[with apologies to the Four Yorkshiremen]
A fantasy writer produced this:
But there’s a dark side as well. We know about the real world of the era steampunk is riffing off. And the picture is not good. If the past is another country, you really wouldn’t want to emigrate there. Life was mostly unpleasant, brutish, and short; the legal status of women in the UK or US was lower than it is in Iran today: politics was by any modern standard horribly corrupt and dominated by authoritarian psychopaths and inbred hereditary aristocrats: it was a priest-ridden era that had barely climbed out of the age of witch-burning, and bigotry and discrimination were ever popular sports: for most of the population starvation was an ever-present threat. I could continue at length. It’s the world that bequeathed us the adjective “Dickensian”, that gave us a fully worked example of the evils of a libertarian minarchist state, and that provoked Marx to write his great consolatory fantasy epic, The Communist Manifesto. It’s the world that gave birth to the horrors of the Modern, and to the mass movements that built pyramids of skulls to mark the triumph of the will. It was a vile, oppressive, poverty-stricken and debased world and we should shed no tears for its passing (or the passing of that which came next).
Oh really? Try this from the Old Bailey’s website:
From approximately three-quarters of a million people in 1760, London continued a strong pattern of growth through the last four decades of the eighteenth century. In 1801, when the first reliable modern census was taken, greater London recorded 1,096,784 souls; rising to a little over 1.4 million inhabitants by 1815. No single decade in this period witnessed less than robust population growth.
In part this urban bloat resulted from a marked decline in infant mortality brought about by better hygiene and childrearing practices, and a changing disease pattern. By the 1840s children born in the capital were three times less likely to die in childhood than those born in the 1730s.