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British history

Life in 18th-century Britain

A cutaway illustration of an 18th-century cityA cutaway illustration of an 18th-century city During the Georgian era (1714–1830), trade with different parts of the world continued to grow, making British cities larger and more prosperous. In the countryside, improvements in farming methods led to an increase in food production—which led to an increase in population. However, the new farming technology meant that fewer people were needed to work the land. Many people moved from the countryside into the ever growing cities, where they might work in the docks or learn a new trade in a workshop. A growing number of people took professional jobs such as lawyers, doctors and bankers.

People of fashionPeople of fashion

City life

Rich city-dwellers lived in elegant houses full of paintings and expensive furniture. While the poorest people probably had only one set of clothes, the rich may have had large wardrobes of fine clothes. Men wore long coats with knee-length breeches (kinds of trousers) and stockings. Underneath their bodices, women wore corsets stiffened by whalebone to narrow their waists. A framework of cane hoops supported the flowing skirt. Both men and women wore powdered wigs on formal occasions. 

Poor city-dwellersPoor city-dwellersPoor people had to work hard to survive in a city in the 1700s. Some made a living as craftsmen or shopkeepers. Others worked as porters, needleworkers, coachmen, chair-carriers or street traders. Press-gangs and soldiers were always on the look-out to force people to join the army 
or navy. 

Some of the very poor turned to crime or excessive drinking. Thieves and pickpockets roamed the streets. The presence of nightwatchmen helped to reduce crime.



During the 1700s, London overtook Europe’s other cities to become the largest in Europe. By 1800 it had a population of around 1 million.

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