I agree to a small extent that the textile industry was the most significant factor in the industrialization of Britain in the 19th century. This is because although the textile industry was a significant factors that started off the industrial revolution of Britain, there were other factors thus it was not the most significant.
The industrial revolution was when Britain, a mainly agrarian world economy based on manual labour was transformed into one of industry and manufacturing my machines. In this essay I will be touching on how the textile industry helped to shape the industrial revolution, and some other causes which also helped to shape the revolution, and why these causes were not as impactful as the textile industry.
I agree to a small extent that the textile industry is the cause of the industrialization of Britain because it allowed for faster production of goods in Britain, which allowed for less people having to work in textile factories as well as higher production rates. It also resulted in transportation improving as cannels opened up to provide for the ports of Liverpool amongst others. With it came the invention of new technology, with the inclusion of looms and factories, and markets for cotton cloth. Prior to the industrial revolution, goods were produced at home and sheep were their source of wool that were carded, then dyed and spun.
Men would then weave the wool into a cloth, as looms of the past required hard physical labour. Clothes merchants would then purchase the cloth and later sell it at a special hall. With the addition of the spinning wheel, however, women were able to spin yarn much faster. Soon, many different textile looms were invented such as the Spinning Jenny, The Water Frame, and the Flying Shuttle. These led production to become more effective and faster.
Soon, those in the textile industry were working for a set period of time and for a specific wage at factories instead of working at home, and these people who now had a wage were able to buy things that they once made by hand.
However, these improvements in the textile industry were mainly based in the 1850s, in the first phase of the industrial revolution, and the textile industry cannot account for things such as better transportation for both people and goods, in and out of the country, the dramatic increase in iron production in the nineteenth century, as well as the substantial growth of the coal industry. Also, there were a lot of things that could not be accomplished just by improvement in the textile industry without the help of the steam engine.
Therefore in the following paragraphs, I shall be touching on the impacts of the iron and steel industry as well as the steam engine on industrialization of Britain in the 19th century.
The iron and steel industry as well as the coal industry was also an extremely significant factor that caused the industrialization of Britain in the 19th century to a relatively large extent. For many centuries, the British had converted their iron ores to iron and steel by heating the raw material with charcoal, made from trees. However, by the late eighteenth century, the nation’s timber supply had been largely decimated, and iron and steel manufacturers were forced to look elsewhere for fuel. During the 18th century, new technology had already been developed that allowed the production of iron from iron ore using coal.
This enabled a much larger scale of iron that had been previously possible when the process had required the use of charcoal instead of coal. As a result, iron production increased by 4.5 times from the 18th century to the 19th century. In the 19th century, further improvements led iron to be produced at a much lower cost, which meant that it became a practical material for a much wider range of tasks, leading to an increase in levels of iron production and usage.
There was also an immense breakthrough in the production of steel, which was much stronger than iron. Initial steel production was on a relatively small scale, but a much larger scale was made possible in the 1850s by two innovations, and later the Thomas-Gilchrist method enabled the use of phosphoric iron ores in production of steel, increasing the technical ability to produce much larger quantities of steel and thus open up the material to a wider range of tasks.
This caused the steel output to soar from 2000 tonnes in 1880 to approximately 25500 in the 1970s. By the end of the nineteenth century, this new approach had produced dramatic effects on population and industrial patterns in Great Britain, and plants were moved or newly built in areas close to coal resources such as Southern Wales, Yorkshire, and Stanffordshire.
The steam engine was also an extremely important factor in the 19th century revolution to a huge extent. Before steam engines, humanity had relied on wind, muscle, or water flow for power. Once the steam engines were invented, they were used to drive machines to produce textiles, to mill foods, to turn lathes, and eventually to transport people and cargo. In all of these, the use of steam power exponentially increased production and thus lowered prices.
Mass production and thus mass consumption of all kinds of goods, including the aforementioned textiles became possible for the first time in history. Steam engines also radically changed transports, beginning with steam powered ships replacing sailing ships and becoming the primary way of transporting people and goods across the oceans, as well as locomotives in the early 19th century.
These increases in production and better transportation in turn also led to rapid urbanization as practical steam power made centralized factory production more profitable. It increased world trade because ships were no longer dependent on good and strong winds in order to reach their destination, as well as any other machinery that made use of steam engines, unlike wind- or water- driven equipment in the past that required the right environmental conditions.
These steam engines could be located anywhere the market demanded, which rationalized the production process. The newly invented textile looms were also transformed to run on steam power, increasing production as these mills no longer required to be located near sources of flowing water, and did not need to be operated within physical limits of seasonal conditions, weight, and gravity.
In addition, without the steam engine, transportation would still be slow and regardless of how much other factors increase, such as the production of textiles, coal, or iron and steel, there would still not be enough resources to transport them out of the country and their export rates would not be as high.
Also, in the process of making iron and steel from charcoal required a more intense flow of air through the furnace. Fortunately, the steam engine had already been invented and thus provided the means for solving this problem. In addition, the steam engine was also employed in the mining of coal, where it was used to remove water that collected within most mines.
Therefore, I believe that the textile industry was not in fact that most significant factor in the industrialization of Britain in the 19th century, as factors such as the iron and steel industry played an equally significant role, while steam power played a much more important role. Without steam power, textile production as well as the transportation of textile and other manufactured goods would not be as efficient as it is with the invention of steam power.
Steam power also helped to aid many other aspects of the revolution such as transport of both people and goods, and the process of manufacturing products, with the inclusion of textiles. As a result, I can conclude that steam power was the most significant factor in the industrialization of Britain in the 19th century, and not, in fact, the textile industry.
Book source: The Industrial Revolution (All About) by Peter Hepplewhite