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The development of the Great Britain from 17 to 19 century was rapid in social and economic aspects. To analyze the cost of living in the 18th century it is necessary to dwell upon different spheres of life and at historical events that influenced on the cost of living. 

Industrial Revolution



In 1730-1740 in Great Britain started the industrial revolution which spread to all countries of Europe too. During this historical event, manual work was replaced by the work of factories that lead to the change of all technological process. The industrial revolution affected in the social sphere too. In particular, it resulted in the emergence of the Middle Class. 

In fact, the showing off the Middle class is a good factor for the economy of the country. But in the Britain and France, it had not improved greatly because the industrial breakthrough was in the transition period and economical changes happened very gradually.  

A middle class is a society unit that is between the richest and the poor layers of it. To them referred entrepreneurs, craftsmen, and salesmen. Middle Class also included those whose instrument of work was their intelligence: civil servants, administrators, lawyers, doctors, teachers, writers, and journalists. 

The high-speed development of innovations made Britain one of the leading industrial countries in the world (it even was ahead of the America). The government encouraged nearly all citizens to get to work. They had the aim to provide the industries with workers. It resulted in the process of forcing beggars to work. Of course, with the presence of new working places and extreme development of the industries, citizens were in permanent expectancy of the rise of the wages.


Before we dwell on how much did people have to spend for a living, it is important to note that it depends on the regular income of the citizens. In fact, salaries varied significantly among all the positions, but prices stayed nearly the same, so the life of workers with low income stayed difficult. For example, an average Preston family in 1795 had a yearly deficit of £2 11s. with a weekly salary of 6 shillings.

There was a great gap between workers of different occupations. A worker in 1870 may make 150% what a worker in 1850 made, but because different prices had risen at different rates, the actual buying power of the wages went up only moderately. Only at the end of the century, prices fell impressively, even more rapidly than the wages. So, despite a lower income, the workers buying power actually increased.

In the 18th century, there were very low wages. For example, some individuals earned only 2 or 3 pounds per year. It was an average salary of a domestic servant. It is important to mention that with the money he also received food, housing, and dressing. A beggar normally expected to get between 1-2 cent pence in hands, while a parish pauper's pension consisted of a few pence and some shillings. 

It is important to mention that female part of domestic servants got more income than male servants. Wages for 18th women could vary from the £2 to £6 -£8 for a housemaid, and up to £15 per year for a proficient housekeeper. A footman earned £8 per year, and a coachman £12 and £26. The wage for the representative of Middle Class was quite debatable. The borderline between the "middle layer" and the rich was vague, something between 100 per £500 a year. Finally, the annual sum of The 1st Lord of the Treasury was £4,000.


In modern Britain, most people do not live in luxuries. In 18th centuries only minorities could afford living in great country houses with numerous rooms and beautiful gardens. Rich people could afford to live with comfortable furniture and exquisite clocks too. 

However, it was hard for the craftsmen and laborers to have a housing just with more than one room. The furniture of this Middle-Class representatives was trivial and scanty. 

A lot of daily life items differed in price in the past than their modern equivalents. That is why even to have a room for the poor or and for a part of the Middle class equaled to luxury. 

Many citizens rented their housing. In fact, rent was a more substantial element of most people's budgets than it is today. It was possible to share a bed in cheap lodging house for 2 pence a night while a cheap room without the furniture could cost 1s. 4d. per week. The rent of the house cost £10 per year. 


Talking about clothes in the 18th century, it represented a much higher proportion of normal spending than now. The prices of the men's suit were nearly £8, while even the uniform of a kid looked after by the Foundling Hospital cost approximately £1 12s.

Only by the end of the 19th century, the prices of manufactured goods had fallen notably. Clothing and apparel of all types became less expensive and more available because machine made fabrics replaced the handmade precursors. By 1888 a simple clerk could afford an outfit suitable for Friday night go out for £2. 10s. The cost of a workday suit was nearly £2. So, the beginning of the industrial revolution and the start of textile production let British people spend on clothing less money.





The food is a thing on which people can tighten the purse strings. But still, it is very significant and essential item of living. So, people had to make some expenditures on usual kinds of food like bread, milk, and meat. For example, in the 1810s the cost of bread reached its peak because the four-pound loaf of bread was cost more than a shilling. In usual times, for one pound loaf a person had to spend a penny-farthing.

A lot of Londoners and the poor too preferred to spend money on the ready-made food. For 1,5 pence it was people could have the meal at an Irish or Scottish ordinary. A meal that contains meat and the beer for 3 pennies. Milk was sold for a 2,5 penny for a quart but it was mixed with the water. This product was in very high demand because it was one of the cheapest products to feed the children. 

So, the life in the 18th was a little cheaper due to the industrial breakthrough. Because of this historical event, the number of goods increased and they become more affordable for the citizens of the Great Britain. 




About the Author:

Sandra J. Hayward is a Miami Dade college MBA graduate that is interested in academic research and writing but does not want to depend on the rigorous schedule. That is why she has been collaborating with Edubirdie for a long time as a freelance writer and enjoys her flextime a lot.