The Early Industrial Revolution, 1760–1851
I0. Causes of the Industrial Revolution
A0. Population Growth
10. In the eighteenth century more reliable food supplies, earlier marriage, high
birthrates, and more widespread resistance to disease contributed to significant
population growth in Europe. England and Wales experienced particularly rapid
20. Rapid population growth meant that children accounted for a relatively high
proportion of the total population. Population growth also contributed to
migration of people from the countryside to the cities, from Ireland to England,
and from Europe to the Americas.
B0. The Agricultural Revolution
10. The agricultural revolution began long before the eighteenth century. New food
crops, many of them from the Americas, and new forage crops produced more
food per acre and allowed farmers to raise more cattle for meat and milk.
20. Only wealthy landowners could afford to invest in new crops and new farming
methods. Rich landowners fenced off (enclosed) their own land and common
land to apply new scientific farming methods; as they did so, they forced their
former tenants to become sharecroppers or landless laborers, or to migrate to the
C0. Trade and Inventiveness
10. In most of Europe, increasing demand for goods was met with increasing
production in traditional ways through the addition of new craftsmen to existing
workshops and through the putting-out system.
20. Population growth and increased agricultural productivity were accompanied by
a growth in trade and a fascination with technology and innovation.
D0. Britain and Continental Europe
10. Eighteenth-century Britain had a number of characteristics that help to explain its
peculiar role in the Industrial Revolution. These characteristics include economic
growth, population growth, people who were willing to put new ideas into
practice, strong mining and metal industries, the world’s largest merchant
marine, and a relatively fluid social structure.
20. Britain also had a good water transportation system, a unified market, and a
highly developed commercial sector.
30. The economies of continental Europe experienced a similar dynamic expansion
in the eighteenth century, but lack of markets and management skills and the
constant warfare from 1789–1815 interrupted trade and weakened the incentive
to invest in new technologies. Industrialization took hold in Europe after 1815,
first in Belgium and France. European governments played a significant role in
II0. The Technological Revolution
A0. Mass Production: Pottery
10. Pottery was either imported or handmade for the aristocracy; in either event,
ordinary people could not afford it. But the growing taste for tea, cocoa, and coffee created a demand for porcelain that would not spoil the flavor of these
20. In 1759 Josiah Wedgwood opened a pottery business that used division of labor
and molds (rather than the potters wheel) in order to mass-produce high quality
porcelain at a low cost that made it affordable for everyday use.
B0. Mechanization: the Cotton Industry
10. There was a strong market for cotton cloth, but the cotton plant did not grow in
Europe. Restrictions on the import of cotton cloth led inventors and
entrepreneurs to devise cheap mechanical methods for spinning cotton thread
and weaving cotton cloth in England.
20. Beginning in the 1760s a series of inventions revolutionized the spinning of
cotton thread. These included the spinning jenny (1764), the water frame (1769),
and the mule (1785). The increased supply of cotton thread and the demand for
cotton cloth led to the invention of power looms and other machinery and
processes for cotton textile production.
30. Mechanization of cotton textile production led to much greater efficiency and
lower prices. Cotton became America’s most valuable crop, produced for export
to England and, from the 1820s, for America’s own cotton textile industry.
C0. The Iron Industry
10. Iron had been in use in Eurasia and Africa for thousands of years, but iron
production was associated with deforestation that increased the price of charcoal
and thus reduced the output of iron. Limited wood supplies and the high cost of
skilled labor made iron a rare and valuable metal outside of China before the
20. In the eighteenth century a series of inventions including coke and puddling
made it possible for the British to produce large amounts of cheap iron.
Increased production and lower cost led people to use iron for numerous
applications including bridge building and the construction of the Crystal Palace.
30. The idea of interchangeable parts originated in the eighteenth century, but it was
widely adopted in the firearms, farm equipment, and sewing machine industries
in the nineteenth century. The use of machinery to mass-produce consumer
goods with identical parts was known as “the American system of
D0. The Steam Engine
10. The steam engine was the most revolutionary invention of the Industrial
Revolution. Between 1702 and 1712 Thomas Newcomen developed a crude,
inefficient steam engine that was used to pump water out of coal mines.
20. In 1769 James Watt improved the Newcomen engine and began to manufacture
engines for sale to manufacturers. Watt’s engine provided a source of power that
allowed factories to be located where animal, wind, and water power were
30. In the 1780s the steam engine was used to power riverboats in France and
America. In the 1830s the development of more efficient engines made it
possible to build ocean-going steamships.
10. After 1800 inventors including Richard Trevithick and George Stephenson built
lighter, more powerful high-pressure steam engines and used them to power
steam locomotives that soon replaced the horses on horse-power railways.
20. Railway-building mania swept Britain from 1825 to 1845 as the major cities, and
then small towns, were linked by a network of railroads. In the United States, railway booms in the 1840s and 1850s linked the country together and opened
the Midwest to agricultural development.
30. In Europe, railways triggered industrialization. Europe’s industrial areas were
concentrated in the iron and coal-rich areas of northern France, Belgium, the
Ruhr, and Silesia.
F0. Communication Over Wires
10. The construction of railroads was accompanied by the development of the
electric telegraph. Two systems of telegraphy were invented in 1837:
Wheatestone and Cook’s five-needle telegraph in England, and Morse’s dots and
dashes system in the United States.
20. In the 1840s and 1850s Americans and Europeans had built the beginnings of
what would become a global communications network. Europeans and
Americans regarded this rapid communications system as a