Chapter 18 Industrial Revolution in the West: 1700-1914
Industrial Revolution: First Phase
Before 1700, the primary source of energy in human societies was a combination of human and animal power, supplemented by the power of wind and running water. People made the things they needed primarily with hand tools. During the 1700s, however, this level of human existence began to change. A spirit of improvement took hold in Britain and began to spread to the larger world. Societies began to generate more productive and efficient technologies and methods of work, and population in these societies began to grow. A new profession emerged, engineering, pioneered by innovative people who designed new tools and useful products on an unprecedented scale. Despite initial hardship, as old ways of doing things gave way to new, soon standards of living for everyone began to rise along with the growing populations and the new industries.
breakthroughs in four key areas led this change. The first was a new process that made iron much easier to
produce in abundance. The
new iron supplied a mass market for better tools and enabled civil
engineers to build new bridges able to span longer distances.
New engines made of iron were used to pump water, and then to
power machinery, boats and
eventually to propel locomotives over iron rails.
These engines used steam for power, with heat produced from
burning coal. Engineers
also devised a way to use electricity to telegraph messages over long
distances. By the middle of
the nineteenth century, a new kind of society was emerging in Europe and
in parts of North America that drew people from villages and towns to
rapidly growing cities. Telegraph
networks, steamships, and railways began to pull the world closer
How and why did this change come about?
No simple reason can explain such an immense transformation.
But a basic cause was a new outlook on nature and technology.
New scientific discoveries had spread the idea that nature could
be explained in terms of quantities and logical relationships or laws,
such as Newton's three laws of motion.
Laws of nature were open to testing and change and thus knowledge
of the natural world was capable of improvement.
In the 1700s engineering innovators began to regard tools and
methods of work as open to logical understanding and as capable of
improvement. If modern science was the discovery of things in nature,
engineering was the design of things that did not naturally exist.
But engineers sometimes made use of scientific discoveries and
shared the deeper view that knowledge could be improved.
new understanding of society also contributed.
The modern political idea that democracy and personal rights
should take the place of arbitrary rule went together with the new
economic idea that people should be free to choose their livelihoods and
trade with whomever they wished. Societies
in which ideas about nature and technology were open to change and
improvement, and in which citizens had political rights and economic
freedom, were societies conducive to industrial development.
Britain was the first country to develop a modern industrial society.
Several unique advantages encouraged industrialization.
As an island, Britain depended on a navy for defense and did not
need a large standing army that could have been used to enforce the will
of an arbitrary ruler at home. The
English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 had curbed royal
authority and had established personal liberty and the supremacy of
Parliament. As a result, those who
launched new business ventures – entrepreneurs
– could be more certain that their freedom and wealth would not be
arbitrarily taken from them. Indeed,
as they became wealthy, successful entrepreneurs could look forward to
buying land and joining a traditional landowning elite that was more
open to new members than the aristocracies of continental Europe.
Although the higher places in society were closed to religious
minorities at the time, Quakers, Unitarians,
and others were able to live and worship as they chose. Many turned their energies to trade and industry.
Commercialization of Agriculture
A transformation in
agricultural practices helped launch Britain as an industrial society.
Until the 1700s, people in Europe still practiced open-field
farming, in which land was divided into strips and worked by
villagers. About one-third of the land usually remained fallow
(undisturbed) so that the soil could replenish itself.
Part of the land was also “common” land, on which anyone in
the community could graze animals. Because the people did not own a
specific plot of land, they had no incentive to improve it.
Experimenting with new crops or methods was dangerous, since failure
might easily result in famine.
the mid-1600s, however, farmers in the Netherlands had begun to alter
this traditional pattern of farming.
The growth of Dutch commerce in the 1600s had caused more and
more people to live in the cities.
These people had to be fed.
Dutch farmers innovated crop
rotation with turnips and clover to restore the fertility of their
soil instead of just leaving farmland unused every third year.
The new crops provided additional food, especially for animals,
and gave more meat and dairy products to the national diet.
farmers soon began to copy Dutch methods. In the early 1700s, for
example, Lord Townshend, a former English ambassador to the Netherlands,
introduced crop rotation on his own lands in eastern England.
Others in England soon followed his example.
Jethro Tull diligently applied the methods of experimentation and
careful observation to determine better methods of farming. Tull also
developed the seed-drill, which allowed him to use seeds more
efficiently by planting them in regular rows and at the proper depth,
rather than scattering them by hand over a wide area.
He also discovered that crops grew better when the area between
the rows was kept clear of weeds. To clear these weeds, Tull developed
the horse-drawn hoe.
A similarly logical approach was applied to breeding cattle and other
the new methods of agriculture proved their value, more of England’s
landowners began to adopt them. In order to do so, however, they
abandoned the old open-field system.
Since the 1500s, some English landowners had been consolidating
the narrow strips of land from the open-field system into larger units,
which they then enclosed with hedgerows.
Originally, this enclosure movement had been designed to provide more grazing lands
on which to raise sheep, whose wool was especially valuable. As a result
of the new farming methods, enclosures proceeded even more rapidly from
the mid-1700s. By the 1830s almost the entire countryside was enclosed
by hedgerows or fences.
required paying legal fees and planting extensive hedges to separate one
farmer's land from another's. These costs were often too high for small
farmers. Many of them became landless laborers, while others gave up
farming and moved to the cities.
In their place, a new class of prosperous tenant farmers emerged, who
leased substantial amounts of land from the owners. Both the
lease-holding farmers and especially the landless laborers now had to
work for money rather than simply producing enough from the land for
themselves and their families. Thus, although enclosure concentrated
more and more land in England in fewer hands, it also contributed to the
increasing efficiency and productivity of English farmers, as well as to
the rise of market-oriented farming. Agriculture, like trade, had become
a commercial enterprise.
Age of Iron and Steam
Better agriculture was not the
only innovation pursued by English landowners in the eighteenth century.
A number of landowners also began to exploit mineral reserves
under their lands, chiefly iron and coal.
and coal. By
the early 1700s, British forests had been largely depleted of timber,
and coal had become an increasingly important source of fuel. The
shortage of wood was sharply felt in the iron-making business, which had
traditionally used charcoal, a wood product, in the smelting process. By 1713 Abraham Darby, an English ironmaker, had found that
replacing charcoal with coke, a purer form of coal, made the process of
smelting cast iron more
efficient and economical. By the 1760s coke smelting had spread
throughout Britain and reduced the cost of iron cookware and tools.
Many landowners began to seek and exploit coal and iron under
their lands. Waterways were
the only practical means to ship bulk minerals
and new privately built canals made it easier to move iron and coal to
rivers and ports.
new iron made possible a great improvement in bridge building. Abraham Darby III built an iron bridge over the Severn river
in 1779. The bridge survived a flood that washed away stone bridges.
But it was Thomas Telford (1757-1834) who made full use of iron with bridges
that efficiently and gracefully spanned the longer distances that the
new material now made possible.
[Insert images: Iron Bridge
and Craigellachie Bridge, caption to Iron Bridge notes traditional
semicircular design typical of stone bridges, caption to Craigellachie
notes more graceful and longer arch span made possible with iron].
steam engine. As the demand for coal and iron increased, coal
mines were dug deeper into the earth. At a certain depth, however, they
filled with water, which had to be removed using buckets drawn to the
surface by people or by animals. This laborious task encouraged
innovators to look for new ways to pump water.
In 1698, an army officer, Thomas Savery, invented a steam-powered
pumping machine or engine, and Thomas Newcomen, a blacksmith, improved
this engine in the 1720s, using iron from Abraham Darby's ironworks.
But the Newcomen engine was still slow and consumed large
quantities of coal.
1769 James Watt, a Scottish
engineer, created a radically different steam engine that required only
one-third as much coal and worked more rapidly. Watt went into business
with an entrepreneur, Matthew Boulton, to manufacture steam engines with
the help of a patent granted
by Parliament in 1775. The
patent gave Watt and Boulton the right for twenty-five years to charge a
licensing fee to anyone else who used their design to make steam
estimated that one horse could pull a pound of water up a mineshaft 330
feet high in one minute. He
called this quantity one unit of horsepower. He used
these units to measure the efficiency of his steam engine, which
replaced the use of horses to draw buckets of water out of mines.
Watt's unit of horsepower later became the measurement of power
in a railway locomotive and today measures the power in automobiles and
new steam engines did not become a widely used source of power for
industry until the nineteenth century.
But in the 1780s, the ironmaster Henry Cort used steam power to
make wrought iron, a form of
iron that was less brittle than cast iron and that could be made into
more shapes. The textile
industry, in contrast, depended on water power to grow. But
in the making of cloth a new kind of mechanized factory appeared.
had long been a great exporter of wool, and much of the population spun
thread and wove cloth at home during the winter.
Cotton cloth was a more comfortable
material, though, and in the 1760s, James Hargreaves, a Blackburn
weaver, developed the spinning jenny, a hand-powered wooden machine could spin eight
cotton threads at a time. With this capability, the spinning jenny
quickly replaced the traditional home spinning wheel.
Richard Arkwright then invented the water frame, a large
water-powered wooden spinning machine that produced stronger threads for
This machine was too large to be set up in a worker's home, so in
1771 Arkwright built a factory in Cromford, near Derby, to bring the
spinners to the work, rather than taking the work to the spinners.
Within a decade this spinning mill employed 300 people. Arkwright continued to build mills, and he soon became the
richest cotton-spinner in England.
The water-powered weaving loom of Edmund Cartwright in 1785
completed the mechanization of textile manufacturing, although reliable
power looms did not enter service until the 1820s.
Raw cotton was expensive, since it was very time consuming to
pick the seeds out of the cotton. In
1793 the American inventor Eli Whitney invented the cotton
gin, which efficiently separated the seeds from cotton.
The cotton gin made the production of cotton in the southern
United States by African slaves profitable for slave owners and textile
imports of cotton from the U.S. and elsewhere rose in weight from 4
million pounds in 1761 to 100 million pounds in 1815.
The British textile industry supplied a world market for British
cotton cloth. Britain's cotton textile industry and its ability to make
durable and inexpensive iron goods made Britain the
"workshop of the world."
textile industry shifted from water to steam power in the middle of the nineteenth
century and increasingly relied on more durable machines made out of
iron. Meanwhile, steam
engines themselves contributed further to the development of factories. Boilers had to be made of heavy iron, strong enough to
withstand high pressures in order to power machinery. Such large engines
could not be used at home, but in factories near adequate sources of
coal and water. As other industries beside textiles began to use them,
they too had to establish factories.
explain the significance of the following:
cast iron and coke
James Watt's steam engine
MAIN IDEA How
did agriculture become more productive in the late 1700s?
MAIN IDEA Why did industry
need both iron and coal?
Why did work move to factories?
WRITING TO EXPLAIN
In a short essay, explain why a technical
innovation from the 1700s or early 1800s is still important today.