Why did the United Kingdom industrialize first?

Why did the United Kingdom industrialize first?

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What factors made the United Kingdom the first to industrialize? Was it simply the importance and benefit of its position in the global community for trade?

Several historians/economists hold several factors responsible. I know two works that discuss this in great depth:

  1. The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith.
  2. Nation, State and the Industrial Revolution: The Visible Hand, Lars Magnusson.

Personally, I believe the following factors played a crucial role:

Wars: Britain's isolation from continental Europe meant that Britain was relatively more peaceful than the rest of the Europe. It was difficult to invade. In the 16th century, England had thwarted a Spanish naval invasion and brought attention to the need to have a strong navy. Later monarchs invested a lot in naval technology and better ships. Not only this navy became a strong deterrent to an invasion, it also went on to protect merchant interests at sea. By the late 18th century, when most European countries were being plundered (the Napoleonic wars), Britain emerged with a naval superiority and a large protected merchant vassal fleet.

Markets: British merchants also had a sizeable market (in form of their first colonies). With a small labour supply at home, there was a strong incentive to automate as much manual tasks as possible. This started with textiles but then later moved onto other sectors as well.

Legal framework foundation: England's legal system also played a tremendous role here. Various laws that formalised the patent process introduced strong incentives. Religious freedom that followed Elizabeth I's rule also encouraged scientific/engineering revolution. Many modern day laws that protect corporations (such as those on taxation, property, ownership etc.) were passed during the early 18th century in the English parliament. Overall, England (and later Britain) became a good place to do business. For a more detailed account of how British legal system played a part in the industrial revolution please read Julian Hoppit's paper.

Scientific Discoveries: This is more of a follow on from the three I mentioned above but with enough wealth in hands and laws to protect intellectual rights, English engineers and scholars went on to create the first machines that revolutionised industry for the first time. The textile mill, steam engine, locomotives, steam ships etc. are all examples of such scientific discoveries.

You have to bear in mind that all these factors (and several other small ones) were all needed together. Many European countries had a few of them and they followed the suite when they achieved/got the rest. Also, for many of them a slight difference in factors can be seen (for example, Germany's market was mainly domestic and towards the East --not its colonies).

England had already undergone the first industrial revolution by the time the steam engine was invented. Other European countries were quick to follow.

I'm going to take this a perhaps unexpected direction, Connections-style. Everything else I see in the other answers is IMHO just an effect (although RI Swamp Yankee comes close). What did England have that the rest of Europe didn't that ultimately caused it to become the first center of industrialization?


Great Britain, particularly the Scottish highlands, happens through a convergence of animal breeding and just the right (horrible) climate to produce the best and most wool in Europe.

Now initially the wool would be shipped to mills in Flanders to produce cloth. A large industry built up supplying all Europe with Flemish cloth using English wool. However, as the population of Europe (and thus demand for cloth) exploded after the end of the Black Death, and the Spanish Netherlands became the battleground of Europe, more and more of the milling started to be done at home England and Scottland instead.

With the market exploding, there was a trememdous pressure on producers to mill more cloth faster every single year. This meant the English mills kept getting bigger, and more efficient. Any innovation that one mill found which helped effenciency had to be adopted by the other mills too, or they couldn't compete and would go out of business. Eventually cotton from America and India started supplementing the wool, but it was still all being shipped to the large British mills. This processes then started spreading to anything else that could be similarly milled (eg: flour, steel).

The first steam engines were used for the mills. The first widespread use of coal was for the mills (the fact that England also had a lot of coal too certianly helped things along). Millions of people abandoned rural areas to work in the new mill towns. Railroads were initially invented to bring more coal to the mills. The first "programmed" devices were looms in the cloth mills. It was this transfomation of society William Blake was referring to when he wrote the line "dark Satanic mills" in Jerusalem.

But it all started because of the sheep.

The Dutch actually beat the British to it by almost a century - their problem was a lack of deepwater ports and domestic resources, so the British were able to overtake them in the 18th century.

Now, if you want to ask why the Dutch were the first to industrialize, I can recommend "The Baroque Cycle" - historical fiction by Neal Stephenson that covers England's entry into the industrial age. The Dutch were doing innovative things with finance and trade, fueled by religious fervor (the Puritains were very serious about idle hands doing the devil's work), a strong legal system and a permissive government.

One of the advantages of the Dutch system was patent protections for new inventions - among these the reciprocating crankshaft of Cornelis Corneliszoon which allowed the Dutch to build mechanized factories. They were able to import raw materials from all over the globe, and export finished products to same, including gin, paper, refined sugar, linseed oil, ceramic goods, and, of course, ships and rope.

For a more scholarly treatment of Dutch industrialization in the very early 17th century, here is a chapter on the topic from "Dutch in World Trade: 1585-1740" By Jonathan Irvine Israel

Various factors, the major one being that the iron ore in England does not have phosphorus in it. I would identify two main factors:

(1) The largest integrated economy in the world. In 1850 England had the largest advanced, integrated economy in the world. Germany/Austria/Hungary had as good, or better technology, but was ruled by many different petty princes with complex trade and cooperation barriers that prevented the continent from acting as a unit. The US had a large economy, but not the global empire that England had, and also was not as technologically advanced as England.

(2) The real key to the industrial revolution was cheap steel. This is what makes everything else happen. The critical development was the Bessemer converter in 1856. Unfortunately for the Germans, the Bessemer process does not work on ores with a high phosphorus content, and all the German ores are of that type. This gave England a huge advantage and leg up on industrial development.

Since it wasn't brought up, I'll offer an alternative view that was only recently voiced in Science (see here): wheat and rice as the main staple foods shaped the culture and boundaries of societies.

NB: this isn't about the United Kingdom in particular, but about the "Western world" as opposed to Asian empires of the time.

The question that came up was centering around why the Chinese weren't the first, for example. Their society was quite advanced and a lot of things were known to them before they were introduced to or discovered in Europe.

The conclusion seems to be that food shapes the culture and ultimately the mode of thinking. Throughout Asia, community often counts more than in the Western world.

The causal relation isn't clear, but rice requires much more intensive care and cooperation while wheat is hassle free and requires little to no cooperation, even in a society before mechanization.

The argument is logical and does not seem to be as partisan as Adam Smiths book "The Wealth of Nations" that was suggested in a comment.

Malcom Gladwell's Revisionist History mentions in passing an argument that Britain had more craftsmen who were capable of the engineering work. THe podcast doesn't explain why Britain had more craftsmen, but I would speculate that common law was more favorable to craftsmen. The podcast should give you enough to pursue research.

Religious tolerance

Without the United Kingdom's tolerance of different views and opinions that elsewhere would have been considered heresy (like much of Catholic Europe and the Islamic and Muslim kingdoms found elsewhere), innovation, invention, science and original thought could not have happened.

It is specifically this tolerance of original thought that allowed inventors free reign to experiment and publish ideas without fear of proscription and persecution from religious zealots, as was happening in the Spanish Inquisition in Spain that allowed the Industrial Revolution to occur.

Without the Industrial Revolution, the United Kingdom would never have been the first to industrialise.


The UK was already a very wealthy nation at the time. They had established trade routes and colonies all over the world from the Americas to the Far East. Her deep water ports and inland canal systems made it easy to transport goods from inland and export them all over the world.

It was also teeming with great scientific minds. The Royal Society had a great influence in many fields of scientific study. It was a community that brought many great minds together that existed quite some time before the industrial revolution was in full swing. Amongst its many prestigious members was Isaac Newton.

James Watt, a member of the Royal Society invented the modern steam engine. Early steam engines such as ones based on the Newcomen design were very inefficient and had limited usage. It wasn't until the invention of the Watt Steam engine, that it became possible to use steam in manufacturing processes as well as in vehicles such as canal boats and locomotives.

Watt Steam Engine

James Watt

Royal Society

Canals of the United Kingdom

Several factors came into play in the UK, that led to it pioneering modern industrial methods. Three that stand out are:

The invention of the steam engine was probably the greatest single factor. This was the first form of human generated power, that could be used anywhere power was needed, and could be scaled up. Animal power, the horse and ox, could be used anywhere, but it couldn't be scaled up. Water power could be scaled up, just build a bigger water wheel, but could only be used where water was running downhill. Wind power was unreliable. Without reliable, scalable power, industrial factories cannot be operated. The steam engine was invented, and refined, in the UK, and gave it a huge head start.

To a degree, religious discrimination played a role, specifically those people who refused to swear allegiance to the Church of England. They were referred to as dissenters, and had a number of their civil rights taken away. However, they were not forbidden to engage in commerce, an activity considered 'beneath' the landed Anglican gentry, so they gravitated towards northern England to escape the persecution, where the operation of whiskey distilleries led to a study of heat transfer that was to make the early steam engines more efficient, raw ores to make the metals needed for industrial equipment were widely available, and the interference from their dissenter status was minimal.

And finally, England being an island, it was necessity to make more efficient use of what they had, as transportation costs of raw materials from continental Europe to the UK were not cheap, plus disruption of such supplies from the almost constant state of warfare that Europe was in, at that time. The origins of the Industrial Revolution in the UK can be found in the need to work with what they had on hand.

I'm going to disprove some of the argument's above. (Then later give my own explanation). First of all I quote some great answers here.

Apoorv khurasia's Scientific discoveries argument

Okay this has nothing to do with England industrializing first. First of all, all the examples of "Scientific discoveries" of Apoorv Khurasia are actually not scientific discoveries. They are basic inventions, and kind of ancient engineering. Most of the inventors were not even scientists themselves. (Actually not even one of them). What they did was engineering which is DEFINITELY NOT SCIENCE. Here is a definition of science:

Science is the process of forming arguments which are falsifiable (Karl popper)

Engineering on the over hand, is basic pragmatism. Counter arguments :

  • Engineering/invention had to happen due to the factors that caused industrialization. Engineering/invention did not cause industrialization, may have fastened the process though. (Which is clearly not what OP is asking for, OP is asking for why U.K. first)

  • Science is not followed by industrialization. Think about the Ancient Greek civilization where science flourished. Ancient Greek were perfectly capable of producing engineering, however they did not. Because they did not need it (economy was slave based). This extra time they had led to science.

Apoorv khurasia's War's argument

I agree that England ending up being a huge naval power after Napoeolonic wars contributed to industrialization due to the existence of the extra surplus which can be gathered by utilizing the market properly. (I completely agree on the market argument). However, isolation from the continental Europe (or isolation from the wars) did not contribute. Isolation is a bad thing, England built up that huge naval power because of the fact that Europe was in competition. Wars led to better machinery, better navy and better weapons which later expanded the market. Wars actually made this a reality. Why did China did not have any naval power? Because they didn't NEED to. There was almost no one to compete against. Can wars cause less incentives for people to invest in capital? Nope, think about the continental Europe (germany) after post-industrialization for instance.

Tyler Durden's steel argument

Maing contribution to industrialization was not the cheap prices of inputs, was the incentive to get prices cheaper. If prices are cheap - you are doomed. Remember we are talking about why U.K. indutrialized FIRST, not how this process gained a momentum. (Cheap steel prices would be a great example for German industrialization in this case). U.K. industrialized first because of the incentive to lower prices. Then prices became lower. (Important note to you: Correlation does not imply causality, causality is the other way around in this case.)

spiceyokooko's tolerance argument

Nope just nope. Almost has nothing to do. World had pretty much no tolerance back then (Except the Ottomans).

to tj1000

Invention of the steam engine IS a RESULT of INDUSTRIALIZATION.

to Jason Hutchinson

Wealth per capita levels in the world were almost the same between England - Middle East - Netherlands - France - China - India pre-industrialization. It's not because of WEALTH, It's because of INCENTIVES.

My argument:

The main reason why U.K. went through industrialization was the incentives to lower pries for production inputs. After napoleonic wars, England has ended up being a global navy power with new input resources all over the world. European / Especially the English market all of a sudden grew when these inputs were able to be transferred to the continent. There was a demand from the market for the goods which had inputs located in overseas (especially india). There did exist people of motives, let us call them capitalists that wanted to extract this surplus of the market - through a mutual interest relationship. These people starting their production - which later increased the prices of inputs even more. What needed was lower prices. Labor was expensive compared to their surplus gained per good. However the most expensive was raw materials. Raw materials were bought quite cheaply from their homelands, but transportation costs almost 900% of the buying price.

These people of incentives, capitalists, had to get there prices low somehow, they did so buy invention of methods of production. However, these new methods of production were ancient enough, such that they did not require good amount of science in the beginning. Science was a necessity later on.

Now the main question's to ask are now :

  • Why these people of motives form in U.K (possible explanation is the legal invention and property rights)
  • Why keep pushing prices down? (Liberalism)

-The Industrial Revolution took place in the late 18th and early 19th century. -It is believed by many historians that the Revolution officially began around the 1760s but wasn’t fully felt to around the 1830s. You just studied 29 terms!

Other European countries were slower to industrialize than Britain because the French Revolution caused political turmoil that interrupted communica- tion, slowed trade, caused inflation throughout Europe. What might explain the rise of global inequality during the Industrial Revolution?

'Financial Dunkirk'

Marshall Aid sugar is unloaded at London's Royal Victoria Dock, February 1947, watched by US and UK officials © The root cause of this self-destructive British choice lies back in 1945, when Great Britain, as one of the 'Big Three' along with the United States and the Soviet Union, emerged from World War Two with the psychology of a victor but with her economic circumstances more resembling those of a defeated country. Despite the victory over Hitler, Britain was literally bankrupt, and faced the prospect of unbridgeable balance-of-payments deficits for years to come.

It was this victor's psychology that deluded both Labour and Conservative politicians into believing that Britain - at the centre of the Commonwealth and the Sterling area - could have a future that was similar to her past. British politicians saw the United Kingdom as a first-class power in the same league as the United States. And certainly Britain looked in many ways like a global power, with more than two million men in fleets, garrisons and air squadrons sprawled across the world, from their bases at home to those in Japan.

One important figure had a different view.

Nonetheless, John Maynard Keynes, the chief economic advisor to the new Labour Government, warned ministers in August 1945 that Britain's world role was a burden which '. there is no reasonable expectation of our being able to carry . '

As he pointed out, the entire British war effort, including all her overseas military commitments, had only been made possible by American subsidies under the Lend-Lease programme. If the Americans stopped Lend-Lease, Britain would face a 'financial Dunkirk' - his words - unless Washington could be touched for a loan of $5 billion. Keynes wrote that such a 'Dunkirk' would have to be met by:

'. a sudden and humiliating withdrawal from our onerous responsibilities with great loss of prestige and the acceptance for the time being of the position of second-class Power, rather like the present position of France.'

Why did the United Kingdom industrialize first? - History

United Kingdom Timeline

  • 6000 - The British Isles are formed as water levels rise separating them from mainland Europe.
  • 2200 - The construction of Stonehenge is completed.
  • 600 - The Celtic peoples begin to arrive and establish their culture.
  • 55 - Roman leader Julius Caesar invades Britain, but withdraws.
  • 43 - The Roman Empire invades Britain and makes Britannia a Roman province.
  • 50 - The Romans found the city of Londinium (which later becomes London).
  • 122 - Roman Emperor Hadrian orders the construction of Hadrian's Wall.
  • 410 - The last of the Romans leave Britain.
  • 450 - The Anglo-Saxons begin to settle in Britain. They rule much of the land until the Vikings arrive.
  • 597 - Christianity is introduced by Saint Augustine.
  • 617 - The kingdom of Northumbria is established as the dominant kingdom.
  • 793 - The Vikings first arrive.
  • 802 - The kingdom of Wessex becomes the dominant kingdom.
  • 866 - The Vikings invade Britain with a large army. They defeat Northumbria in 867.

Brief Overview of the History of United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is an island nation located in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of France. It is actually a union of four countries including England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

The islands that are today the United Kingdom were invaded by the Romans in 55 BC. This brought the local islanders into contact with the rest of Europe. After the Roman Empire weakened, the islands were invaded by the Saxons, the Vikings, and finally the Normans.

The English conquered Wales in 1282 under Edward I. In order to make the Welsh happy, the king's son was made the Prince of Wales. The two countries became unified in 1536. Scotland became part of the British crown in 1602 when the king of Scotland became the King James I of England. The union became official in 1707. Ireland became a part of the union in 1801. However, many of the Irish rebelled and, in 1921, the southern part of Ireland was made a separate country and an Irish free state.

In the 1500s Britain began to expand its empire into much of the world. After defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588, England became the world's dominant sea power. Britain first grew into the Far East and India and then to the Americas. In the early 1800s the UK defeated France in the Napoleonic Wars and became the supreme European power.

In the 1900s, the United Kingdom became less of a dominant world power. It continued to lose control over colonies and was weakened by World War I. However, under the leadership of Winston Churchill, the United Kingdom was the last western European nation to oppose Germany in World War II and played a major role in defeating Hitler.

The United Kingdom played a major role in the history of the world, taking a leading role in developing democracy and in advancing literature and science. At its peak in the 19th century, the British Empire covered over one-fourth of the surface of the earth.


Braibanti, Ralph and Spengler, Joseph j. (editors) 1961 Tradition, Values, and Socio-economic Development. Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press.

De vries, egbert and medina echavarria, jose (editors) 1963 Social Aspects of Economic Development in Latin America. 2 vols. Paris: UNESCO.

Durkheim, Émile (1893) 1960 The Division of Labor in Society. Glencoe, III.: Free Press. → First published as De la division du travail social.

Economic Development and Cultural Change. → Published since 1952. Especially valuable for theoretical and empirical studies of industrialization.

Feldman, Arnold S. and Moore, Wilbert E. 1962 Industrialization and Industrialism: Convergence and Differentiation. Volume 2, pages 151-169 in World Congress of Sociology, Fifth, Transactions. London: International Sociological Association.

Hagen, Everett E. 1962 On the Theory of Social Change. Homewood, III.: Dorsey.

International Social Science Council 1958 Social, Economic, and Technological Change: A Theoretical Approach. Paris: The Council.

International Social Science Council 1962- Social Implications of Technological Change. Paris: The Council.

Marx, Karl (1867-1879) 1925-1926 Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. 3 vols. Chicago: Kerr.

Moore, Wilbert E. 1951 Industrialization and Labor: Social Aspects of Economic Development. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press.

Moore, Wilbert E. 1963 Social Change. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. → See especially pages 89-112 on “Modernization.”

Moore, Wilbert E. 1965 The Impact of Industry. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Moore, Wilbert E. and Feldman, Arnold S. (editors) 1960 Labor Commitment and Social Change in Developing Areas. New York: Social Science Research Council.

North American Conference on The Social Implications of Industrialization and Technological Change, Chicago,1960 1963 Industrialization and Society: Proceedings. Edited by Bert F. Hoselitz and Wilbert E. Moore. Paris: UNESCO.

Weber, Max (1904-1905) 1930 The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Translated by Talcott Parsons, with a foreword by R. H. Tawney. London: Allen & Unwin New York: Scribner. → First published in German. The 1930 edition has been reprinted frequently.

Weber, Max (1922) 1957 The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. Edited by Talcott Parsons. Glencoe, III.: Free Press. → First published as Part 1 of Wirtscfiaft und Gesellschaft.

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4 Imperial Power

The Industrial Revolution also began in Britain partly because of the resources of the country's large colonial empire. By the early 19th century, Britain's Royal Navy was the strongest in the world, and it dominated oceanic trade. This was a huge advantage for British factory owners, because it meant that their exports abroad could be safely transported. Colonies abroad also provided British industrialists with opportunities to trade Indian teas, Chinese silks and West Indian sugar. These goods could be then exchanged for industrial products produced in Britain.


A great number of streams . . . furnish water-power adequate to turn many hundred mills: they afford the element of water, indispensable for scouring, bleaching, printing, dyeing, and other processes of manufacture: and when collected in their larger channels, or employed to feed canals, they supply a superior inland navigation, so important for the transit of raw materials and merchandise.

Industrial Revolution painting

The Ford Runabout is a profitable partner and a happy companion for the boy who is making his mark in business and at school.
It reduces distance from a matter of miles to a matter of minutes. By saving time and effort, it makes larger earnings possible. And costing little to buy and keep going, it quickly pays for itself.
When vacation time rolls round the Runabout enables the young business man to reduce by hours the time between work and play.
Let us tell you how easy it is to buy a Ford on the Weekly Purchase Plan.
Ford Motor Company, Detroit, Michigan

The ad promotes a new brand of car.

All the public inscriptions in the town were painted alike, in severe characters of black and white. The jail might have been the infirmary, the infirmary might have been the jail, the town-hall might have been either, or both, or anything else, for anything that appeared to the contrary in the graces of their construction. Fact, fact, fact, everywhere in the material aspect of the town fact, fact, fact, everywhere in the immaterial.

Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.

Read the quotation by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Read the quotation by Adam Smith.

Read the quotation by Ayn Rand.

Read the quotation by Adam Smith.

In this country, the government tells an appliance factory that it must produce a minimum of one thousand refrigerators. People are assigned jobs at the factory based on their abilities, and the government determines how much they will be paid. The government decides how much a new refrigerator will cost.

Every great city has one or more slums, where the working-class is crowded together. . . . The streets are generally unpaved, rough, dirty, filled with vegetable and animal refuse [trash], without sewers or gutters, but supplied with foul, stagnant pools instead.

The single greatest benefit that capitalism provides is that it enables human choice. Capitalism establishes a social contract that makes it possible for individuals to exercise their franchise and free agency . . . It creates the necessary conditions for people to escape poverty and create wealth for themselves and for others.

National parks are totally important in the economy. Each park creates opportunities for tourism. Millions of visitors travel to national parks. For example, almost 3.5 million visitors went to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming in 2012. These visitors need tons of services, which creates job opportunities for local residents. So, it's obvious that national parks play an important role in the economy.

Another great evil of tenement house manufacturing was the fact that it made legally possible the work of little children in manufacturing pursuits at home, when the law rigidly excludes them from such occupations in the factories. Children as young as five, six, and seven years of age were found doing work. One little girl, aged 7, testified that she worked until eight o'clock in the evening.

Read the quotation by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Read a quotation by Roger Butters, a twenty-first-century economist.

Read the quotation by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

National parks are totally important in the economy. Each park creates opportunities for tourism. Millions of visitors travel to national parks. For example, almost 3.5 million visitors went to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming in 2012. These visitors need tons of services, which creates job opportunities for local residents. So, it's obvious that national parks play an important role in the economy.

Capitalism is superior to socialism because it promotes the interests of both the individual and society.

Section Summary

Industrialization led to radical changes in American life. New industrial towns, like Waltham, Lowell, and countless others, dotted the landscape of the Northeast. The mills provided many young women an opportunity to experience a new and liberating life, and these workers relished their new freedom. Workers also gained a greater appreciation of the value of their work and, in some instances, began to question the basic fairness of the new industrial order. The world of work had been fundamentally reorganized.

Key Facts & Information


  • Before the Industrial Revolution took place in Britain, most people resided in rural areas and worked as farmers. Commoners often experienced malnourishment and diseases. Local rural shops and homes usually made simple tools and furniture.
  • By the mid-18th century, a number of European states including Britain, Spain, and France were under competition as rising colonial powers. Britain had engaged in tremendous wars such as the Austrian war of succession (1740-1783), Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), and the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815). Due to massive pressure to produce the supply of goods needed for the war, Britain underwent industrial changes.
  • With the ideas of intellectuals like Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, and Nicolaus Copernicus, Europe became the seat of Scientific Revolution. European societies became more open to new and innovative ideas.
  • Beginning in the 17th century until the mid-19th century, methods in agriculture evolved in Belgium and Holland. Techniques such as crop rotation, enclosed fields, selective breeding, and manuring increased food production and promoted the idea of capitalism. Moreover, it led to rapid population growth.
  • By the 18th century, an inflow of immigrants led to the development of small industries. On the other hand, India as a British colony influenced the huge production and trade of cotton. As a result, Britain became known as a woollen industry, despite its inability to grow their own cotton due to cold climate. This established trading relations with India and southern United States.
  • Due to vast coal and iron reserves, Britain took advantage of these minerals to build industries such as shipbuilding, railroads, and construction.
  • Since the 18th century, Britain already had financial institutions like a central bank, countybanks, and the stock exchange which set the stage for entrepreneurship and capitalism.
  • The central bank of the United Kingdom, now known as the Bank of England was established in 1694 to secure Britain’s financial money and business flow.
  • With the rising economy of Britain, it put pressure on improving their transport system.


  • The Industrial Revolution occurred in the last part of the 18th century in Great Britain. This revolution was an economic one, and it changed the way the world produced goods.
  • The population went from being agricultural to industrial. This meant people moved off of the farms and out of the country. There were huge numbers of people that moved into cities. Many people were forced to move to the cities to look for work. They ended up living in cities that could not support them.
  • During this time, there were also many new advancements in technology. The assembly line was one of the biggest inventions. Henry Ford is credited with this invention.
  • Some of the biggest advancements were in steam power. New fuels such as coal and petroleum, were used in these new steam engines. This revolutionized many industries, including textiles and manufacturing.
  • Another invention was called the telegraph. This made communicating across the ocean easier and much faster. Messages could be sent and received in minutes and delivered the same day. Writing a letter and sending it overseas could take weeks.
  • In 1764, Englishman James Hargreaves invented the spinning jenny (abbreviation of the word engine) which enabled production of multiple spools of thread continuously. In addition, English inventor Edmund Cartwright invented the power loom in the 1780s which mechanized weaving of cloth.
  • In the iron industry, Englishman Abraham Darby discovered an easier method to cast iron. By the 1850s, British engineer Henry Bessemer initiated a cheaper way to mass produce steel. Both iron and steel became a vital ingredient in building ships, infrastructure, and appliances.
  • Thomas Newcomen was the one who developed the first practical steam engine which was originally used to pump out water from mines. It was in the 1770s when James Watt, a Scottish inventor who improved on Newcomen’s work and used steam engines to power machines, locomotives, and ships.
  • Despite the effort of the British government to contain export of technologies and skilled workers within their country, they failed as industrialization moved out of Britain and spread to other European countries and the United States.


  • The Industrial Revolution was not a good revolution for the earth. Industry was releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and waste into the waterways and soil. Pollution by nuclear waste, pesticides, and other chemicals were also the result of the Industrial Revolution.
  • Many natural resources were being used up at an alarming rate.
  • Advances in farming resulted in an increased supply of food and raw materials. The changes in industry and new technology resulted in increased production of thousands of goods. Companies were more efficient and earned bigger profits.
  • Due to unstoppable industrialization, urban areas were unable to keep up with the influx of migrant workers. Industrialized areas became overpopulated. People were living in overcrowded housing and were prone to unsanitary conditions which led to diseases. It was only in the late 19th century when the British government introduced labor reforms which enhanced working conditions.

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