The Industrial Revolution (18-19th Century)


Industrial Revolution
18th – 19th Century The economic developments of the 1800s saw the development of agrarian and handicraft economies in Europe and America transform into industrial, urbanized ones. The term to describe this phenomenon would be known as the “Industrial Revolution,” and was first used by French writers, but made popular by English economic historian Arnold Toynbee. The Industrial Revolution was underpinned by the Agricultural Revolution. From the mid-18th century to the mid-19th century, agricultural production increased significantly. The huge increase in food output supported the expansion, and sustained a large population and boosted trade. The increased use of machines over human or animal power in farming also meant that fewer farm workers were needed, and they could leave the land for industrial towns. Better metals and richer fuel also contributed to industrialization by creating the steam engine, an integral machine to industrialization, which powered factories, locomotives, and ships. The new steam engines used coal and iron, both in the construction and as fuel, increasing demand for these resources. Roads, canals, and roadways changed Britain dramatically, connecting Britain and allowing goods to be sent over long distances. Visually, the revolution was clear in the new industrial towns, with smoking factories dominating the skyline. The cities were horrible to live in. Overcrowded, dirty, with dangerous conditions in the factories and strict rules and punishments. The Industrial Revolution saw mechanization of the textile industry, which was previously manufactured in the home, creating the term “Cottage Industry.” Now, production could be increased on a large scale because of new inventions, such as the spinning mule and the power loom. The iron industry developed with Henry Bessemer’s inexpensive process for mass-producing steel. Iron and steel were key materials for constructing the tools in machinery, steam engines, and ships needed for the industrial progress. Industrial labor opportunities drew people to the cities from the countryside– To such an extent that in 1750 only 15% of the population of Britain lived in towns. By 1850, over 50% of the entire population of Great Britain lived in either a town or a city, and by 1900, it was 85%! London had 4.5 million people, Glasgow – 760,000, Liverpool – 685,000, and Manchester and Birmingham – 500,000 Great Britain was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, and was the only mature industrial economy for a long time. Historians have speculated that this was because as an island, there was relative peace and stability for Britain compared to mainland Europe. Rather than spending on a large defensive standing army, capital could be spent on other ventures, and there was confidence for investors. Native resources were also abundant, and readily available for initial technological developments and inventions. Engineers and inventors were also respected and encouraged in British society, and were backed by wealthy patrons. A powerful navy and an empire bringing in vast wealth from its colonies also contributed to the catalyst for industrialization before others. Nevertheless Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and the United States soon emulated Britain’s industrial change; and by 1900 Britain would no longer be at the top, with the United States as the world’s leading industrial nation in the 20th century. Subscribe for more history videos! Thank for all your support on the Simple History YouTube channel. If you enjoy the channel, please consider supporting us at Patreon.

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