The Industrial Revolution in Europe

Table of Contents


The European industrial revolution occurred between the eighteenth century and nineteenth centuries. During this time, the European and American pastoral populations that appeared to be mainly agricultural turned into urbanized and industrialized populations.

However, in the late 1700s, British communities were the first to experience the Industrial Revolution, but before this period, industrial production took place in individual homesteads. In fact, manufacturing was done through basic machineries or hand-crafted tools.

With the advent of this revolution, industrial development marked the period of shift from the application of handmade tools to mass production, insurgence of modernized factories, and the use of unique drive and well powered machineries. Factories were built for mass production of various products that were initially handcrafted. The iron and textile industries emerged.

There was development of the vapor engine. These industries played an essential role in the Industrial Revolution. Transport systems improved significantly. Communication and banking were enhanced by the revolution. The industrialization that took place in Europe saw the increase in volume.

New manufactured goods were developed. Some individuals benefitted from these developments as their lifestyles improved. However, employment opportunities reduced for the unskilled and living conditions worsened (Wyatt 20).

Main Body

Typically, the industrialization of Europe is often viewed as a sequence of separate ‘industrial revolutions. Every country is treated as an economy with the progress of each being compared distinctly with some kind of implied model. Actually, many issues of direct significance to European industrialization functioned within political boundaries.

When this was not the case, the issues were affected by political choices. In recent years, another reason has arisen for looking at industrialization in national terms.

Most countries desiring to industrialize modernly are forced to mobilize the entire national power apparatus to push industrial revolution forward. Consequently, such a move is meant to appear as a political will. By extension, this is applied to the European industrial revolution in the 19th century.

Small Units

Prior to proceeding to look at the entire Europe which is a much bigger area than a country, as an appropriate model for studying industrialization, it is meaningful to digress to a unit smaller than a country. It is evident that in the pioneer, Great Britain, there were smaller divisions where the actual industrial revolution took place before spreading to the rest of the country and consequently to the entire Europe.

Actually, industrial revolution came much earlier than documented. South Lancashire and the Black Country were the places where industrialization begun. This was followed by development of industries in Lincolnshire and Kent.

Concentrated industrial areas including Sheffield, Hallamshire and the West Country wool regions were revolutionized areas after the cotton regions. Some of the regions that were in the first phase of industrialization including North Wales, the Derbyshire uplands and Cornwall actually emerged as manufacturing concentrations in later phases (Wyatt 11).

Besides the temporal sequences identified in early industrialization lay functional relationships contributing to industrialization. Agrarian developments in some regions may have stirred in other less-advantaged ones. On the other hand, industrial or urban development in regions such as Lancashire impacted agrarian growth in neighboring counties.

The Origin of Industrial Revolution

Britain is the birthplace of industrial revolution. Prior to the beginning of Industrial Revolution, majority of people in Britain lived in unimportant, rural communities. The daily existence of these populations depended on farming. Survival for the regular individual was difficult.

There was meager income. Hunger and diseases were unvarying. The population produced most of their food, clothes, home fittings and equipment. The production was conducted in homesteads or small, countryside shops. Hand tools and uncomplicated machines were used.

A variety of aspects contributed to the country’s role as the origin of Industrial evolution. The most important was the great deposit of coal and iron ore. These were fundamental for industrialization. Furthermore, the country was politically stable. It was the world’s first colonial power. This meant that it could source raw materials from the colonies. The colonies also acted as the marketplace for the finished goods (West 6).

Innovation and Industrialization

The demand for finished goods increased rapidly. The traders of these products required more economical methods of producing the goods. Consequently, mechanization and the large-scale production system emerged. The fabric industry was significantly impacted by industrialization. Prior to mechanization and the emergence of the factory system, fabrics were produced mostly in homes.

The production of fabric in homes resulted in the term cottage industry. Traders would provide the raw materials to individual homes. They also provided uncomplicated equipment. They would then collect the finished goods. The homes would set their own timetable under this system. This was challenging for the traders as they could not regulate the production.

Inefficiencies were common. During the 1700s, a sequence of improvements resulted in ever-growing manufacturing yet required reduced manpower. In 1764, James Hargreaves developed the spinning jenny.

The invention allowed a single person to produce several reels of thread simultaneously. During his demise, more than twenty thousand whirling Jennies athwart the country had been crafted. In 1780s, the power loom was developed by Edmund Cartwright (Long and Shleifer 8).

Innovations in the iron industry contributed significantly to Industrial Revolution. In the early eighteenth century, a better way of manufacturing cast iron was developed by Abraham Darby. The method utilized coke-fired furnace instead of the earlier version that used charcoal.

During the 1850s, Henry Bessemer invented the initial cost-effective process for producing steel in bulk. Both metals (iron and steel) emerged as fundamental materials for the production of a wide range of products. These products included machines, infrastructure, houses, vessels and appliances.

The steam engine was essential to industrialization. The initial useful steam engine was invented in 1712 by Thomas Newcomen. The engine was mainly utilized for pumping water from mines. Half a century later, James Watt upgraded the steam engine. His machine would be used in power machinery, trains and marine vessels. This significantly contributed to Industrial Revolution (Long and Shleifer 14).

Transportation and Industrial Revolution

The discovery of waterways, better roads and railways facilitated the expansion of trade across Britain and beyond. The steam engine, use of water wheels and power-driven machines reinforced production volume. The availability of completely-metal machines enabled the production of more production equipment. The equipment would be used in other industries.

They hence required to be transported to the appropriate locations either in parts or as a complete machine. This required the traders to develop transportation systems. Previously, raw materials and finished products were transported using horse-drawn wagons or boats.

The discovery of the steam engine was essential in furthering Industrial Revolution. During the 1800s, Robert Fulton developed the initial viable steamboat for commercial purposes. By 1850s, steamships were ferrying goods across the Atlantic (Deane 21).

The steam rail car was coming to the rescue of commercial activities by 1830s. The initial railroad steam train was developed by Richard Trevithick. By 1830s, Liverpool and Manchester debuted in offering consistent, scheduled commuter service. During the financial year 1850s, there was over six thousand kilometers of railway lane athwart the country.

During the 1820s, McAdam John invented a novel process for constructing roads. His method generated roads that were flatter, more resilient and less murky. The method was known as macadam. Eventually, tar was added to his method resulting in the contemporary tarmac roads (Deane 26).

These inventions in transportation were critical in spreading industrialization to the rest of Europe. The local market was becoming saturated with the goods produced. It became imperative for traders to move across the borders where industrialization had not taken place. The spread of industrialization across Europe was necessitated and reinforced by blockade and non-blockade as well as Napoleonic dream to make the continent a single economic area.

However, the war had interrupted the spread of industrialization to the entire continent. Initially, traders did not establish manufacturing industries outside Britain for fear of the frequent wars. They only sold manufactured goods to the neighboring countries.

Additionally, Britain was setting itself up to be a colonizer hence did not intend to let other countries grow industrially. Economic power was necessary for the country to be a powerhouse in the region. Britain positioned itself to meet the needs of the people in other countries. They used the strategy of producing fabrics and finished metal products at all ranges of prices with regard to the level of poverty of the target market (Hoppit 10).

Continental Progress

Britain ratified a law banning the exportation of its know-how and experienced workforces to other countries. However, there was limited success in this move. Parts of Europe were becoming de-industrialized no matter how minimal they had progressed owing to separation of producers in these countries from Britain.

The British West Riding industry was detrimental to emerging industrialization in other countries including Austria and Germany (Henderson 64). In France, textile industry was effectively driven out by British traders who dumped the market with cheaper fabric and clothes.

The emerging French textile and metal industries were forced to fit into a business world that Britain had established a strong dominance. Britain was determined to retain a strong hold on industrialization. The movement of British traders to new markets in European countries facilitated the diffusion of industrialization into other countries.

The entrepreneurs established factories in these countries and produced competitive products. Traders in these markets borrowed leaf and established their own industries. After the 19th century, the United States had become the most industrialized nation globally (Hoppit 30).


The industrialization of Europe started in Britain. The country was hell-bent to retain the industrialization for its own political and economic benefit. However, the saturation of the country with its own products forced traders to move beyond its borders to establish new markets in the neighboring countries.

Many factors contributed to Industrial Revolution in Britain that spread to other European countries. These included the availability of raw materials such as iron ore and coal locally and fabric in its colonies. Despite the effort by Britain to restrain industrialization in its borders, many factors contributed to the spread to the entire continent.

The invention of transportation systems meant that Britain would not effectively restrict the spread of industrialization to other countries. Industrial Revolution started an era of economic growth for the entire humanity after the domestication of animals and crops.

Works Cited

Wyatt, Lee. The Industrial Revolution, Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Greenwood Press, 2009. Print.

West, Gerald. Education and the Industrial, New York City, NY: Barnes & Noble Books, 1975. Print.

Deane, Phyllis. The First Industrial Revolution, Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1965. Print.

Henderson, William. The Industrial Revolution on the Continent, Germany, France Russia, 1800-1914, London, UK: Cass, 1967. Print.

Long, Bradford and Andrei Shleifer. “Princes and Merchants: European City Growth before the Industrial Revolution.” Journal of Law and Economics 2.2 (1993): 1-25. Print.

Hoppit, Julian. “Counting the Industrial Revolution.” The Economic History Review 43.2 (1990): 1-34. Print.

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