Triggered an enormous leap in industrial production. Coal and stream replaced wind and water as new sources of energy and power to drive laborsaving machines. These machines called for new ways of organizing human labor as factories replaced workshops and workrooms. During the IR, Europe shifted from an agriculture based economy to an economy based on manufacturing by machine and automated factories. It fundamentally changed the world. People moved from the countryside to the cities to work. It created a new, industrial middle class and a huge industrial working class that transformed social relationships. It also altered how people related to nature. Historians generally agree that the IR began in Britain sometime after 1750.
There are a number of reasons it began in Europe. Improvements in agricultural production led to an increase in food production, which in turn fed more people at lower prices. A rapid pop growth in the 2nd half of the 1700’s created a surplus of labor for the new factories. Britain also had a ready supply of money for investment in the new industrial machines and factories. Britain had a central bank and credit facilities and people who were interested in making great profit. Britain also had a huge supply of natural resources, including iron ore and coal that were critical to the manufacturing process. The small and short distances for the transportation of these goods also played a significant role in the growth and spread of the industrial process. A crucial factor was Britains ability to produce cheaply the articles of greatest demand, such as cotton & clothing. In the 1760’s, a Scottish engineer, james watt, developed the Steam Engine that could be applied to weaving cotton, and soon after that the steam engine was a standard factory appliance. Between 1760-1840, Britain went from producing 2.5 million pounds of cotton to 366 million. British cotton goods were sold everywhere in the world.
Soon after, engineers developed the 1st Steam-powered Locomotive, and by 1840 Britain had almost 6000 miles of railroad. Constructing railroads created even more jobs, and provided a faster and cheaper means of transportation that fueled the new industrial economy. Increased sales meant more factories, more factories meant more labor, more labor meant more demand. As the 19th century progressed, the 2nd and 3rd generations of workers came to view a regular workweek as a natural way of life. By the mid 1800’s, Britain had become the worlds 1st and richest industrial nation – the workshop, banker, and trader of the world.
From GB, industrialization spread to the rest of Western Europe (Belgium, France, Germany) and the US. And in the US, the railroad had a profound impact on the development of the nation itself. By 1860 there were over 27000 miles of RR linking big city to big city. The RR’s are the arteries of North America, the internet of the 19th century – allowing growth, communication, and commerce. The discovery of oil below the Texas dirt further powered the 20th century.
Britain: Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution
Before the advent of the Industrial Revolution, most people resided in small, rural communities where their daily existences revolved around farming. Life for the average person was difficult, as incomes were meager, and malnourishment and disease were common. People produced the bulk of their own food, clothing, furniture and tools. Most manufacturing was done in homes or small, rural shops, using hand tools or simple machines.
A number of factors contributed to Britain’s role as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. For one, it had great deposits of coal and iron ore, which proved essential for industrialization. Additionally, Britain was a politically stable society, as well as the world’s leading colonial power, which meant its colonies could serve as a source for raw materials, as well as a marketplace for manufactured goods.