Recent reading on the bus has been “A Century of Change: Trends in UK Statistics since 1900”. What can I say, I’m a wonk and I get off on this kind of thing.
Anyway, standing out most is just the pure and simple growth in wealth through the Twentieth Century. Each Briton is four times as wealthy at the end of the century as at the start. The knock-on effects of this are clear:
- In 1900, one house in ten was owned, most were rented. Now seven houses out of every ten are owned by the people living in them.
- There are 27 million cars in the UK, up from zero in 1900.
- One in three jobs are professional or managerial, up from one in seven.
Modern medicine has kicked the arse of infectious, parasitic and other diseases, down from three-quarters of deaths to one quarter.
The UK used to run on coal. Over a million people were employed as coal miners from 1910 to 1930. Their numbers have now dropped by 98%.
From 1900 to 1999, the population went up by only 50%, 38 million to 60 million. Overall, 15 million people left the UK.
And jumping back a thousand years or so to the Domesday Book, one in ten Britons were slaves, taken making in the borderlands of Wales and the West Country. Seven out of ten were peasant labourers tied to manors, not much better off than slaves and treated similarly to oxen. So overall, it’s not been a bad thousand years.