By M. W. Flinn (auth.)
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By their means the products of each and every industrial region were made available to consumers in all parts of the country, while the newly-acquired access of many important industrial areas to seaports greatly assisted the growth of export trade. Finally, one other aspect of canals should be noted. The construction of the canal network of this country, confined as it was to a relatively short period of time, employed large numbers of labourers. These were the 'navigators',_ or 'navvies'. In the days when excavation had to be done entirely by the spade, many thousands were employed in the construction of a single canal.
It accounted for almost three-quarters of exports of British produce and manufactures. There was also a slowly rising export trade in coal, though the high cost of transport restricted this trade to the nearer markets, Ireland and Holland between them taking the bulk of the total export. Small quantities of lead, tin, copper and ironware were exported, and there was a fluctuating trade in grain stimulated by the corn bounty, a government subsidy on exports to encourage corn production. As in more recent times, the greater part of the imports at the beginning of the century was made up of foodstuffs and raw materials.
The largest single source of imports was the East India Company. It was difficult to find a market in the East for Britain's major exports of woollen cloth and metals, and most of the Company's imports were paid for in bullion. Early in the eighteenth century imports from the New World were of slight importance, and the bulk of the trade came from European TRANSPORT AND TRADE 29 THE FLOW OF GOODS OUTWARDS FROM THE NEW WORLD in the first half of the eighteenth century sources - Germany, Holland, Turkey and Sweden being the most important.