The Industrial Revolution

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The Industrial Revolution 2018-03-15T10:34:21+00:00

THE change of industry and the economy in Britain between the 1780s and the 1850s is known as the ‘principal modern revolution. This had far-reaching effects in Britain. Later, similar changes occurred in European countries and in the USA. These were to have a major impact on the society and economy of those countries and also on the rest of the world. This phase of industrial development in Britain is strongly associated with new machinery and technologies. These made it conceivable to deliver products on a monstrous scale contrasted with craftsmanship and handloom businesses. The part plots the adjustments in the cotton and iron ventures. Steam, a new source of power, began to be used on a wide scale in British industries. Its use led to faster forms of transportation, by ships and railways. Huge numbers of the creators and businesspeople who realized these progressions were regularly neither by and by rich nor instructed in fundamental sciences like material science or science, as will be seen from glances into the backgrounds of some of them. Industrialisation prompted more prominent thriving for a few, yet in the underlying stages it was connected with poor living and working states of a huge number of individuals, including ladies and kids. This sparked off protests, which forced the government to enact laws for regulating conditions of work.


The term ‘Modern Revolution’ was utilized by European researchers – Georges Michelet in France and Friedrich Engels in Germany. It was used for the first time in English by the philosopher and economist Arnold Toynbee (1852-83), to describe the changes that occurred in British industrial development between 1760 and 1820. These dates coincided with those of the reign of George III, on which Toynbee was giving a series of lectures at Oxford University. His addresses were distributed in 1884, after his inauspicious demise, as a book called Lectures on the Industrial Revolution in England: Popular Addresses, Notes and Other Fragments. Later historians, T.S. Ashton, Paul Mantoux and Eric Hobsbawm, broadly agreed with Toynbee. There was noteworthy financial development from the 1780s to 1820 in the cotton and iron ventures, in coal mining, in the working of streets and trenches and in outside exchange. Ashton (1889-1968) celebrated the Industrial Revolution, when England was ‘swept by a wave of gadgets’.

Towns, Trade and Finance

From the eighteenth century, many towns in Europe were growing in area and in population. Out of the 19 European cities whose population doubled between 1750 and 1800, 11 were in Britain. The largest of them was London, which served as the hub of the country’s markets, with the next largest

ones located close to it. London had also acquired a global significance. By the eighteenth century, the centre of global trade had shifted from the Mediterranean ports of Italy and France to the Atlantic ports of Holland and Britain. Still later, London replaced Amsterdam as the principal source of loans for international trade. London also became the centre of a triangular trade network that drew in England, Africa and the West Indies. The companies trading in America and Asia also had their offices in London.

Coal and Iron

England was fortunate in that coal and iron ore, the staple materials for mechanisation, were plentifully available, as were other minerals – lead, copper and tin – that were used in industry. However, until the eighteenth century, there was a scarcity of usable iron. Iron is drawn out from ore as pure liquid metal by a process called smelting. For centuries, charcoal (from burnt timber) was used for the smelting process. This had several problems: charcoal was too fragile to transport across long distances; its impurities produced poor-quality iron; it was in short supply because forests had been destroyed for timber; and it could not generate high temperatures

Cotton Spinning and Weaving

The British had always woven cloth out of wool and flax (to make linen). From the seventeenth century, the country had been importing bales of cotton cloth from India at great cost. As the East India Company’s political control of parts of India was established, it began to import, along with cloth, raw cotton, which could be spun and woven into cloth in England. Till the early eighteenth century, spinning had been so slow and laborious that 10 spinners (mostly women, hence the word ‘spinster’) were required to supply sufficient yarn to keep a single weaver busy. Therefore, while spinners were occupied all day, weavers waited idly to receive yarn. But a series of technological inventions successfully closed

the gap between the speed in spinning raw cotton into yarn or thread, and of weaving the yarn into fabric. To make it even more efficient, production gradually shifted from the homes of spinners and weavers

to factories. From the 1780s, the cotton industry symbolised British industrialization in many ways. This industry had two features which were also seen in other industries.

Steam Power

The realisation that steam could generate tremendous power was decisive to large-scale industrialisation. Water as hydraulic power had been the prime source of energy for centuries, but it had been limited to certain areas, seasons and by the speed of flow of the water. Now it was used differently. Steam power provided pressure at high temperatures that enabled the use of a broad range of machinery. This meant that steam power was the only source of energy that was reliable and inexpensive enough to manufacture machinery itself. Steam power was first used in mining industries. As the demand for coal and metals expanded, efforts to obtain them from ever-deeper mines intensified. Flooding in mines was a serious problem. Thomas Savery (1650-1715) built a model steam engine called the Miner’s Friend in 1698 to drain mines. These engines worked slowly, in shallow depths, and the boiler burst under too much pressure.

Canals and Railways

Canals were initially built to transport coal to cities. This was because the bulk and weight of coal made its transport by road much slower and more expensive than by barges on canals. The demand for coal, as

industrial energy and for heating and lighting homes in cities, grew constantly. The making of the first English canal, the Worsley Canal (1761) by James Brindley (1716-72), had no other purpose than to carry coal from the coal deposits at Worsley (near Manchester) to that city; after the canal was completed the price of coal fell by half. Canals were usually built by big landowners to increase the value of the mines, quarries or forests on their lands. The confluence of canals created marketing centres in new towns. The city of Birmingham, for example, owed its growth to its position at the heart of a canal system connecting London, the Bristol Channel, and the Mersey and Humber rivers. From 1760 to 1790, twenty-five new canal-building projects were begun. In the period known as the ‘canal-mania’, from 1788 to

1796, there were another 46 new projects and over the next 60 years more than 4,000 miles of canal were built.


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