Industrial Revolution


Industrial Revolution, term which gained currency during the mid-19th century and became widely used by the 1880s. It has traditionally been used to describe dramatic transformations occurring in manufacturing industry between approximately 1750 and 1850 that set the pattern for industrialization. The first Industrial Revolution occurred in Great Britain, and profoundly altered its economy and society. The most immediate changes were in production: what was produced, as well as where and how. Labour was transferred from provision of primary products to the production of goods and services. Far more manufactured goods were produced than ever before, and technical efficiency rose dramatically. In part, the growth in productivity was achieved by systematic application of scientific and practical knowledge to the manufacturing process. Efficiency was also enhanced when large agglomerations of enterprises were located within limited areas. Thus, the Industrial Revolution involved urbanization, through migration from rural to urban communities.


Perhaps the most important changes occurred in the organization of work. In general, production took place within the firm or the public enterprise instead of the family or manor. Tasks became increasingly routine and specialized. Industrial production became heavily dependent upon the intensive use of equipment produced for the express purpose of increasing efficiency. A reliance on tools and machinery allowed individual workers to produce more goods, and commitment to a particular task or device reinforced the trend towards specialization.


The industrial landscape of mid-19th-century Britain was vastly different to that of the mid-18th century; evidently some sudden change in the British economy did occur in the intervening period. The move from agrarian and primarily rural-based occupations to urban, and subsequent industrial and service, employment rapidly increased. This transformation was accompanied by social and political unrest in the form of rioting, machine-breaking, and political campaigns aimed at reforming hours of labour and other working conditions, as well as Poor Law legislation. Agriculture was sufficiently developed, having undergone its own Agricultural Revolution, to allow the economy to support a growing urban labour force. The growth in population in turn enlarged the domestic demand for goods and services. Marketing techniques were devised which primarily targeted the wealthy middle and upper strata of society. Trade became increasingly associated with a developing laissez-faire ideology that was gradually absorbed by British institutions. These unprecedented changes were focused in particular sectors and regions of Britain. Furthermore, the organization of manufacturing techniques cannot be separated from changes within Britain\'s developing commercial infrastructure, marketing, finance, emerging consumerism, established handicraft skills, and the expansion of international trade. All these factors and more played a large and interconnected role in the Industrial Revolution.


Foundations for the Revolution: Capital, Credit, and Empire


The Industrial Revolution was fuelled by the prior accumulation of capital. The release of capital and labour from the land was faster in Britain than in any other country in Europe. This, together with efficient British agriculture and a growing industrial workforce enabled rapid population growth and urbanization to be sustained. Contemporary observers in Britain and the European continent certainly looked on in awe at the changes sweeping the country.


The formation of capital continued to increase during the Industrial Revolution, as did the manufacture of goods for export. The expansion of foreign markets for British goods was greatly assisted by the establishment of a fiscal-military state, the British Empire and its domestic institutional base, in which overseas markets were carved out during wars often motivated by trade and defended by British military might. The Carnatic Wars in India, for example, were fought between the British East India Company and its French rival (with their Indian allies) for commercial supremacy in India; the War of Jenkins\' Ear in 1739 was triggered by British traders\' incursions into the Spanish Empire. The doctrine of mercantilism, which inspired the 17th- and 18th-century Navigation Acts, specifically advocated the use of the State\'s armed might to defend and promote the nation\'s economic interests.


To finance such wars, the government raised funds through loans underwritten by the State\'s ability to collect revenue through taxation. The majority of war revenue was, however, raised on the London capital market. The government thus formed a close alliance with the Bank of England and leading London financiers. The interest payments on the British national debt by the end of the 18th century amounted to 40-50 per