During much of the nineteenth century Great Britain strove with notable success to maintain her position as the world's leading industrial, commercial, and financial power. Her factories continued turning out textiles, machinery, and many other goods which were exported to all parts of the world. Her merchant marine continued to be the largest of any country. London was the financial capital of the world. Britain had adopted the gold standard in 1821; most western European nations and many others eventually followed her lead. The English pound was everywhere acceptable as international exchange. By 1850, when half of all Englishmen were living in towns and cities, England was a food deficit area importing more than she exported. Foodstuffs flowed from her economic satellites in western Europe and from the world over, as well as cotton from the United States and India, wool from Australia and New Zealand, and such metals as copper, lead, and tin from many far-flung outposts. In return, England sent out not only goods, but also the capital and technical ability which helped to build railway systems or develop mines and plantations in many parts of the world. Moreover, England was the center of a mighty empire which in many ways supplemented and complemented her own economy. [excerpt]
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Bloom, Robert L. et al. "4. The Spread of the Industrial Revolution. Pt XIV: The Industrial Revolution, Classical Economics, and Economic Liberalism." Ideas and Institutions of Western Man (Gettysburg College, 1958), 12-15.