acceleration of technical and economic development that began in Britain in the second
half of the 18th century. The traditional agrarian economy was replaced by one dominated
by machinery and manufacturing, made possible through technical advances such as the steam
engine. This transferred the balance of political power from the landowner to the
industrial capitalist and created an urban working class. From 1830 to the early 20th
century, the Industrial Revolution spread throughout Europe and the USA and to Japan and
the various colonial empires.
The term `Industrial Revolution´ has been criticized on the grounds that it implies a
sudden and dramatic change, whereas the process of industrialization was long drawn out,
erratic, and varied from industry to industry and from region to region. It should be
understood in the context of the continuing social and political changes, agricultural
innovations, accumulation of capital, and expansion of trade which had taken place in the
17th century and earlier.
Britain exhibited a combination of favourable circumstances for such a change: an
increasing population creating a larger workforce; natural resources, especially a
plentiful and accessible supply of coal; raw materials from its colonies; expanding
markets in its increasing population and its colonies; a strong middle class and
comparatively stable political system; and a sound monetary system and cheap capital as a
result of low interest rates, essential for the high levels of investment required in the
Technological, political, and social change The Industrial Revolution brought many
changes. New materials, basically iron and steel, were used as well as new energy sources,
such as coal and the steam engine, and most obviously new machinery, particularly in the
textile industry. Transport systems were revolutionized by steam trains, canals, and better roads. As cottage industries were replaced by the
factory system, new methods of labour organization were employed, bringing specialization,
the division of labour, and new relationships between employer and employee.
The new working conditions led to political changes as wealth moved away from the land and
towards the new manufacturing classes and there were massive social changes brought about
by internal migration, a rising population, and the growth of urban areas.
The textile industry saw most of the early benefits of these innovations. The
flying shuttle was invented 1738, rendering the old process of carrying the weft through
the threads of the warp obsolete and enabling the weaver to double output. This in turn
led spinners to seek mechanical aids to meet the increased demand for yarn. These
innovations were swiftly followed by others, notably James Hargreaves's `spinning jenny´
about 1764, Richard Arkwright's water-frame spinning roller 1768, and Samuel Crompton's
`spinning mule´, a combination of Hargreaves's jenny and Arkwright's water-frame, 1779.
Edmund Cartwright's power loom was not perfected for another 25 years but by that time his
Doncaster factory was equipped with a steam engine and a year or two later hundreds of his
looms were selling to Manchester firms. Gradually the power loom began to be used in the
woollen industry as well as the cotton trade for which it had been invented.
Perhaps the most obvious single enhancement was the general replacement of water
power by steam, made possible by James Watt's steam engine.
Watt's various patents were taken out 1781-85, after which time the change from water
power to steam made rapid progress and mills and factories were set up near the
coalfields, where fuel was cheaper. Later the ironmasters began to investigate the use of
coal as a smelting fuel, and with improved production methods the output from their
furnaces increased rapidly.
||Abraham Darby introduced coke smelting to his ironworks at
Coalbrookdale in Shropshire.
||The first workable steam-powered engine was developed by Thomas
||The seed drill was invented by Jethro Tull. This was a critical
point of the agricultural revolution which freed labour from the fields and lowered crop
||Crucible steelmaking was discovered by Benjamin Huntsman, a
clockmaker of Doncaster.
||The first Canal Act was passed by the
British Parliament; this led to the construction of a national network of inland waterways
for transport and industrial supplies. By 1830 there were 6,500 km / 4,000 miles of canals
||The spinning jenny, which greatly accelerated cotton spinning, was
invented by James Hargreaves in Blackburn.
||James Watt produced a more reliable
and efficient version of the Newcomen engine.
||The spinning mule, which made the production of fine yarns by
machine possible, was developed in Bolton by Samuel Crompton.
||The power loom marked the start of the mechanised textile industry.
||The problem of supplying cotton fast enough for the textile industry
was solved by Eli Whitney's cotton gin.
||The first true industrial lathe was invented by Henry Maudslay.
||The first electric battery capable of mass production was designed
by William Cruickshank in England.
||Textile workers known as Luddites staged widespread protests against
low pay and unemployment in Nottinghamshire, which involved destroying new machines.
||The population of Manchester passed 100,000.
||Industrial employment overtook agricultural employment in England
for the first time.
||Sir Humphrey Davy invented a safety
lamp for miners which prevented the flame from igniting mine gases thus saving the lives
of thousands of miners.
||The first regular railway services started between Stockton and
Darlington in northeast England.
||The Journeymen Steam Engine Fitters, the first substantial
industrial trade union, was established in Manchester
||With his steam locomotive Rocket, English engineer George Stephenson won a contest to design locomotives for
the new Manchester-Liverpool railway.
||British industrial production doubled.
||The Reform Act concerning elections to the British Parliament gave
representation to the industrial cities.
||The first effective Factory Act was passed in Britain regulating
child labour in cotton mills.
||George Hudson built the first railway station in York.
||Coal Mines Act prevented women and children from working in harsh
conditions in mines.
||Cotton-industry workers in England staged a widespread strike.
||Repeal of the Corn Law in Britain reduced agricultural prices,
thereby helping industry.
||Britain celebrated its industrial achievements in the Great
||British industrial production doubled again.
||The `great stink´ of London dramatized the increasing pollution in