The Industrial Revolution was a period from 1750 to 1850 where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times. It began in the United Kingdom, then subsequently spread throughout Western Europe, North America, Japan, and eventually the rest of the world. The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in history; almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way.
Most notably, average income and population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth. In the two centuries following 1800, the world's average per capita income increased over tenfold, while the world's population increased over sixfold. In the words of Nobel Prize winner Robert E. Lucas, Jr., "For the first time in history, the living standards of the masses of ordinary people have begun to undergo sustained growth … Nothing remotely like this economic behavior has happened before".
Starting in the later part of the 18th century, there began a transition in parts of Great Britain's previously manual labour and draft-animal–based economy towards machine-based manufacturing. It started with the mechanisation of the textile industries, the development of iron-making techniques and the increased use of refined coal.
Trade expansion was enabled by the introduction of canals, improved roads and railways. With the transition away from an agricultural-based economy and towards machine-based manufacturing came a great influx of population from the countryside and into the towns and cities, which swelled in population.
The introduction of steam power fuelled primarily by coal, wider utilisation of water wheels and powered machinery (mainly in textile manufacturing) underpinned the dramatic increases in production capacity. The development of all-metal machine tools in the first two decades of the 19th century facilitated the manufacture of more production machines for manufacturing in other industries. The effects spread throughout Western Europe and North America during the 19th century, eventually affecting most of the world, a process that continues as industrialisation. The impact of this change on society was enormous.
The First Industrial Revolution, which began in the 18th century, merged into the Second Industrial Revolution around 1850, when technological and economic progress gained momentum with the development of steam-powered ships, railways, and later in the 19th century with the internal combustion engine and electrical power generation.
The period of time covered by the Industrial Revolution varies with different historians. Eric Hobsbawm held that it 'broke out' in Britain in the 1780s and was not fully felt until the 1830s or 1840s, while T. S. Ashton held that it occurred roughly between 1760 and 1830. Some 20th century historians such as John Clapham and Nicholas Crafts have argued that the process of economic and social change took place gradually and the term revolution is a misnomer.
This is still a subject of debate among historians. GDP per capita was broadly stable before the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the modern capitalist economy. The Industrial Revolution began an era of per-capita economic growth in capitalist economies. Economic historians are in agreement that the onset of the Industrial Revolution is the most important event in the history of humanity since the domestication of animals and plants. Causes for Industrial Revolution
The causes of the Industrial Revolution were complicated and remain a topic for debate, with some historians believing the Revolution was an outgrowth of social and institutional changes brought by the end of feudalism in Britain after the English Civil War in the 17th century. As national border controls became more effective, the spread of disease was lessened, thereby preventing the epidemics common in previous times. The percentage of children who lived past infancy rose significantly, leading to a larger workforce.
The Enclosure movement and theBritish Agricultural Revolution made food production more efficient and less labour-intensive, forcing the surplus population who could no longer find employment in agriculture into cottage industry, for example weaving, and in the longer term into the cities and the newly developedfactories. The colonial expansion of the 17th century with the accompanying development of international trade, creation of financial marketsand accumulation of capital are also cited as factors, as is the scientific revolution of the 17th century.
Until the 1980s, it was universally believed by academic historians that technological innovation was the heart of the Industrial Revolution and the key enabling technology was the invention and improvement of the steam engine. However, recent research into the Marketing Era has challenged the traditional, supply-oriented interpretation of the Industrial Revolution. Lewis Mumford has proposed that the Industrial Revolution had its origins in the Early Middle Ages, much earlier than most estimates.
He explains that the model for standardised mass production was the printing press and that "the archetypal model for the industrial era was the clock". He also cites the monastic emphasis on order and time-keeping, as well as the fact that medieval cities had at their centre a church with bell ringing at regular intervals as being necessary precursors to a greater synchronisation necessary for later, more physical, manifestations such as the steam engine.
The presence of a large domestic market should also be considered an important driver of the Industrial Revolution, particularly explaining why it occurred in Britain. In other nations, such as France, markets were split up by local regions, which often imposed tolls and tariffs on goods traded amongst them. Internal tariffs were abolished byHenry VIII of England, they survived in Russia till 1753, 1789 in France and 1839 in Spain. Governments' grant of limited monopolies to inventors under a developing patent system (the Statute of Monopolies 1623) is considered an influential factor.
The effects of patents, both good and ill, on the development of industrialisation are clearly illustrated in the history of the steam engine, the key enabling technology. In return for publicly revealing the workings of an invention the patent system rewarded inventors such as James Watt by allowing them to monopolise the production of the first steam engines, thereby rewarding inventors and increasing the pace of technological development.
However monopolies bring with them their own inefficiencies which may counterbalance, or even overbalance, the beneficial effects of publicising ingenuity and rewarding inventors. Watt's monopoly may have prevented other inventors, such as Richard Trevithick, William Murdoch or Jonathan Hornblower, from introducing improved steam engines, thereby retarding the industrial revolution by about 16 years.