Before George died in 1820 the fabric of English life had been vastly altered from the stable society of 1760. Despite the loss of the American colonies there had been a great expansion of empire and trade, and the ground for further expansion had been laid by the explorations of James Cook. At home, the population almost doubled, improved agricultural methods increased productivity, and advances in technology and transportation marked the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Social reform, although much discussed, made little headway, and all attempts to effect an extension of the suffrage or a redistribution of parliamentary representation failed. The Church of England, fettered by apathy and patronage, failed to move into the new factory towns, but Methodism spread rapidly to fill the gap. Science made great strides with the work of Henry Cavendish, Joseph Priestley, John Dalton, and Sir Humphrey Davy. In English literature 18th-century neoclassicism declined, and the romantic movement had its rise. A revolution in social and economic thinking, assisted by the spread of literacy and learning through a wider distribution of books and periodicals, promoted theories of utilitarianism and laissez-faire. Among important thinkers of the period were Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, Jeremy Bentham, and Edmund Burke. Through all these developments George patronized the arts, especially portraiture, and founded the Royal Academy of Arts. He was a friend of Josiah Wedgwood and other industrialists.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.