The Early Industrial Revolution, 1760–1851
Causes of the Industrial Revolution
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
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.
The Agricultural Revolution
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.
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
Trade and Inventiveness
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.
Population growth and increased agricultural productivity were accompanied by
a growth in trade and a fascination with technology and innovation.
Britain and Continental Europe
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.
Britain also had a good water transportation system, a unified market, and a
highly developed commercial sector.
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
The Technological Revolution
Mass Production: Pottery
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