentary seat to which he was repeatedly elected. An organization of his followers, the Society of Supporters of the Bill of Rights, provided a model for subsequent radical reform movements. Their program included freedom of the press, the abolition of "rotten boroughs", an expansion of the right to vote, and an increase in the frequency of meetings of Parliament.

In the wake of the American revolutionary war, many old institutions were re-examined. The Economical Reform Act (1782) reduced the patronage powers of the king and his ministers. In 1783, William Pitt the Younger became Prime Minster at the age of 24, and one of his first actions was to sponsor The India Act (1784) which gave ultimate authority over British India to the British government instead of the English East India Co. Pitt was to remain in office for much of the next 23 years and he did much to shape the modern roll of the Prime Minister. In February 1793 the French revolutionary army invaded the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium) and declared war on England, and a decade of moderate reform in England gave way to 22 years of war. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, King George III, by then insane, had been succeeded by his eldest son, who reigned first as Prince Regent, were he became unpopular because of his gluttony and his personal immorality, and then as King George IV.

Throughout this period, many improvements were made in farming techniques, such as more use of fertilizers, the development of new crops, and the appearance of new technology, such as the horse-drawn hoe and Mechanical seeder invented by Jethro Tull helped increase efficiency and boost agricultural output, whilst Charles Townshend stressed the value of turnips and other field crops in a rotation system of planting rather than letting the land lay fallow. In the early part of the eighteenth century, most people lived and worked in villages producing food using what was known as "a three field system" which dominated English agriculture at this time. Their land was divided into long strips divided by banks of earth. These banks of earth were wasted land, the drainage was poor, and because the farmers new little about fertilisers, they had to leave land fallow (unused) every four years. This three field system was an obstacle to increased productivity, and despite opposition from the peasant farmers who owned much of the village land, the major landlords finally convinced Parliament to pass the Enclosure Acts of 1710. This was not enforced until 1750, but after that a large number of similar acts were passed, and although these eventually led to a great increase in productivity, it brought disaster to the Countryside. Peasant farmers were dispossessed of their lands, and were forced to seek work in the new towns and cities. The great increase in Industrial production in these towns and cities led in turn to better employment prospects, and with it increased demand for agriculture to produce more food for the growing population.

The Kings of Georgian Britain 1714 - 1837

George I,(1714-27) Speaking not one word of English, and due to lack of interest in ruling the English, he handed over his authority to trusted politicians. This marked the origin of the office of Prime Minister and the cabinet system of government.

George II,(1727-1760) War with France occupied much of George II's reign; in 1743 he became the last British monarch to fight on the battlefield.

George III,(1760-1820) was the first Hanoverian with an English upbringing. George III broke the Whig ascendancy, using the apparatus of patronage developed under Robert Walpole, he engineered a series of more or less Tory governments, notably those of Lord North and William Pitt the Younger (who became Prime Minister at 24). North lost the American colonies; Pitt brought 'free trade' principles to Britain's customs system and led Britain to war with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France.

George IV  (1820 - 1830) 'madness' disabled him in 1788, and again after 1812. His son reigned as Prince Regent for eight years and as King George IV for ten. He was succeeded by his amiable and unpretentious brother William. Neither took any serious interest in politics, and when William IV died in 1837, his closest heir was his 18-year-old niece Victoria.

William 1V (1830 - 1837)

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