Industrial Revolution


In the aftermath of the French Revolution, when Napoleon was holding the entire Europe to ransom, another revolution which was destined to affect the history of mankind was taking place in England. This was the Industrial Revolution. Industrial Revolution refers to the adoption of a system of producing commodities on a large scale in huge factories. This was opposed to the old system of making goods in the cottages or workshops by the artisans. T he first phase of the Revolution was the appearance of certain important inventions which revolutionised the cotton industry. The use of steam helped to abandon the old method of smelting iron by means of charcoal. The coal and iron industries made rapid progress. T hen the means of communication made great strides. Locomotive, the first passenger railway (1830), steam boat and use of electric telegraph (1835) came into existence. In a period of about a hundred years England was thoroughly transformed.

Main Features

T he essential feature of Industrial Revolution was application of science to industry. The use of iron and steel, the use of new sources of energy or fuels such as coal, steam, and iron, the invention of new machines that increased production, a new method of organisation of work known as the factory system, which involved increased division of labour and specialisation of skill, and developments in transport and communication made possible the mass production of manufactured goods.

Causes of Industrial Revolution in England

T he Industrial Revolution started first in Britain due to a variety of causes.

(a) The impact of Commercial Revolution. Revolution in trade and commerce brought into existence a class of capitalists who were constantly seeking new opportunities to invest their surplus wealth. As a result, more and more capital was made available for the development of manufacturing.

(b) Though a later entrant to the race in establishing colonies overseas, Britain gained supremacy over a period of time. It defeated the European powers such as Spain, Portugal, and France. In the beginning of the 18th century, Britain had colonies in one fourth of the world and ruled over 25% of the world population in Africa, America and Asia. So there was a growing demand for industrial products from these Empire colonies.

(c) The markets at home were also expanding as the population grew. In England, population rose from four million in 1600 to six million in 1700 and nine million by the end of the eighteenth century.

(d) The drain of wealth to England from various colonies, notably from India, provided the capital necessary for investment in industries.

(e) Compared to other European countries, Britain was more liberal. Political stability also provided objective conditions for industrial development.

(f) The availability of coal and iron deposits in large quantities in England was another contributory factor. By 1800, Britain was producing ten million tons of coal, or 90% of the world’s output

(g) Before the industrial revolution, Britain registered rapid agricultural growth. More lands were brought under cultivation through mechanisation. Small land holdings were consolidated into larger enclosures under the control of wealthy private landowners and the method of crop rotation along with the new farming techniques yielded more produce. But it also caused unemployment among the agricultural labourers. Pauparised peasants moved to the cities and became the workforce for various factories from the mid eighteenth century.

(h) The British had well established ports all across the coast which enabled easy internal and external trade.

(i) The geographical location of England, slightly away from the mainland and relatively safe from foreign invasions, was another cause for industrial revolution

(j) Finally the temperate climate of the British isles was favourable for the manufacturing of cotton cloth.

Important Inventions during Industrial Revolution T he factory System:

Before the industrial revolution, production took place in small workshops or in the cottages of the workers. Potters, wheel makers, cart makers, spinners and weavers used their skill and strength to produce the desired goods. With the advent of new inventions, the tasks were performed by machines that needed to be operated at regular intervals by skilled or semi-skilled people. Factories became the places where the goods were produced in large quantities.

Cotton Industries:

The first factories were established in the cotton industry. This became possible due to the invention of spinning jenny, flying shuttle, water frame and Crompton’s Mule. Flying shuttle was invented by John Kay in 1733. Before this invention the thread in the shuttle in the weaver’s hand had to be carried slowly across and through the other threads placed lengthwise, called the warp. The flying shuttle quickened this process and thus doubled the weaver’s output. Spinning Jenny, invented in 1764 by James Hargreaves, could spin eight threads at the same time while in the traditional method only one thread could be spun. Water frame, developed in 1769 by Richard Arkwright, was able to spin 128 threads at a time. Crompton’s Mule, a combination of Water Frame and Spinning Jenny, was invented by Samuel Crompton. It gave greater control over the weaving process and as a result, spinners could make many different types of yarn.

In 1700, only 500 tons of cotton were imported by Britain. With innovations in spinning and weaving and the rise of factory production in textiles, the demand of raw cotton increased dramatically. By 1860, the country was importing 500,000 tons each year. By the early nineteenth century, Manchester, the centre of the British textile industry, had acquired the nickname “Cottonopolis”.

Iron industries:

Traditionally iron could be extracted from iron ore by heating (smelting) it. For this, a large quantum of charcoal was required which was obtained by burning firewood. Sources of coal had depleted by 1700 because of deforestation. Britain partially solved the problem, as about 1709, Abraham Darby a coal owner in Derbyshire, discovered that coke could be used for melting. The chief obstacle for the extraction of coal was the accumulation of water in the mines. What they found useful was a device, developed first by Thomas Newcomen in 1712, to pump the water from the coal mines. This was further improved by James Watt in 1769. He joined hands with an entrepreneur (Mathew Boulton) and together they produced more than 500 steam engines that were used to supply power to the new factories. The coming of power-driven machinery meant the rise of the factory system on a wide scale.Coke was smokeless and could produce more heat than charcoal. Due to this, iron industries were set up near coal mines. Due to the rapid production of iron many household objects such as spoons and pans were made of iron. Even the factories were built with strong iron girders.

Steam Engines:

The steamboat preceded the steam engine as a means of locomotion. On the Firth of Clyde Canal there was a steam boat in 1802. In 1804 the first locomotive was made. In 1830 the first passenger railway between Liverpool and Manchester was opened. George Stephenson’s engine, “The Rocket,” functioned with a speed of over thirty miles an hour, unimaginable at that time. Steam Engine – The Rocket In 1807, an American Robert Fulton made the first successful steam boat. In April 1838, the first steasmships, the Sirius and the Great Western, crossed the Atlantic. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, an English Engineer, built the f irst fully iron ship with the screw propellers called SS Great Britain in 1843. In earlier times, instead of screw propellers, paddle wheels were used.


With the increase in production, it became important to have good roads. However, the roads were of poor quality and the travelling time was long and strenuous. Due to the pressure exercised by leading industrialists roads were maintained by turnpikes, who collected toll from the people for the proper management of the roads. John Loudon McAdam invented an effective and economical method of constructing roads.

In 1835 the first electric telegraph came into existence. Sixteen years later the first undersea cable was laid between England and France. In a few years the telegraph system spread throughout the world. T he modern factory with its giant chimneys began to dominate the landscape of the area around Manchester in Lancashire and Glasgow in Scotland. In 1750, England had two cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants, London and Edinburgh. By 1851 the number of cities of this size had increased to 29.

Second Stage of Industrial Revolution : Germany and the USA

The significant discoveries of the Second Industrial Revolution emanated more from the laboratory of the physicist or chemist than from the brain of the individual inventor. The other essential features of the Second Industrial Revolution were the introduction of automatic machinery, and the enormous increase in mass production and a division of the labour into minute segments of the manufacturing process. Throughout the eighteenth century there was steady industrial development and great commercial activity in Western Europe. This was exemplified by the development of banking, and improvement in internal means of communication such as roads and canals. In France and Prussia there were factories under state patronage. Glass works at Le Creusot, and the linen manufacture of Silesia were important. On the continent of Europe, the Napoleonic Wars checked the progress of commerce and industry. But with the coming of peace, English machines were freely introduced in France and Germany. During the thirty years that followed the fall of Napoleon, steam came rapidly into use throughout Western Europe. By 1847, in cities of France such as Paris, Lyons, Marseilles, Bordeaux and Toulouse there were great factories. The English scientist Michael Faraday had invented the idea of electricity and a few years later the American inventor Thomas Alva Edison had perfected his model of a light bulb for home use. This led to the making of electrical generators in the 1870s, thereby making public electricity possible. Diesel Engine Rudolf Diesel In Germany, states led by Prussia used British techniques in industrial production and manufacturing. The Zollverein, as the union of States with free trade as their common policy, was formed by Prussia. This led to the removal of tariff wall. The unification of Germany in 1871 made industrial development more rapid. The invention and use of electricity and along with this the invention of Diesel engine by Rudolf Diesel helped the Germans to be the masters of automobile industry in Europe. Daimler and Benz became the most popular brands of automobile in Germany and the world. Germany made its mark in iron and steel industry. Germany contributed to the use of chemicals in agriculture, dye in the textile industry, and electronics goods industry.By the end of the nineteenth century Germany emerged as the most industrialised country. It surpassed the home of the Industrial Revolution, Britain, and proved to be a competitor of the United States. In electrics, German companies like Siemens outshone its counterparts in other countries. In chemicals, Germany excelled in the production of potassium salt, dyes, pharmaceutical products, and synthetics. Companies like Bayer and Hoechst led the chemical industry of Germany.

Industrial Revolution in USA

T he USA was largely an Samuel Slater agrarian country in the early nineteenth century. T here was an increase in population along with the number of colonies. Samuel Slater, a citizen of England, having gained the experience of operating a mill offered his services to Moses Brown, a leading Rhode Island industrialist, who had earlier made an abortive attempt to operate a mill. Brown agreed, and in consequence the mill became operational in 1793, being the first water-powered roller spinning textile mill in the Americas. By 1800, Slater’s mill had been duplicated by many other entrepreneurs. Andrew Jackson, the U.S. President hailed him as “Father of the American Industrial Revolution.”

Samuel F.B. Morse’s invention of the telegraph and Elias Howe’s invention of the sewing machine came before the Civil war. After the Civil war, industrialisation went on at a rapid pace. In 1869, the first transcontinental railroad was completed to transport people, raw materials and manufactures. The invention of electricity by Thomas Alva Edison (1879) and telephone by Alexander Graham Bell (1876) changed the whole world. T he Industrial Revolution quickened the process of the transition of the United States from a rural to an urban society. Young people raised on farms saw greater opportunities in the cities and moved there. There was unprecedented urbanisation and territorial expansion in the US and, as a result, between 1860 and 1900, fourteen million immigrants came to the country, providing workers for a wide variety of industries.

Impact of Industrial Revolution

If the Renaissance changed people’s approach to life, the Industrial Revolution changed the way they had existed since the agrarian times. The mechanisation of industry resulted in much greater production and therefore it produced greater wealth. But this new wealth went to a small group, the owners of the new industries.

The Industrial Revolution solved the problem of production. But not the problem of distribution of new wealth created. Machine-made manufactures ruined the handicrafts and rendered tens of thousands of artisans and weavers jobless.

During the first phase of the Industrial Revolution the introduction of machines meant that able-bodied men were thrown out of employment by the cheap labour of women and children.

Moreover, many of the factories and mines were dangerous and unsanitary. An important outcome of the Industrial Revolution was the creation of two new classes: an industrial bourgeoisie and a proletariat. To the industrial bourgeoisie most forms of government intervention, except protective tariffs and suppression of strikes, were allergic. They insisted that free enterprise was absolutely essential to vigorous economic growth.

T he new class of industrial workers did not simply suffer. Towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars, strong waves of agitations began. The struggle went through different phases: machine breaking, mass demonstrations and formation of collectives (trade unions).

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