Analysis Of The Industrial Revolution

History of Methods of Production before Industrial Revolution

The trajectory of the method of production of goods has been like this- starting from Guild System to Putting-Out System to Factory System. The decline of guild system can be attributed to its unsuitability for mass production.

In the putting out system the raw material and the final product were owned by the merchant and the worker was only a wage earner. The invention of machines changed everything and this system was subsequently replaced by the Factory System.

Under the factory system, the centre of production shifted from home to the factory. The workers, for the first time now, travelled from home to work-sites on daily basis. They for the first time aggregated in such large numbers under a shed working on machines. The capital was owned by the Capitalist and the worker was just another factor of production.

What is Industrial Revolution?

Industrial Revolution has its roots back in England in mid-18th century. It is the revolution in the economic processes of production of goods aided by the technological innovations, and their spread, which gave a boost to the pace at which goods could be produced. Innovations that resulted in mechanized production, development of new sources of energy, technological forays in fields of communication and transport are some processes, which when clubbed together are referred to as Industrial revolution. It was a revolution because it totally reformed not just the economic realm but also the social and political realms of the society.

Why Industrial Revolution took its birth in England?

That’s a very intelligent question. The events in England before 1750 set such conditions, which were favourable towards Industrial Revolution. The rise of capitalism after the end of Feudalism was crucial for Industrial Revolution. This was so because with capitalism came the desire to make more monetary profits, which could be achieved by developing new ways to produce more goods at lower costs. There was demand for manufactured goods due to the new ways of life in the growing towns and cities. Geography also played a role. Because of being an island, England had a natural barrier to protect it from the invasions. Unlike France and Germany, England had natural frontier, which allowed it to enjoy a degree of peace. It also had very good natural network of tributaries of rivers. These rivers were easily navigable, which allowed cheaper transport of goods and raw materials.

Components of Industrial Revolution

1Revolution in Textile Sector

Industrial Revolution started with revolution in the Textile Industry. In 1700s, the East India Company was earning lot of profit, to the envy of British businessmen, by exporting the finished cotton cloth from India into Britain. This prompted the English businessmen to import raw cotton from India and convert it into finished cotton cloth in Britain so they could earn some profit from the booming cotton demand. When the old machinery like spinning wheel and handlooms could not meet the demand, a series of innovations occurred. The new machines in the Textile industry aided faster spinning of raw cotton into thread. Cartwright developed the Power loom, which truly revolutionized the production of cloth from the thread. Cotton Gin was another invention, which made the process of separating the fibre from the seeds 300 times faster than by hand. Revolution in Energy Sources

Another significant invention was development of Steam Engine by James Watt in 1769. Steam Engines gave a big boost to production of goods and consequently led to huge increase in demand for raw materials.

2. Revolution in Iron Production

Another revolution was in Iron production, which ultimately led to increased and cheaper mechanization of all industrial processes. The Steam power had led to demand for more machinery and England had huge deposits of iron ore and coal to make steel. But where England lacked was in the cheaper mode of processing raw iron. This problem was resolved by the development of Blast furnaces, which allowed for use of coke instead of charcoal. This allowed the British steel industry to produce high-grade cast iron instead of just the pig iron.

3. Revolution in Transport & Communication

Economy is as much about Geography as about processes of production. The development of transport corridors in form of rail-road network across the length and breadth of England and consequently in colonies of British empire allowed the British industry to hasten the supply of raw material and finished goods. McAdamized Roads i.e. Pakka roads were result of the engineering feat of McAdam. Better roads allowed for swifter movement of goods.

4. Revolution in Agriculture

Another aspect generally missed in the Industrial Revolution is the Agriculture Revolution that started before the former. It involved the production of more cash crops to meet the demands of the British industry. The new farm machinery like steel plough and harrow for breaking the ground, mechanical seed drills, horse-drawn cultivator that replaced hoe and machines for reaping and threshing reduced the labor requirement in the Agriculture sector. The Enclosure Movement was led by the big landlords, who in connivance with the legislators in Parliament, increased their farm landholdings by taking over the small landholdings of marginal peasants and the village commons.

Impact of Industrial Revolution

The impact of Industrial revolution was significant. Britain’s economy came to be dominated by the Industrial sector, rather than the Agriculture sector whose share in the GDP declined. Higher GDP boosted textile exports and raw material imports by the British businesses. Britain now produced enough coal and pig iron for self-consumption and exports. Industrial revolution led to emergence of Britain as the top ranking Industrial economy. But the impact on the people was not very positive. There was increased migration from the villages to the cities in search of employment. More people now lived in cities and worked in factories and this population was not connected to the land. The industrialists saw the workers as cog in the machine and as just another factor of production. Their aim was to maximize profits and thus the wages of workers were paltry. Little was done for the social security of the workers and the working conditions in the factories where unsafe machines maimed many. Child labour and participation of women in labour force increased, as they were available at cheaper wages. The working hours were as high as 15 to 18 hours per day.

Environmental pollution was also on an increase. This caused many health problems for the workers. The industrial lobby for long ensured that the Parliamentarians did nothing for the welfare of the workers, which led to development of resentment and many worker movements like of Luddites and Chartists developed after Industrial revolution in England

Gradually, with passage of four acts, the right to vote was extended to many sections of the society including the workers and by 1929, Britain adopted Universal Adult Franchise. Trade Unions were legalized in 1824 and series of factory Acts were passed.

Spread of Industrial Revolution outside England

In Europe, the end of Napoleonic wars in 1815 brought an atmosphere in which the nations could focus on Industrial development. Machines were introduced in many European nations after 1815, but the movements for democracy, independence and unification of territories didn’t allow Industrial Revolution to take root till 1871. In France, by 1850, the iron industry had started to develop, but the lack of raw material in form of coal and iron ore limited its progress.

Germany was second only to Britain in production of steel but was still far behind Britain. After German unification under Bismarck, German industry developed in leaps and bounds and soon became a rival to the British in production of pig iron and coal. Italy also witnessed Industrial revolution post-unification in 1871. It was Russia, which was last to industrialize.

Russia was rich in natural resources but due to lack of capital and free labour because of serfdom, the process of its industrialization was slow. Russian industrial production got a boost when Serfdom was abolished in 1861 and it borrowed foreign capital. But it was only after the 1917 “October revolution” that Russia underwent true Industrial revolution.

Outside Europe, the USA industry started developing after independence from Britain in 1783. But since the British policy of Mercantilism had prevented development of indigenous industry, and USA was engaged in its own political turmoil of Territorial expansion and the Civil War after President Lincoln banned Slavery, it was only after 1870 that Industrial production got a big boost. USA then emerged as an industrial power and by the World War I was the major supplier of finished goods to rest of the world.

Japan was the first Asian country to industrialize. Industrial Revolution took place in Japan in late 19th century. It became a major exporter of steel machinery, metal goods and chemicals from the traditional exporter of silk, toys and porcelain.

Thus it can be said that the system of polity, political independence, security from invasions, the availability of labour and capital along with law and order stability were the major determinants of the Industrial revolution. Britain was the first to industrialize not because it had better intellectuals but due to existence of favourable conditions as mentioned above. When these conditions became prevalent in other countries, they soon embarked upon Industrial revolution. These conditions on the other hand never existed at the same time in colonies like India.


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