The service sector in London is substantially larger and more diversified than other towns in the country. London maintained its position as the “foremost finishing centre for consumption goods.” An industrial revolution did occur in these trades but it did not lead to the growth of large factories. Instead, it engendered the sweating system which was a most appropriate response to the specific conditions which prevailed in London. As a result, small scale production remained a significant element in London’s industrial geography until the late 19th century. In sum, the “effect of the Industrial Revolution on London was to accentuate its ‘pre-industrial’ characteristics…[and this] determined that its economic structure, its social and political character and its pattern of poverty remained largely distinct from those of other nine[361 teenth4century industrial regions.” The following section will explore the consequences which these developments in the structure of London’s economy had for both the life chances and aspirations of, and the interactions between, broad groups of London’s population, as a function of their respective positions in the economy. Class Structure and Struggle A discussion of the formation and development of a class structure in London from the 1830’s to the 1880’s (and also to the present) and of the dynamic interrelationships between different classes presents two significant difficulties. Firstly, the problem of the extent to which the evolution of class relationships in London are influenced by struggles at the national level.
This difficulty always arises when one is analysing broad currents in a local context, but it is particularly vexing in the case of London where the economic structure was (and is) so different from that of other towns in Britain, while with a few notable exceptions, the literature on the development of class relations in Britain focuses mainly on the national scale. Without detailed original investigation of local patterns, which is beyond the scope of this thesis, it is difficult to separate the general from the particular. One consolation lies in the fact that concurrent with the centralization of capital, the widening of markets and the development of modes of communication, local struggles have become integrated into the national (even international) picture. But this does not obviate the need for local research. The second difficulty is one of finding a model characterizing certain periodp within the overall process of societal development and of confining that model to relatively specific temporal limits without generalizing to a level of inconsequence. The boundaries*of change from one system of socio-economic organization to another are fuzzy–they cannot be precisely defined. The change from Feudalism to Capitalism took approximately three hundred years. Yet it is legitimate and instructive to differentiate one system from the other for, while they are part of the single complex process of human social evolution, they represent essentially separate and discrete stages in that process.