Causes of the Industrial Revolution of the 18th Century

Industrialization in the 18th and 19th Centuries

According to Wyatt (2009), the 18th and 19th centuries saw a substantial increase in industrialization during this time. (2). Agriculture and textile production were carried out by hand or with basic hand machines prior to the industrial revolution. Mechanization resulted from industrialization in the transportation, agriculture, and industry sectors. (Wyatt 2). The need for greater financial gain on the part of both individual entrepreneurs and nations was the main driver of this industrial transformation. In contrast to other nations, Britain had a well-established reputation as a center of trade and commerce. It had greater political and economic stability, and the employees received high pay. Energy sources were in plenty, cheap and readily available in Britain as opposed to other countries. Economic opportunities for individuals to grow financially had been created by Britain’s financial stability (Mokyr 26).

Innovations in Product Manufacturing

To grow economically, individuals needed to change how products were manufactured, both in quantity and quality, and therefore innovations had to come in. The changes by these people led to reduced reliance on human labor and energy cost. With fewer production costs, the inventors were forced to focus on mass production of the products.

Technological Innovations and their Importance

Changes brought revolution in the textile industry and the iron production industry. This innovation in textile and iron industry caused a positive shift in the transportation industry, banking, and communication.

In the textile industry, before machines were innovated, textiles were made by people in their homes. The textile industry was referred to as the cottage industry. The major players in the textile industry were merchants who brought in raw materials and equipment to the workers and then picking the finished products. This system had a lot of inefficiencies since workers set their schedules to work in the cottage industry and the merchants had no control over the employees.

Innovations of new textile machinery meant the merchants had less dependence on human labor and they had increased production. The flying shuttle was the first invention that boosted the textile industry, it was invented by James Kay in 1733. The flying shuttle helped speed up processes, and it reduced human dependency in the woolen industry. However, around 1764, James Hargreaves invented the spinny Jenny, a marvel that produced sixteen spindles of thread at a time. This great invention brought over 20,000 spinning jenny into use in Great Britain before the death of its inventor James Hargreaves. An improvement of the spinning jenny was made by a British inventor Samuel Compton (1753-1827), he called it the spinning jenny mule. In the 1780s the process of weaving clothes was mechanized by the power loom invented by English inventor Edmund Cartwright (1743-1823) (Wyatt 13).

The Iron industry faced developments. Earlier iron industries were dependent on charcoal but at the beginning of 18th century, Abraham Dardy (1678-1717), an English inventor, invented a coke-fueled furnace. This invention was an easier and cheaper way to produce cast iron. Henry Bessemer (1813-1898), a British engineer, in the 1850s invented an inexpensive process for producing steel to a great quantity. These two inventions were important because more steel and iron, used in the manufacture of machinery, buildings, locomotives and ships, was produced at a cheaper and faster way (Wyatt 14).

In this century, another significant invention was the steam engine. In 1712s, a steam engine was invented by Thomas Newcomen (1664-1729), and was mainly used to force water out of mines. It was later improved and used to power machines in industries, ships, and locomotives. The improvement was made by a Scottish inventor, James Watt (1736-1819) in the 1760s (Wyatt 15).

Transport industry underwent a significant development during the industrial revolution. Unlike the previous years where horse-drawn wagons and boats were the primary modes of transportation, a steamboat built by Robert Fulton in early 1800s became the new transport mode. Steamships were used to carry raw materials and manufactured products across the Atlantic. At the beginning of the 1800s, rail saw a steam locomotive invented by a British engineer Richard Trevithick. By 1850, the Great Britain had more than six thousand miles of railway track. A Scottish engineer, in 1820, also made a contribution to the transport revolution by inventing a technique, macadam, in which roads became more durable and smoother (Wyatt 18).

Why Great Britain took the Lead in the Industrial Revolution and Continued to maintain its position through the Mid-19th Century

Before the growth of industries and its revolution, a majority of Great Britain’s population lived in rural communities where their primary activity was farming (Mokyr 16). People only produced food, furniture, clothing and tools for their use and this was done in homes using hands and simple machines. In the eighteenth century, however, some factors led to the start of industrialization in Britain.

Britain is known as the birthplace for industrialization. After the agricultural revolution taking place in the 18th century, a favorable environment for manufacturing was created. Revolution in Agriculture meant food production had improved and more food could be produced. The people of Britain could easily get food and at lower prices than before. They spent less money on buying food, and the extra money they saved was used to buy manufactured goods. This meant Britain had a good market for the manufactured goods than other countries (Mokyr 19).

Increased food supply leads to an increased population. This large population in Britain provided labor for the growing industries as people moved from the rural areas to cities in search of jobs. Britain was a colonial power and could use its slaves as labor in the industries, and this puts Britain at a leading position compared to other countries. In the wake of the agricultural revolution, cotton industries grew, and more profits were made. This encouraged financial institutions, such as the central bank, to start. These new institutions provided funding to support factories construction in Britain (Mokyr 21).

Britain also had extensive mines of mineral resources used to run machines in industries and transportation, such as coal. The invention of the steam train improved transportation of raw materials and manufactured goods. Britain was now able to meet the demand for the products in all neighboring countries, and it was in a leading position. Britain at the time was also politically and economically stable compared to its neighbors and was a leading colonial power in the world (Mokyr 23). England, therefore, able to invest in resources needed to manufacture the goods. A leading colonial power meant that its colonies served as sources of raw materials and markets for its produced goods.

Works Cited

Mokyr, Joel. Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700-1850. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012. Print.

Wyatt, Lee T. The Industrial Revolution. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2009. Print.

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