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Industrial Revolution Essay: Why Did The Industrial Revolution Start In Britain?
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Of all the Western European countries in the 18th century, Britain was the ideal incubator for the Industrial Revolution for a variety of reasons. An "Agricultural Revolution" had already occurred in Britain, which contributed to the wealth of the country, demonstrated the benefits of innovation, and encouraged the entrepreneurial spirit. Britain also had surplus labor because of the Agricultural Revolution, since that revolution had led to many farm laborers losing their jobs.
Moreover, coal was a natural resource that was abundant in Britain and it was the most important source of energy at the time. Iron, used for building the new machines, was another natural resource. Britain had also invested heavily in infrastructure, had laws that protected capital, and had a stable government, all of which encouraged entrepreneurs to get involved in industrialization. Roads, ports and bridges played an important role in developing an industrialized nation.
Once the Industrial Revolution got going in Britain, and investors and entrepreneurs started making money, there was a chain reaction, with the economy feeding on its own success. In the end, Britain industrialized first because of its abundant natural resources, its ready workforce, its growing economy, the availability of capital and demand, and the stability of its government.
During the 1700s, trade from a growing overseas empire helped the British economy to grow and develop. The slave and cotton trade created a new business class which accumulated a lot of capital, providing the money used to invest in enterprises, including small business organizations in such areas as shipping, mining, and rail roads.
The initial successes encouraged capitalists to invest more of their own money in the expectation of earning interest (the cost of borrowing money) or shares in prosperous companies. Over time, more and more business men risked their capital in new ventures due to the obvious success of the growing economy in Britain. Entrepreneurs managed and assumed the financial risks of starting new businesses.
In other countries in Europe, there was not as much free-flowing capital. Other countries were also not as politically stable as Britain, and instability is not encouraging for potential investors and entrepreneurs. Britain benefitted from its strong navy, which enabled the expansion of the empire and protected the trade that took place overseas, and the shipping lanes used for exporting and importing goods. Britain also benefited from its many natural ports and navigable rivers which made transportation of goods a relatively easy affair.
Unique economic conditions In Britain were also critical in industrial development. During the 1600s, for example, cotton imported from India became popular in many countries.
At that time in Britain, the guild system was giving way to the putting-out system. The guild system was a very inefficient system. Typically, a craftsperson would own the product and the materials and a merchant would bring the cloth to the skilled craftsperson who then dyed the cloth and so made it possible for the merchant to sell it at a profit.
The merchants then developed the putting-out system, which was also known as the cottage industry. In this industry raw cotton was distributed to peasant families who spun it into thread and then wove the thread into cloth in their own homes. The putting- out system, however, was also very inefficient and as demand grew, reform was necessary.
The problem was exacerbated by John Kays invention of the flying shuttle, which enabled weavers to work so fast that they soon outpaced spinners. James Hargreaves solved that problem by inventing the spinning jenny in 1764, which enabled workers to spin many threads at the same time, and so keep pace with the weavers.
Competition also encouraged growth. There were problems in America at the time because they were not sure how to keep up with England in the cottage industry. Cotton production increased exponentially, however, when Eli Whitney created the cotton gin, which separated seeds from the raw cotton. Spinners and weavers now came each day to work in the first factories that brought together workers and machines to produce large quantities of goods.
As production increased, entrepreneurs needed faster and cheaper methods of moving goods from place to place, and better transportation encouraged further increases in production. Britain competitive advantage in this are consisted of its ability to establish communications and transport relatively cheaply due to its easy accessibility to the sea and its shipbuilding industry.
The many rivers on the island supplied water power and also allowed navigable canals to be built. Canals were crucial for the transportation of materials and for bringing goods to markets. Capitalists also invested in turnpikes, or private roads built by entrepreneurs who charged travelers a toll, or fee, to use them. Turnpikes linked every part of Britain and allowed goods to be transported more quickly. Canals connected inland towns with coastal ports and stronger bridges and harbors were built to enable the expansion of overseas trade.
Entrepreneurs, however, who created canals for profit were not always successful. Not all canals that were built had enough traffic to support them, and some of the canal owners went bankrupt. Of course the biggest problem for the canal owners was the emergence of steam locomotives which ultimately made railroads the new preferred form of transportation. The invention of the steam locomotive made the growth of railroads possible, and tracks could go places where rivers did not. This allowed factory owners and merchants to ship goods smoothly and cheaply over land. In this respect, Britain had all the resources and infrastructure needed to succeed. It had a thriving economy, easy transportation, easy access to trade, and a culture of invention and innovation.
Social and political factors in Britain also allowed for the growth of industry. Rich landowners pushed ahead with enclosure, the process of taking over and consolidating land formerly shared by peasant farmers. The British Parliament facilitated enclosures through legislation. Profits rose because large fields needed fewer workers. Many farm laborers were lost their jobs, and small farmers were in effect thrown off their land because they could not compete with large landholders. They formed a growing labor force looking for work. Many of them would soon tend to the machines of the Industrial Revolution.
A peculiarity of British religious life, the existence of the dissenters, also played a role in the growth of industry. The dissenters were free churchmen who did not sign loyalty oaths. They could not hold office, join the army, or preach within 5 miles of a city because they were considered potentially dangerous revolutionaries. They were allowed to go into industry, however, and they also helped to create universities in which students learned about entrepreneurship. They moved into the new manufacturing businesses without opposition and helped Britain develop its infrastructure.
Britain, then, had all the resources it needed to succeed and many social and political advantages over its neighbors, which allowed it create a fast-growing economy. It had a ready workforce, and plenty of natural resources that created easier transportation and the necessary materials to create strong tools and machines. There were many new inventions that changed Britains industry immensely, such as the seed drill, the steam engine, the cotton gin, and the water frame, which helped improve transportation, trade, manufacturing, and agriculture. The Industrial Revolution created population growth, rural to urban migration, and the growth of cities, and those changes only helped to further increase Britains industrial power.
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Submitted by: rdp38
inventions transformed the textile industry. Transportation was alsoreformed with inventions of the steam engine by James Watt(1765),the building of the 1st railroad track (1821-1825), and alocomotive called the Rocket built by George Stephenson and his son(1829).Besides the postive effects, the Industrial Revolution also had negativeeffects. Because of urbanization, many cities, whose infrastructuresystem could not keep up with the rapid population growth, wereovercrowded with people looking for jobs. England's cities lackeddecent housing, sanitary codes, education, and police protection. Manyworkers of the working class lived in small, dirty shelters wheresickness was widespread. With the introduction of steam, factoryconditons became worse. Machines injured workers. Many factoryowners wanted to get the cheapest labor possible. To do this, factoryowners hired workers, mostly women and children because the werethe cheapest labor, so they could work long hours for low wages. Asthe working class saw little improvements in living and workingconditions, the middle class, made up of skilled workers, professionals,factory owners, and other well do to people, saw improvements in theirlives. The middle class was now able to afford things that the wealthyonly had acess to, such as servants.In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution created a major gapbetween the rich and the poor. Many reformers felt that thegovernment needed to play an active role to improve the standard of living for the poor. Many ideas and philosophies were created as areaction to the Industrial Revolution. An economic system, calledsocialism, grew during the 1800s as a reaction to the IndustrialRevolution. It called for more state influence, equal rights, and an endto inhumanity, which stood strongly opposite to individualism andlaissez-fairepolitics. Laissez-fairephilosophy (capitalism), which wasfirst started by Adam Smith, suggested that owners of industry andbusiness set working conditons without the government intervening.Other social movements, including communism, a form of completesocialism where all means of production would be owned by the peopleleaving a small number of manufacturers to control wealth, which wasproposed by Karl Marx, and utilitarianism, which judged ideas,institutions, and actions based on their utility and beleived governmentactions should promote the greatest good for the greatest number of people, was introduced by Jeremy Bentham but led by John Stuart Mill. The Industrial Revolution, like the French Revolution, left a permanentmark on society. Life in the 18th century changed dramatically causingclasses to shift, wealth to increase, and nations to begin assuming