The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the United States, in the period from between 1760 to 1820 and 1840.

Definition, Meaning and Features:-

The modern age is the age of machines. We find machines of various kinds all round us in our daily life. These have introduced changes in the mode of production in industry, transport, communication and agriculture. One machine is able to do in a very short time what a hundred men are incapable of doing in a long time. This has been possible by what is called the Industrial Revolution which took place in the course of a century in England (17501850).

Production Revolutionised :

The Industrial Revolution is the name given to a series of changes that brought about a transition from production by hand to production by machine, from small scale production to large scale production, from hand-made goods to machine-made goods. The Industrial Revolution revolutionised methods of production. Machine work replaced hand-work and incredibly, tremendous production was possible.

Peaceful and Evolutionary :

Though the word Revolution is used, the transition from small scale production to large scale production was peaceful, and the changes took place in the course of & long time and not suddenly. However, it may be noted, that though there was no loss of life or property, the series of changes ushered in entirely new and extremely speedy methods of production, and brought about great changes in political, social, economic and other fields. Therefore; the use of the word Revolution is justified. Who there we call the process a revolution or an evolution, we cannot deny the revolutionary change that took place in man’s way of living and

From Cottage to Factory:

The place of production was shifted from the cottage in the village to the factory in the city. Originally in Europe, production took place on a very small scale in a cottage, but after the Industrial Revolution, goods were produced on a large scale with the help of huge machines in factories located in towns and cities. Tho shifting of the place of production also resulted in the shifting of population: from villages to cities. Thus urbanisation arose.

Large Scale Production and Division of Labour:

Originally, when goods were made by hand, the production process was direct, and the whole commodity was produced by one man. But in mechanized production, a commodity is produced by many hands at various stages. In a huge factory, a worker produces only one part of the commodity. Labour in a factory is divided among many workers.

Why the Industrial Revolution Began in England:-

The Industrial Revolution began in England. It is difficult to say when exactly it started. In later medieval England, there were a few original thinkers and scientists, who believed mm careful observation, laboratory experimentation and searching inquiry. Forces like the Renaissance were highly favorable to the growth of the scientific spirit, and England was fortunate to have everything that was needed for an Industrial Revolution. The English people were enterprising in many fields. In sailing in ships, in colonizing, in organizing trade and commerce, in empire-building  and in other activities, the English people distinguished themselves. This explains why the people in a small island like England could become leaders in the field of industrial production.

We may briefly analyses the causes of the origin of the Industrial Revolution in England.


England produced several scientists, whose Invention were useful for having large scale production in factories. James Hargreaves, Richard Arkwright, Samuel Crompton, Edmund Cartwright and others in textile production, Humphrey Davy, John Smeaton, Henry Bessemer, Darby and others in coal and iron industries, Thomas Newcoman, James Watt, George Stephenson, Robert Fulton and others in the field of transport contributed much to the Industrial Revolution.

Great Demand for British Goods:

The incentive to produce more and more was given by the huge profits of England’s expanding industry and trade. England had to discover new ways of multiplying her production. The Napoleonic Wars gave a great boost to production in England. While these wars damaged the industry and trade of the Continental countries, they made the English industries very active and lively. The Napoleonic Wars were never fought in Britain, where a long spell of peace proved to be favorable to industrial production. Napoleon had introduced the Continental System to impose an embargo on British trade. But fortunately for England, Napoleon’s thoughtless Continental System boomeranged on him. As retaliatory measure, England blocked European ports and prevented raw materials from going to them. This enabled England to secure all raw materials she needed very cheaply. Then again, the Continental System did not work, as no European country could get on without British goods, and these were smuggled into Europe.

Iron and Coal:

England had plentiful deposits of iron and coal, which were quite essential for the Industrial Revolution.

Seizure of Gold and Silver:

Spanish explorers, who had found plenty of gold in South America, used to bring shiploads of it to Europe. But on the high seas, English pirates known as sea dogs used to plunder the ships and capture the gold. This gold made England wealthy and encouraged the development of industry, trade and commerce.

Policy Favoring Trade, Colonization and Empire Building:

The British Government followed a policy of trade, commerce and empire-building. The government passed. Navigation Acts to protect British shipping companies from the competition of the French, the Dutch and other rivals. The British Government itself did not undertake trade and commercial activities, but left them to private entrepreneurs and captains of industry. The private manufacturers, traders, sailors and colonists showed an extraordinary zeal and spirit of enterprise. They not only earned fabulous profits themselves, but in-the long run brought immense wealth to their country by further fostering industry and trade. The East India Company engaged itself in lucrative Oriental trade, and side by side began the task of empire building in India. The Muscovy Company, the Hudson Bay Company and other companies also did exceedingly well in their respective fields of activity.

British merchants, bankers, traders, pirates, politicians, diplomats, soldiers and missionaries showed a dynamic spirit, and wherever they went, they engaged themselves in steadily building up British. Industry, trade and empire. Their activities proved to be useful to set the ball of the Industrial Revolution rolling. They procured for British industry cheap raw materials and explored large markets for the sale of British goods.

Unlike countries like France, which were producing luxury goods having restricted demand, England manufactured woolen and linen cloth, overcoats, garments, boots, iron articles and other commodities commanding steady demand in markets all over the world.

Wealth and Skill of Immigrants:

The policy of bigotry and intolerance followed by France and Spain proved to be a blessing to the British industry. Religious wars, cruel persecution and almost intolerable conditions drove thousands of Huguenots (Protestants) from Catholic France and thousands of Protestants from the Spanish Netherlands to England. In giving shelter to these unfortunate people, England helped herself; because these artisans brought with them into the country wealth, good craftsmanship, business acumen, mechanical skill, and spirit of enterprise. The loss of France and Spain was a gain to England, as this was helpful for the commencement of the Industrial Revolution.

Ample Supply of Labour:

The Agrarian Revolution broke out earlier than the Industrial Revolution. This was highly favorable to England, as a large number of workers necessary for an Industrial Revolution could be released from the rural areas for the urban areas, where big factories were humming with activity. The rich merchants had bought from the government of Henry VIII the confiscated agricultural Churehlands. These lands were converted  into sheep farms, which needed a smaller number of laborers than the agricultural farms. This surplus labour migrated to the towns and cities.

England had mobility of labor Laborers could migrate from Villages to cities, where they were free to choose employment in, One of the many concerns, workshops, mines and factories. On the other hand in France and other European countries, labour was Static, as workers were attached to the land in several ways and found it difficult, if not impossible, to migrate to cities.

Peace and Order:

The British Government was able to maintain peace and order, and establish conditions conducive to the development of industry trade and commerce. In this respect, England could be favorably compared to France and other war, torn, European countries.

Great Inventions in England:-

A brief reference has to be made here to the great inventions, which revolutionized the methods of production in different fields.

Revolution in the Textile Field

The ball of the Industrial Revolution was first set rolling in the field of cotton textile production. This was because several Significant inventions were made to boost the production of cotton  textiles.

Flying Shuttle:

In 1733 John Kay invented the Flying Shuttle for weaving cloth. This doubled the speed of weaving, as it, was no more necessary for the weaver’s hand to carry the thread across and through other threads, which were lengthwise. In,the new de vice, the weaver pulled a cord to push the shuttle, backward and forward very rapidly.

Spinning Jenny:

The speed of weaving had been doubled by the Flying Shuttle, but spinning lagged behind. The difficulty was solved by James Hargreaves, a man of Lancashire, who invented the Spinning Jenny in 1764. Jenny was the name of his wife. This device operated by one Person Could spin as much as eight old wheels operated by eight people.

Water Frame:

Richard Arkwright of Lancashire improved the Spinning Jenny in 1769. He invented a weaving frame known as the Water Frame, which was a originally run by horse power and later by water power. This machine consisting of rollers and spindles twisted cotton fibers or strands into strong threads. This was much better than the spinning Jenny, as it could produce tougher thread.

Spinning Mule:

In 1779 Samuel Crompotn invented the spinning  mule which combined the good features of the Spinning Jenny and the Water Frame.With this mechanical device stronger and finer threads could be produced rapidly at a comparatively low cost.

Automatic Loom:

The textile industry needed a weaving machine, which could keep pace with the rapid production of thread, Spinning was fast, and it left weaving far behind. The problem was solved by Edmund Cartwright, who invented the Automatic Loom or Power Loom in 1785. This machine used an automatic shuttle worked by water power. By this invention, textile production was revolutionized, as the speed of weaving became two hundredfold. Industrialists set up thousands of looms in the early years of the nineteenth century, and the era of truly large scale production in textiles began. The number of looms increased from 2,400 in 1813 to 85,000 in 1833. The hand loom weavers could not face the competition of the new machines, and there was unemployment.

Cotton Gin:

The Industrial Revolution spread to the United States of America, where Ely Whitney invented a mechanical device known as the Cotton Gin in 1792. This could separate the cotton seeds from the fibers of the cotton ball.

Sewing Machine:

In 1846 Elias Howe invented the sewing machine, which gave a tremendous boost to the clothing industry.

Revolution in Coal and Iron Industries:-

The Industrial Revolution would not have been possible without tremendous changes in the coal and iron industries.

Need of Strong Material for Machines:

In making machines, wood had to be replaced by a strong material having durability and capable of bearing heavy strain. This material was iron Fortunately England had ample deposits of iron.

Coal Replaced Charcoal:

Originally charcoal was used for melting the crude ore before smelting (that is, separating the metal from the impurity). The supply of charcoal had fallen steeply, as more and more forests were being cleared, and coal was being increasingly used. Coal was far better than charcoal, as it could produce greater heat. Wood as fuel made a very poor show in industrial production, and its use made the process very costly. Therefore, in the later days coal completely replaced charcoal.

Safety in Coal Mines:

In the early days, coal mining was a hazardous task, and many miners died owing to fire-damp gases in the mines. But mining was made comparatively safe by the use of the Safety Lamp, which gave timely warning to miners. This useful lamp was invented in 1816 by Sir Humphrey Davy.

Making Pig Iron by Coke Smelting Process.

Iron mongers found coke better than coal. Coke was produced by heating coat in an oven and eliminating volatile gases from it. The replacement of coal by coke was an important step in iron production, as -coke -could effectively and easily smelt iron. Darby invented the Blast Furnace, which was worked by leather bellows. In this, non stop scorching heat could be produced by a continuous and strong air blast.

In 1760, the Scottish John Smeaton invented the Pump Blower, which replaced the leather bellows.

The iron extracted by the new coke smelting process was called Pig Iron, as the huge mould in the midst of the smaller surrounding moulds into which molten iron flowed appeared like a female pig with rows of the young ones.

Henry Bessemer:

In 1856 Henry Bessemer invented process for making harder, purer and refined iron known as steel by the removal of impurities. The new process was cheaper and far better than the earlier one. The emergence of steel was an important landmark in the iron industry.

The series of significant inventions in iron and steel production led to the establishment of many huge iron and steel factories in England manufacturing a variety of iron and steel products. With the new know-how to make iron and steel, strong, sturdy and better machines and tools could be widely used in the hundreds of foretastes and mills in the 19th century England. The entry of iron and Steel directly or indirectly in the daily life of man revolutionized civilization. The level of industrial production in a nation came, to be determined by the amount of iron and steel produced by it.

Revolution in the Field of Power:-

A revolutionary step in the field of power was the replacement of water power by steam power and of steam power by electricity.

Steam Pump:

The principle of the expansion of water in the form of steam, when heated, was put to practical use in the field of industry. Around 1700 Thomas Savery produced a Steam Pump for pumping out water from coal mines.

Newcomen’s Steam Engine:

In 1705 Thomas Newcomen of Devonshire, who was working under Savery, invented the Steam Engine, Before long, Newcomen engine was widely used.

Watt’s Steam Engine:

Newcomen’s engine was found to be too slow in working.  Moreover, it required too much coal. It needed alternate heating and cooling of the cylinder for the working of the piston for pumping out water. A  far better engine known as the Beelzebub was produced ,by James Watt (1736-1819) in. 1769 with the  assistance of Matthew Boulton. This new patented engine had a separate condenser for cooling the steam, and an airtight jacket for keeping the cylinder continuously hot. It had greater speed, consumed less coal and was economical. An improved version of the Beelzebub could be used for pumping water moving paddle-wheels  in ships, raining machines, operating spindles – in textile mills and other purposes.

Significance of Steam Power:

The introduction of steam power was 5 indeed a great landmark in the field of industry Till the discovery of the use of steam power, producers-had: to depend on human beings, drought animals, wind and water. After steam power was applied to industry, factories could be built anywhere, and not necessarily near the sources of flowing water.


Introduction of electric power, which replaced steam power, further revolutionized industrial production.


The Italian scientist, Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) invented the Voltaic Cell by immersing strips of copper and zine in weak solution. He was a great pioneer in the study of electric science. The volt, the unit of electric pressure, is named after him.


Andre Marie Ampere (1775-1836), a great French physicist, mathematician and philosopher, demonstrated the relation between electricity and magnetism. His researches in elector-dynamics resulted in the invention of the static needle, Ampere, a unit of measure in electricity, is named after him.


Michael Faraday (7911867), a famous British scientist, discovered magnetic induction and studied the transformation of mechanical energy into electrical He invented the Dynamo. His researches laid the foundation of modern electrical science.

In course of time, the use of electricity was made on a large scale for industrial production, and for household purposes, Dynamos were set up for generating electricity for lighting purposes. In 1873, the electric motor was introduced, and gradually electric motors were able to displace steam engines. The wonders of electricity could confer benefits on all. The housewife at home and the  captain of industry in the factory could take advantage of electricity.

Revolution in the Field of Transport:-

Goods produced on a gigantic scale in factories had to be moved to the different parts of the country, and later ever to the various parts of the world. Hence a revolution in the means of transport and communication was as necessary as a revolution in production. Movement of goods on land and on sea had to be speedy to capture markets and to cater to the needs of consumers in the country and also in the various nooks and corners of the world.

Road Building:

Roads in England were in bad condition, and they were unable to stand the strain of heavy traffic, which rose after the commencement of the Industrial Revolution. John McAdam, a Scottish man, discovered a way of building sturdy roads With layers of broken stone. Macadamizing, the new process of road-building, was named after him.

Canal Construction:

Between 1775 and 1850, great canals Were constructed in England, as transportation of goods by canals was cheaper than by roads.

Steam Power for Railways:

In Britain, coal was transported from mines by rail-lines. In 1803, for carrying passengers, horse-car lines were built in the London suburb,

George Stephenson (1781-1848), an engineer and railway pioneer, became famous for his inventions, which revolutionized transport, In 1814, his Iron Horse run by steam carried coal from mine to port. He introduced great improvements in the steam engine. Since 1825 a-much improved Steam Engine began running on the Stockton Darlington Railway. The railway directors offered a prize for an engine, which could serve their purpose well. The prize was won by Stephenson’s famous engine known as the Rocket, the prototype of the modern railway locomotive. The Rocket began carrying passengers and goods on the Liverpool to Manchester Railway in 1830. Its speed was only 29 miles per hour.


In the 19th century steam power was used for driving boats and ships, and very soon steam navigation was widely used for commercial purposes.

Robert Fulton (1756-1815), an American engineer, built in 1867 the Clermont, the first steam boat, which was launched on the river Hudson.

The steam ship Savannah sailed in 25 days across the Atlantic from Savannah to Liverpool in 1819, and in 1838 the Great Western sailed in a surprisingly short time of 15 days from America to England across the Atlantic without being recoiled on the way.

Revolution, in Communication:-

The introduction of the telegraph and the telephone revolutionized communication.

The electric telegraph was invented on the basis of the research of Faraday, Volta and other great pioneers of electrical study.  Steinheil in Germany, Wheatstone in England and Morse in the United States of America invented the electric telegraph independently. The telegraphic system was widely introduced after 1845. In 1866 an under-sea cable was set up in the Atlantic Ocean. All great commercial centers in the world were linked by telegraph by

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922), a great inventor and scientist, studied phonology with his father, He made experiments with sound waves and invented the telephone in 1876.

The Industrial Revolution in Other Countries:-

The Industrial, Revolution, which began in England, spread all over Europe in course of time. Europe had to depend upon Britain for technical know-how, machines and money.

After the Napoleonic Wars ended in Europe in 1815, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and other countries purchased heavy machinery from England. The credit of establishing several industries on solid foundations in European countries goes to English entrepreneurs. They introduced in the Continental countries heavy machinery for making machines themselves, textile machinery, bobbin lace machines and other machines.

Certain European countries rapidly picked up the new techniques of production, and after some time even surpassed England in certain fields. Textile manufacturers in France could do far better than their counterparts in Britain in design and beauty. In the making of metal products, Germany excelled England.

The Industrial Revolution spread in the United States of America, which after a certain stage became the greatest manufacturer in the automobile and other industries.

The Revolution spread in Asian and African countries about a hundred years late.

Good and Evil Effects of the Industrial Revolution:-

As observed earlier, the Industrial Revolution changed the face of England, which experienced many good effects. At the Same time, it was not a total blessing, and it had its ugly side. In course of time, its evil effects came into bold relief. Britain’s experience was shared by other countries, where it spread.

Good Effects:

The good effects of the Industrial Revolution may be analyses first.

Ushered a New World:

The Industrial Revolution ushered a new world altogether. The effects of the inventions made in the various fields of production brought about revolutionary changes for the better. Progress, which could not take place in a thousand years, was registered in about a century (1750-1850). The number of things that we see around us come from distant factories in our own country or in distant countries. All these factories are the products of the Industrial Revolution. We can see a world of difference between the life of the people in the pre-Revolution days and their life since the Revolution broke out.

More and Better Goods:

As a result of the Revolution, production became incredibly rapid, and the standard of production improved. Consumers could have more and better goods at cheap prices. Large scale production and division of labour became the order of the day in huge factories.

Made Living Comfortable:

Living became comfortable Ma a result of the numerous inventions which took place particularly in the first big round of the: Industrial Revolution (17 50-1850), People before the Revolution did not have so many comforts and conveniences of life, which people have been enjoying since the Revolution. Mills, factories, workshops, foundries, railway locomotives steamships, the telegraph, the telephone, electricity, motor cars and many other things have contributed to a-comfortable life. Life at home was revolutionized. Electricity came to be used for lighting heating, cooking, operating radio and television, washing, Toning and many other jobs.


One of the immediate results of the Industrial Revolution was urbanization. In England and other countries, where the Revolution broke out, many towns and cities rose and people from the rural areas migrated to the urban areas for employment, education, cultural benefits, better freedom and enjoyment. Cities became centers of culture and civilization, and in all fields they made tremendous progress, which attracted people to them from the surrounding rural areas.

Great Prosperity:

Countries, which had the industrial Revolution, became rich, and prosperous, England can be given as the best example to show how she became the richest country with the mightiest empire in the world. In almost every field England took the lead. People of England enjoyed peace, prosperity and prestige, which became the envy of other countries.

Evil Effects:

We may now turn to the seamy side of the in industrial Revolution. While it, solved many problems, it created many new problems, some of which defy solution. The evil effects of the Revolution can be noted in the various fields.

Wide Gap between the Rich and the Poor:

The Industrial Revolution gave rise to capitalism. A few individuals in society be came capitalists, the owners of the key means of production. They cornered fabulous wealth, and wielded immense power, and prestige. On the other hand, it created a class of workers living from hand to mouth. They depended entirely on their capitalist employers for bread. The gap between the employers and the employees become very wide, and it remained -unabridged.

Capitalists, the haves, and their employees, the have-nots, presented a kind of antithesis in society. There was nothing in common between the two. The employers had contempt for their workers, and their children could never imagine to pollute themselves by mixing with the children of the workers. The workers hated their employers, and thought that they were being unjustly treated, badly humiliated and cruelly exploited, Thus, social harmony was upset with frequent conflicts and heart-burning.

Political Power Monopolised:

Industrial capitalists monopolised political power. In England in the nineteenth century, industrial magnates exerted tremendous influence and pressure on the government. A few people at the-top, who could control production and distribution, were rich enough to bend the government to their will. Economic power was utilized to seize political power, which in turn brought further economic benefits. In England, outwardly there was democracy, but actually aristocrats or oligarchs ruled. Parliament was controlled by the rich landlords and big capitalists. In the name of economic liberty, which was upheld by capitalists and great economists like Adam Smith and Ricardo, it was possible for multi-millionaires to capture power.

Ruthless Exploitation and Misery:

Ruthless exploitation took place in the factories. Conditions in industrial cities were fine for the rich, but miserable for the poor. Conditions at home were very bad for workers. They lived in small tenements, where there were no facilities for lighting, heating, sanitation-and hygiene. Bad food, poor clothing, slum-dwelling, and awful conditions in factories all combined to, create a veritable hell for workers. The hours of work were long, in some cases, as many as fifteen or eighteen a day. Wages were lowered or workers were dismissed unjustly and arbitrarily.

All capitalists were not bad. But benevolent and broad-minded factory-owners like Robert Owen were very few and far between.

Karl Marx and Engels, the founders of revolutionary socialism or communism, called upon the workers of the world to unite and fight against capitalist exploitation.

Capitalism, Colonialism and Imperialism:

The Industrial revolution made the Western nations rich and powerful, and thes followed a policy of colonialism, imperialism and exploitation, They needed cheap raw materials for feeding their machines, and World-wide markets for their manufactured goods. Colonies and empires were needed for economic gain, Highly industrialized

Western nations conquered the economically backward countries of Asia and cruelly exploited them. India, China, Burma, Ceylon, Egypt, Congo and many other countries were the victims of  Western capitalism, and imperialism.

Among the Western nations themselves rivalry and  wars rose, as each of them wished to get the greatest benefits from the back ward countries of the world. Undoubtedly, the Industrial Revolution sowed the seeds of war, bitterness and hatred all over the world.

Agrarian Revolution:-

A little before the Industrial Revolution, the Agrarian or Agricultural Revolution broke out in England.

Great experiments were conducted in farming and revolutionary techniques were introduced. Ia the 18th century, Jethro Tull (1674-1740) in England created a new horse drawn implement to plough and also made a machine to sow seeds in parallel rows. Successful experiments opened up the field of agriculture for the introduction of machinery.

Better rotation of crops and the use of right manures, natural and chemical, preserved soil fertility. Improvements were also made in cattle breeding. Robert Bake well (17 25-1795) did much for scientific breeding of cattle.

Jethro Tull’s friend, Viscount Townsend (1674-1738), introduced a new rotation of crops, which, would keep the land engaged all the time without destroying its fertility.

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