Britain’s Domination of the Industrial RevolutionBritain was the leader of the industrial revolution in the 17th century while the rest of the modern world was struggling to catch up. The industrial revolution was made possible due to the many changes and innovations in the agricultural industry.
The Agricultural Revolution did away with the old medieval communal method of farming, privatized the land, and introduced scientific breeding and farming techniques which increased the agricultural production significantly. These new processes created a decline in both the intensity of the work and the number of agricultural laborers needed. At the beginning of the agricultural revolution farm, people chose to migrate to the city to work industrial jobs. Also, the increased food supply resulted in an unprecedented population increase, thus providing more able workers for the industrial labor force. Other contributing factors were that Britain had great deposits of coal and iron ore, which proved essential for industrialization. Also, Britain was a politically stable country, as well as the world’s leading colonial power, which meant that its colonies could now provide raw materials, as well as a marketplace for the manufactured goods.
The iron and textile industries, along with the development of the steam engine, played central roles in the industrial revolution, which also saw improved transportation systems, communication, and banking. As demand for British goods increased, merchants needed more cost-efficient methods of production, which led to the rise of mechanization and factory system. Mechanized agriculture is using machinery and thus reducing manual labor and improving production.
A factory system is a capitalist form of production whereby the owner provides all machinery, buildings, management and administration, raw materials, and is responsible for the sale of all products as well as any resulting loses. The growth of the industrial revolution depended on the ability to transport raw materials and finished goods over long distances. There were three main types of transportation that increased during the industrial revolution: waterways, roads, and railroads. At that time, transportation by water was the cheapest way to move heavy products such as coal and iron.
There were many navigable rivers and canals and the coal deposits tended to be near those waterways. Also, Britain has a long and jagged coastline that made transportation by sea easier. Scottish engineer John McAdam developed a new process for road construction.
His technique, which became known as the “macadam” resulted in roads that were smoother, more durable and less muddy. Communication became easier during the Industrial Revolution with such inventions as the telegraph. The industrial revolution also saw the rise of banks and industrial financiers, as well as a factory system dependent on owners and managers. A stock exchange was established in London in the 1770s. In 1776, Scottish philosopher Adam Smith published “The Wealth of Nations.” In it, he promoted an economic system based on free enterprise, the private ownership of means and production, and lack of government interference.