NCERT Textbook - The Industrial Revolution Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

History Class 11

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Humanities/Arts : NCERT Textbook - The Industrial Revolution Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


196  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The Industrial
Revolution
THE transformation of industry and the economy in Britain
between the 1780s and the 1850s is called the ‘first
industrial revolution’*. This had far-reaching effects in Britain.
Later, similar changes occurred in European countries and
in the USA. These were to have a major impact on the society
and economy of those countries and also on the rest of the
world. 
This phase of industrial development in Britain is strongly
associated with new machinery and technologies. These
made it possible to produce goods on a massive scale
compared to handicraft and handloom industries. The chapter
outlines the changes in the cotton and iron industries. Steam,
a new source of power, began to be used on a wide scale in
British industries. Its use led to faster forms of transportation,
by ships and railways. Many of the inventors and
businessmen who brought about these changes were often
neither personally wealthy nor educated in basic sciences
like physics or chemistry, as will be seen from glances into
the backgrounds of some of them. 
Industrialisation led to greater prosperity for some, but in
the initial stages it was linked with poor living and working
conditions of millions of people, including women and
children. This sparked off protests, which forced the
government to enact laws for regulating conditions of work.
The term ‘Industrial Revolution’ was used by European
scholars – Georges Michelet in France and Friedrich Engels
in Germany. It was used for the first time in English by the
philosopher and economist Arnold Toynbee (1852-83), to
describe the changes that occurred in British industrial
development between 1760 and 1820. These dates coincided
with those of the reign of George III, on which Toynbee was
giving a series of lectures at Oxford University. His lectures
were published in 1884, after his untimely death, as a book
called Lectures on the Industrial Revolution in England:
Popular Addresses, Notes and Other Fragments.
Later historians, T.S. Ashton, Paul Mantoux and Eric
Hobsbawm, broadly agreed with Toynbee. There was
remarkable economic growth from the 1780s to 1820 in the
cotton and iron industries, in coal mining, in the building of
roads and canals and in foreign trade. Ashton (1889-1968)
celebrated the Industrial Revolution, when England was
‘swept by a wave of gadgets’.
*In the second one,
after about 1850,
new areas like the
chemical and
electrical industries
expanded. In that
period, Britain fell
behind, and lost its
position as the
world’s leading
industrial power, as
it was overtaken by
Germany and the
USA.
THEME
9
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 2


196  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The Industrial
Revolution
THE transformation of industry and the economy in Britain
between the 1780s and the 1850s is called the ‘first
industrial revolution’*. This had far-reaching effects in Britain.
Later, similar changes occurred in European countries and
in the USA. These were to have a major impact on the society
and economy of those countries and also on the rest of the
world. 
This phase of industrial development in Britain is strongly
associated with new machinery and technologies. These
made it possible to produce goods on a massive scale
compared to handicraft and handloom industries. The chapter
outlines the changes in the cotton and iron industries. Steam,
a new source of power, began to be used on a wide scale in
British industries. Its use led to faster forms of transportation,
by ships and railways. Many of the inventors and
businessmen who brought about these changes were often
neither personally wealthy nor educated in basic sciences
like physics or chemistry, as will be seen from glances into
the backgrounds of some of them. 
Industrialisation led to greater prosperity for some, but in
the initial stages it was linked with poor living and working
conditions of millions of people, including women and
children. This sparked off protests, which forced the
government to enact laws for regulating conditions of work.
The term ‘Industrial Revolution’ was used by European
scholars – Georges Michelet in France and Friedrich Engels
in Germany. It was used for the first time in English by the
philosopher and economist Arnold Toynbee (1852-83), to
describe the changes that occurred in British industrial
development between 1760 and 1820. These dates coincided
with those of the reign of George III, on which Toynbee was
giving a series of lectures at Oxford University. His lectures
were published in 1884, after his untimely death, as a book
called Lectures on the Industrial Revolution in England:
Popular Addresses, Notes and Other Fragments.
Later historians, T.S. Ashton, Paul Mantoux and Eric
Hobsbawm, broadly agreed with Toynbee. There was
remarkable economic growth from the 1780s to 1820 in the
cotton and iron industries, in coal mining, in the building of
roads and canals and in foreign trade. Ashton (1889-1968)
celebrated the Industrial Revolution, when England was
‘swept by a wave of gadgets’.
*In the second one,
after about 1850,
new areas like the
chemical and
electrical industries
expanded. In that
period, Britain fell
behind, and lost its
position as the
world’s leading
industrial power, as
it was overtaken by
Germany and the
USA.
THEME
9
© NCERT
not to be republished
  197
Why Britain?
Britain was the first country to experience modern industrialisation. It
had been politically stable since the seventeenth century, with England,
Wales and Scotland unified under a monarchy. This meant that the
kingdom had common laws, a single currency and a market that was
not fragmented by local authorities levying taxes on goods that passed
through their area, thus increasing their price. By the end of the
seventeenth century, money was widely used as the medium of
exchange. By then a large section of the people received their income
in the form of wages and salaries rather than in goods. This gave
people a wider choice for ways to spend their earnings and expanded
the market for the sale of goods.
In the eighteenth century, England had been through a major
economic change, later described as the ‘agricultural revolution’. This
was the process by which bigger landlords had bought up small farms
near their own properties and enclosed the village common lands, thus
creating very large estates and increasing food production.
This forced landless farmers, and those who had lived by
grazing animals on the common lands, to search for jobs
elsewhere. Most of them went to nearby towns.
Towns, Trade and Finance
From the eighteenth century, many towns in Europe were
growing in area and in population. Out of the 19 European
cities whose population doubled between 1750 and 1800, 11
were in Britain. The largest of them was London, which served
as the hub of the country’s markets, with the next largest
ones located close to it.
London had also acquired a global significance. By the
eighteenth century, the centre of global trade had shifted
from the Mediterranean ports of Italy and France to the
Atlantic ports of Holland and Britain. Still later, London
replaced Amsterdam as the principal source of loans for
international trade. London also became the centre of a
triangular trade network that drew in England, Africa and
the West Indies. The companies trading in America and Asia
also had their offices in London. In England the movement of goods
between markets was helped by a good network of rivers, and an indented
coastline with sheltered bays. Until the spread of railways, transport by
waterways was cheaper and faster than by land. As early as 1724, English
rivers provided some 1,160 miles of navigable water, and except for
mountainous areas, most places in the country were within 15 miles of a
river. Since all the navigable sections of English rivers flow into the sea,
cargo on river vessels was easily transferred to coastal ships called coasters.
By 1800, at least 100,000 sailors worked on the coasters.
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
‘The man of wealth
and pride
Takes up a space that
many poor supplied;
Space for his lake, his
park’s extended bounds,
Space for his horses,
equipage, and hounds;
The robe that wraps his
limbs in silken sloth
Has robbed the
neighbouring fields of half
their growth.’
– Oliver Goldsmith (1728-74),
The Deserted Village.
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 3


196  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The Industrial
Revolution
THE transformation of industry and the economy in Britain
between the 1780s and the 1850s is called the ‘first
industrial revolution’*. This had far-reaching effects in Britain.
Later, similar changes occurred in European countries and
in the USA. These were to have a major impact on the society
and economy of those countries and also on the rest of the
world. 
This phase of industrial development in Britain is strongly
associated with new machinery and technologies. These
made it possible to produce goods on a massive scale
compared to handicraft and handloom industries. The chapter
outlines the changes in the cotton and iron industries. Steam,
a new source of power, began to be used on a wide scale in
British industries. Its use led to faster forms of transportation,
by ships and railways. Many of the inventors and
businessmen who brought about these changes were often
neither personally wealthy nor educated in basic sciences
like physics or chemistry, as will be seen from glances into
the backgrounds of some of them. 
Industrialisation led to greater prosperity for some, but in
the initial stages it was linked with poor living and working
conditions of millions of people, including women and
children. This sparked off protests, which forced the
government to enact laws for regulating conditions of work.
The term ‘Industrial Revolution’ was used by European
scholars – Georges Michelet in France and Friedrich Engels
in Germany. It was used for the first time in English by the
philosopher and economist Arnold Toynbee (1852-83), to
describe the changes that occurred in British industrial
development between 1760 and 1820. These dates coincided
with those of the reign of George III, on which Toynbee was
giving a series of lectures at Oxford University. His lectures
were published in 1884, after his untimely death, as a book
called Lectures on the Industrial Revolution in England:
Popular Addresses, Notes and Other Fragments.
Later historians, T.S. Ashton, Paul Mantoux and Eric
Hobsbawm, broadly agreed with Toynbee. There was
remarkable economic growth from the 1780s to 1820 in the
cotton and iron industries, in coal mining, in the building of
roads and canals and in foreign trade. Ashton (1889-1968)
celebrated the Industrial Revolution, when England was
‘swept by a wave of gadgets’.
*In the second one,
after about 1850,
new areas like the
chemical and
electrical industries
expanded. In that
period, Britain fell
behind, and lost its
position as the
world’s leading
industrial power, as
it was overtaken by
Germany and the
USA.
THEME
9
© NCERT
not to be republished
  197
Why Britain?
Britain was the first country to experience modern industrialisation. It
had been politically stable since the seventeenth century, with England,
Wales and Scotland unified under a monarchy. This meant that the
kingdom had common laws, a single currency and a market that was
not fragmented by local authorities levying taxes on goods that passed
through their area, thus increasing their price. By the end of the
seventeenth century, money was widely used as the medium of
exchange. By then a large section of the people received their income
in the form of wages and salaries rather than in goods. This gave
people a wider choice for ways to spend their earnings and expanded
the market for the sale of goods.
In the eighteenth century, England had been through a major
economic change, later described as the ‘agricultural revolution’. This
was the process by which bigger landlords had bought up small farms
near their own properties and enclosed the village common lands, thus
creating very large estates and increasing food production.
This forced landless farmers, and those who had lived by
grazing animals on the common lands, to search for jobs
elsewhere. Most of them went to nearby towns.
Towns, Trade and Finance
From the eighteenth century, many towns in Europe were
growing in area and in population. Out of the 19 European
cities whose population doubled between 1750 and 1800, 11
were in Britain. The largest of them was London, which served
as the hub of the country’s markets, with the next largest
ones located close to it.
London had also acquired a global significance. By the
eighteenth century, the centre of global trade had shifted
from the Mediterranean ports of Italy and France to the
Atlantic ports of Holland and Britain. Still later, London
replaced Amsterdam as the principal source of loans for
international trade. London also became the centre of a
triangular trade network that drew in England, Africa and
the West Indies. The companies trading in America and Asia
also had their offices in London. In England the movement of goods
between markets was helped by a good network of rivers, and an indented
coastline with sheltered bays. Until the spread of railways, transport by
waterways was cheaper and faster than by land. As early as 1724, English
rivers provided some 1,160 miles of navigable water, and except for
mountainous areas, most places in the country were within 15 miles of a
river. Since all the navigable sections of English rivers flow into the sea,
cargo on river vessels was easily transferred to coastal ships called coasters.
By 1800, at least 100,000 sailors worked on the coasters.
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
‘The man of wealth
and pride
Takes up a space that
many poor supplied;
Space for his lake, his
park’s extended bounds,
Space for his horses,
equipage, and hounds;
The robe that wraps his
limbs in silken sloth
Has robbed the
neighbouring fields of half
their growth.’
– Oliver Goldsmith (1728-74),
The Deserted Village.
© NCERT
not to be republished
198  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The centre of the country’s financial system was the Bank of England
(founded in 1694). By 1784, there were more than a hundred provincial
banks in England, and during the next 10 years their numbers trebled.
By the 1820s, there were more than 600 banks in the provinces, and over
100 banks in London alone. The financial requirements to establish and
maintain big industrial enterprises were met by these banks.
The industrialisation that occurred in Britain from the 1780s to the
1850s is explained partly by the factors described above – many poor
people from the villages available to work in towns; banks which could
loan money to set up large industries; and a good transport network.
The following pages will describe two new factors: a range of technological
changes that increased production levels dramatically and a new transport
network created by the construction of railways. In both developments, if
the dates are read carefully, one will notice that there is a gap of a few
decades between the development and its widespread application. One
must not assume that a new innovation in technology led to it being used
in the industry immediately.
Of the 26,000 inventions recorded in the eighteenth century, more
than half were listed for the period 1782-1800. These led to many changes.
We shall discuss the four major ones: the transformation of the iron
industry, the spinning and weaving of cotton, the development of steam
‘power’ and the coming of the railways.
Coal and Iron
England was fortunate in that coal and iron ore, the staple materials for
mechanisation, were plentifully available, as were other minerals – lead,
copper and tin – that were used in industry. However, until the eighteenth
century, there was a scarcity of usable iron. Iron is drawn out from ore as
pure liquid metal by a process called smelting. For centuries, charcoal
(from burnt timber) was used for the smelting process. This had several
problems: charcoal was too fragile to transport across long distances; its
impurities produced poor-quality iron; it was in short supply because
Coalbrookdale: blast-
furnaces (left and
centre) and charcoal-
ovens (right); painting
by F.Vivares, 1758.
ACTIVITY 1
Discuss the
developments in
Britain and in
other parts of the
world in the
eighteenth
century that
encouraged
British
industrialisation.
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 4


196  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The Industrial
Revolution
THE transformation of industry and the economy in Britain
between the 1780s and the 1850s is called the ‘first
industrial revolution’*. This had far-reaching effects in Britain.
Later, similar changes occurred in European countries and
in the USA. These were to have a major impact on the society
and economy of those countries and also on the rest of the
world. 
This phase of industrial development in Britain is strongly
associated with new machinery and technologies. These
made it possible to produce goods on a massive scale
compared to handicraft and handloom industries. The chapter
outlines the changes in the cotton and iron industries. Steam,
a new source of power, began to be used on a wide scale in
British industries. Its use led to faster forms of transportation,
by ships and railways. Many of the inventors and
businessmen who brought about these changes were often
neither personally wealthy nor educated in basic sciences
like physics or chemistry, as will be seen from glances into
the backgrounds of some of them. 
Industrialisation led to greater prosperity for some, but in
the initial stages it was linked with poor living and working
conditions of millions of people, including women and
children. This sparked off protests, which forced the
government to enact laws for regulating conditions of work.
The term ‘Industrial Revolution’ was used by European
scholars – Georges Michelet in France and Friedrich Engels
in Germany. It was used for the first time in English by the
philosopher and economist Arnold Toynbee (1852-83), to
describe the changes that occurred in British industrial
development between 1760 and 1820. These dates coincided
with those of the reign of George III, on which Toynbee was
giving a series of lectures at Oxford University. His lectures
were published in 1884, after his untimely death, as a book
called Lectures on the Industrial Revolution in England:
Popular Addresses, Notes and Other Fragments.
Later historians, T.S. Ashton, Paul Mantoux and Eric
Hobsbawm, broadly agreed with Toynbee. There was
remarkable economic growth from the 1780s to 1820 in the
cotton and iron industries, in coal mining, in the building of
roads and canals and in foreign trade. Ashton (1889-1968)
celebrated the Industrial Revolution, when England was
‘swept by a wave of gadgets’.
*In the second one,
after about 1850,
new areas like the
chemical and
electrical industries
expanded. In that
period, Britain fell
behind, and lost its
position as the
world’s leading
industrial power, as
it was overtaken by
Germany and the
USA.
THEME
9
© NCERT
not to be republished
  197
Why Britain?
Britain was the first country to experience modern industrialisation. It
had been politically stable since the seventeenth century, with England,
Wales and Scotland unified under a monarchy. This meant that the
kingdom had common laws, a single currency and a market that was
not fragmented by local authorities levying taxes on goods that passed
through their area, thus increasing their price. By the end of the
seventeenth century, money was widely used as the medium of
exchange. By then a large section of the people received their income
in the form of wages and salaries rather than in goods. This gave
people a wider choice for ways to spend their earnings and expanded
the market for the sale of goods.
In the eighteenth century, England had been through a major
economic change, later described as the ‘agricultural revolution’. This
was the process by which bigger landlords had bought up small farms
near their own properties and enclosed the village common lands, thus
creating very large estates and increasing food production.
This forced landless farmers, and those who had lived by
grazing animals on the common lands, to search for jobs
elsewhere. Most of them went to nearby towns.
Towns, Trade and Finance
From the eighteenth century, many towns in Europe were
growing in area and in population. Out of the 19 European
cities whose population doubled between 1750 and 1800, 11
were in Britain. The largest of them was London, which served
as the hub of the country’s markets, with the next largest
ones located close to it.
London had also acquired a global significance. By the
eighteenth century, the centre of global trade had shifted
from the Mediterranean ports of Italy and France to the
Atlantic ports of Holland and Britain. Still later, London
replaced Amsterdam as the principal source of loans for
international trade. London also became the centre of a
triangular trade network that drew in England, Africa and
the West Indies. The companies trading in America and Asia
also had their offices in London. In England the movement of goods
between markets was helped by a good network of rivers, and an indented
coastline with sheltered bays. Until the spread of railways, transport by
waterways was cheaper and faster than by land. As early as 1724, English
rivers provided some 1,160 miles of navigable water, and except for
mountainous areas, most places in the country were within 15 miles of a
river. Since all the navigable sections of English rivers flow into the sea,
cargo on river vessels was easily transferred to coastal ships called coasters.
By 1800, at least 100,000 sailors worked on the coasters.
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
‘The man of wealth
and pride
Takes up a space that
many poor supplied;
Space for his lake, his
park’s extended bounds,
Space for his horses,
equipage, and hounds;
The robe that wraps his
limbs in silken sloth
Has robbed the
neighbouring fields of half
their growth.’
– Oliver Goldsmith (1728-74),
The Deserted Village.
© NCERT
not to be republished
198  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The centre of the country’s financial system was the Bank of England
(founded in 1694). By 1784, there were more than a hundred provincial
banks in England, and during the next 10 years their numbers trebled.
By the 1820s, there were more than 600 banks in the provinces, and over
100 banks in London alone. The financial requirements to establish and
maintain big industrial enterprises were met by these banks.
The industrialisation that occurred in Britain from the 1780s to the
1850s is explained partly by the factors described above – many poor
people from the villages available to work in towns; banks which could
loan money to set up large industries; and a good transport network.
The following pages will describe two new factors: a range of technological
changes that increased production levels dramatically and a new transport
network created by the construction of railways. In both developments, if
the dates are read carefully, one will notice that there is a gap of a few
decades between the development and its widespread application. One
must not assume that a new innovation in technology led to it being used
in the industry immediately.
Of the 26,000 inventions recorded in the eighteenth century, more
than half were listed for the period 1782-1800. These led to many changes.
We shall discuss the four major ones: the transformation of the iron
industry, the spinning and weaving of cotton, the development of steam
‘power’ and the coming of the railways.
Coal and Iron
England was fortunate in that coal and iron ore, the staple materials for
mechanisation, were plentifully available, as were other minerals – lead,
copper and tin – that were used in industry. However, until the eighteenth
century, there was a scarcity of usable iron. Iron is drawn out from ore as
pure liquid metal by a process called smelting. For centuries, charcoal
(from burnt timber) was used for the smelting process. This had several
problems: charcoal was too fragile to transport across long distances; its
impurities produced poor-quality iron; it was in short supply because
Coalbrookdale: blast-
furnaces (left and
centre) and charcoal-
ovens (right); painting
by F.Vivares, 1758.
ACTIVITY 1
Discuss the
developments in
Britain and in
other parts of the
world in the
eighteenth
century that
encouraged
British
industrialisation.
© NCERT
not to be republished
  199
forests had been destroyed for timber; and it could
not generate high temperatures. 
The solution to this problem had been sought
for years before it was solved by a family of
iron-masters, the Darbys of Shropshire. In the
course of half a century, three generations of
this family – grandfather, father and son, all
called Abraham Darby – brought about a
revolution in the metallurgical industry. It
began with an invention in 1709 by the first
Abraham Darby (1677-1717). This was a blast
furnace that would use coke, which could
generate high temperatures; coke was derived
from coal by removing the sulphur and impurities. This invention
meant that furnaces no longer had to depend on charcoal. The melted
iron that emerged from these furnaces permitted finer and larger
castings than before.
The process was further refined by more inventions. The second
Darby (1711-68) developed wrought-iron (which was less brittle) from
pig-iron. Henry Cort (1740-1823) designed the puddling furnace (in
which molten iron could be rid of impurities) and the rolling mill,
which used steam power to roll purified iron into bars. It now became
possible to produce a broader range of iron products. The durability of
iron made it a better material than wood for
everyday items and for machinery. Unlike
wood, which could burn or splinter, the
physical and chemical properties of iron could
be controlled. In the 1770s, John Wilkinson
(1728-1808) made the first iron chairs, vats
for breweries and distilleries, and iron pipes
of all sizes. In 1779, the third Darby (1750-
91) built the first iron bridge in the world, in
Coalbrookdale, spanning the river Severn*.
Wilkinson used cast iron for the first time to
make water pipes (40 miles of it for the water
supply of Paris).
The iron industry then came to be
concentrated in specific regions as integrated
units of coal mining and iron smelting. 
Britain was lucky in possessing excellent
coking coal and high-grade iron ore in the
same basins or even the same seams. These
basins were also close to ports; there were
five coastal coalfields which could deliver their
products almost straight into ships. Since the
coalfields were near the coast, shipbuilding
increased, as did the shipping trade.
*This area later
grew into the village
called Ironbridge.
The Cast Iron Bridge
near Coalbrookdale,
painting by William
Williams,1780.
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
MAP 1: Britain: The
iron industry
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 5


196  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The Industrial
Revolution
THE transformation of industry and the economy in Britain
between the 1780s and the 1850s is called the ‘first
industrial revolution’*. This had far-reaching effects in Britain.
Later, similar changes occurred in European countries and
in the USA. These were to have a major impact on the society
and economy of those countries and also on the rest of the
world. 
This phase of industrial development in Britain is strongly
associated with new machinery and technologies. These
made it possible to produce goods on a massive scale
compared to handicraft and handloom industries. The chapter
outlines the changes in the cotton and iron industries. Steam,
a new source of power, began to be used on a wide scale in
British industries. Its use led to faster forms of transportation,
by ships and railways. Many of the inventors and
businessmen who brought about these changes were often
neither personally wealthy nor educated in basic sciences
like physics or chemistry, as will be seen from glances into
the backgrounds of some of them. 
Industrialisation led to greater prosperity for some, but in
the initial stages it was linked with poor living and working
conditions of millions of people, including women and
children. This sparked off protests, which forced the
government to enact laws for regulating conditions of work.
The term ‘Industrial Revolution’ was used by European
scholars – Georges Michelet in France and Friedrich Engels
in Germany. It was used for the first time in English by the
philosopher and economist Arnold Toynbee (1852-83), to
describe the changes that occurred in British industrial
development between 1760 and 1820. These dates coincided
with those of the reign of George III, on which Toynbee was
giving a series of lectures at Oxford University. His lectures
were published in 1884, after his untimely death, as a book
called Lectures on the Industrial Revolution in England:
Popular Addresses, Notes and Other Fragments.
Later historians, T.S. Ashton, Paul Mantoux and Eric
Hobsbawm, broadly agreed with Toynbee. There was
remarkable economic growth from the 1780s to 1820 in the
cotton and iron industries, in coal mining, in the building of
roads and canals and in foreign trade. Ashton (1889-1968)
celebrated the Industrial Revolution, when England was
‘swept by a wave of gadgets’.
*In the second one,
after about 1850,
new areas like the
chemical and
electrical industries
expanded. In that
period, Britain fell
behind, and lost its
position as the
world’s leading
industrial power, as
it was overtaken by
Germany and the
USA.
THEME
9
© NCERT
not to be republished
  197
Why Britain?
Britain was the first country to experience modern industrialisation. It
had been politically stable since the seventeenth century, with England,
Wales and Scotland unified under a monarchy. This meant that the
kingdom had common laws, a single currency and a market that was
not fragmented by local authorities levying taxes on goods that passed
through their area, thus increasing their price. By the end of the
seventeenth century, money was widely used as the medium of
exchange. By then a large section of the people received their income
in the form of wages and salaries rather than in goods. This gave
people a wider choice for ways to spend their earnings and expanded
the market for the sale of goods.
In the eighteenth century, England had been through a major
economic change, later described as the ‘agricultural revolution’. This
was the process by which bigger landlords had bought up small farms
near their own properties and enclosed the village common lands, thus
creating very large estates and increasing food production.
This forced landless farmers, and those who had lived by
grazing animals on the common lands, to search for jobs
elsewhere. Most of them went to nearby towns.
Towns, Trade and Finance
From the eighteenth century, many towns in Europe were
growing in area and in population. Out of the 19 European
cities whose population doubled between 1750 and 1800, 11
were in Britain. The largest of them was London, which served
as the hub of the country’s markets, with the next largest
ones located close to it.
London had also acquired a global significance. By the
eighteenth century, the centre of global trade had shifted
from the Mediterranean ports of Italy and France to the
Atlantic ports of Holland and Britain. Still later, London
replaced Amsterdam as the principal source of loans for
international trade. London also became the centre of a
triangular trade network that drew in England, Africa and
the West Indies. The companies trading in America and Asia
also had their offices in London. In England the movement of goods
between markets was helped by a good network of rivers, and an indented
coastline with sheltered bays. Until the spread of railways, transport by
waterways was cheaper and faster than by land. As early as 1724, English
rivers provided some 1,160 miles of navigable water, and except for
mountainous areas, most places in the country were within 15 miles of a
river. Since all the navigable sections of English rivers flow into the sea,
cargo on river vessels was easily transferred to coastal ships called coasters.
By 1800, at least 100,000 sailors worked on the coasters.
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
‘The man of wealth
and pride
Takes up a space that
many poor supplied;
Space for his lake, his
park’s extended bounds,
Space for his horses,
equipage, and hounds;
The robe that wraps his
limbs in silken sloth
Has robbed the
neighbouring fields of half
their growth.’
– Oliver Goldsmith (1728-74),
The Deserted Village.
© NCERT
not to be republished
198  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The centre of the country’s financial system was the Bank of England
(founded in 1694). By 1784, there were more than a hundred provincial
banks in England, and during the next 10 years their numbers trebled.
By the 1820s, there were more than 600 banks in the provinces, and over
100 banks in London alone. The financial requirements to establish and
maintain big industrial enterprises were met by these banks.
The industrialisation that occurred in Britain from the 1780s to the
1850s is explained partly by the factors described above – many poor
people from the villages available to work in towns; banks which could
loan money to set up large industries; and a good transport network.
The following pages will describe two new factors: a range of technological
changes that increased production levels dramatically and a new transport
network created by the construction of railways. In both developments, if
the dates are read carefully, one will notice that there is a gap of a few
decades between the development and its widespread application. One
must not assume that a new innovation in technology led to it being used
in the industry immediately.
Of the 26,000 inventions recorded in the eighteenth century, more
than half were listed for the period 1782-1800. These led to many changes.
We shall discuss the four major ones: the transformation of the iron
industry, the spinning and weaving of cotton, the development of steam
‘power’ and the coming of the railways.
Coal and Iron
England was fortunate in that coal and iron ore, the staple materials for
mechanisation, were plentifully available, as were other minerals – lead,
copper and tin – that were used in industry. However, until the eighteenth
century, there was a scarcity of usable iron. Iron is drawn out from ore as
pure liquid metal by a process called smelting. For centuries, charcoal
(from burnt timber) was used for the smelting process. This had several
problems: charcoal was too fragile to transport across long distances; its
impurities produced poor-quality iron; it was in short supply because
Coalbrookdale: blast-
furnaces (left and
centre) and charcoal-
ovens (right); painting
by F.Vivares, 1758.
ACTIVITY 1
Discuss the
developments in
Britain and in
other parts of the
world in the
eighteenth
century that
encouraged
British
industrialisation.
© NCERT
not to be republished
  199
forests had been destroyed for timber; and it could
not generate high temperatures. 
The solution to this problem had been sought
for years before it was solved by a family of
iron-masters, the Darbys of Shropshire. In the
course of half a century, three generations of
this family – grandfather, father and son, all
called Abraham Darby – brought about a
revolution in the metallurgical industry. It
began with an invention in 1709 by the first
Abraham Darby (1677-1717). This was a blast
furnace that would use coke, which could
generate high temperatures; coke was derived
from coal by removing the sulphur and impurities. This invention
meant that furnaces no longer had to depend on charcoal. The melted
iron that emerged from these furnaces permitted finer and larger
castings than before.
The process was further refined by more inventions. The second
Darby (1711-68) developed wrought-iron (which was less brittle) from
pig-iron. Henry Cort (1740-1823) designed the puddling furnace (in
which molten iron could be rid of impurities) and the rolling mill,
which used steam power to roll purified iron into bars. It now became
possible to produce a broader range of iron products. The durability of
iron made it a better material than wood for
everyday items and for machinery. Unlike
wood, which could burn or splinter, the
physical and chemical properties of iron could
be controlled. In the 1770s, John Wilkinson
(1728-1808) made the first iron chairs, vats
for breweries and distilleries, and iron pipes
of all sizes. In 1779, the third Darby (1750-
91) built the first iron bridge in the world, in
Coalbrookdale, spanning the river Severn*.
Wilkinson used cast iron for the first time to
make water pipes (40 miles of it for the water
supply of Paris).
The iron industry then came to be
concentrated in specific regions as integrated
units of coal mining and iron smelting. 
Britain was lucky in possessing excellent
coking coal and high-grade iron ore in the
same basins or even the same seams. These
basins were also close to ports; there were
five coastal coalfields which could deliver their
products almost straight into ships. Since the
coalfields were near the coast, shipbuilding
increased, as did the shipping trade.
*This area later
grew into the village
called Ironbridge.
The Cast Iron Bridge
near Coalbrookdale,
painting by William
Williams,1780.
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
MAP 1: Britain: The
iron industry
© NCERT
not to be republished
200  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The British iron industry quadrupled its output between 1800 and
1830, and its product was the cheapest in Europe. In 1820, a ton of
pig iron needed 8 tons of coal to make it, but by 1850 it could be
produced by using only 2 tons. By 1848, Britain was smelting more
iron than the rest of the world put together.
Cotton Spinning and Weaving  
The British had always woven cloth out of wool and flax (to make
linen). From the seventeenth century, the country had been importing
bales of cotton cloth from India at great cost. As the East India
Company’s political control of parts of India was established, it began
to import, along with cloth, raw cotton, which could be spun and
woven into cloth in England. 
Till the early eighteenth century, spinning had been so slow and
laborious that 10 spinners (mostly women, hence the word ‘spinster’)
were required to supply sufficient yarn to keep a single weaver busy.
Therefore, while spinners were occupied all day, weavers waited idly to
receive yarn. But a series of technological inventions successfully closed
the gap between the speed in spinning raw cotton into yarn or thread,
and of weaving the yarn into fabric. To make it even more efficient,
production gradually shifted from the homes of spinners and weavers
to factories.
From the 1780s, the cotton industry symbolised British industrialisation
in many ways. This industry had two features which were also seen in
other industries.
Raw cotton had to be entirely imported and a large part of the
finished cloth was exported. This sustained the process of colonisation,
Manpower (in this
picture, woman-
power) worked
the treadmill that
lowered the lid of
the cotton press.
ACTIVITY 2
Ironbridge Gorge
is today a major
‘heritage site’.
Can you suggest
why?
© NCERT
not to be republished
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