Image: Cyfarthfa Ironworks Interior at Night, by Penry Williams, 1825 | People's Collection Wales
Professor Chris Evans has been awarded an Economic History Society Carnevali Small Research Grant to do preliminary work on ‘Lighting the Industrial Revolution’.
Historians have traditionally argued that ‘light-rich’ societies come about because of industrialization, drawing upon revolutionary new technologies like coal gas and electricity. But what if more abundant light was a pre-condition for industrialisation rather than a consequence of it? What if more light, derived from established technologies like candles and oil lamps, allowed workers to work for longer or more intensively?
Evans is engaged in a study of light and industrial change in Britain in the period 1650-1800. His intention is to shift attention away from post-1800 technologies like coal gas and towards a more panoramic view of light in early British industrialisation that emphasises the exploitation of frontier spaces, be they Arctic waters for whale oil or the Russian steppes for tallow. He suggests that technological innovation has been over-emphasised in accounts of Britain’s Industrial Revolution. The ability of Britons to seize control of distant energy reserves warrants more attention.
The Carnevali Small Research Grants will enable Professor Evans to conduct pilot work at The National Archives and the Hull History Centre ahead of a funding application to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
See more of Professor Chris Evans' research