The Industrial Revolution In Great Britain And Its Subsequent Rise In Other Countries

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An analysis of the progress of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain and its inexorable spread to other countries, which soon industrialized rapidly.
    The Industrial Revolution had its beginnings in Great Britain in the first half of the eighteenth century.  By 1850, the Industrial Revolution had made Great Britain the wealthiest country in the world, but by the end of the nineteenth century it had managed to spread to continental Europe and the United States.

     In the 1840s, the British Samuel Slater brought to the United States his knowledge of industrialization and established a modified water-powered jenny.  However, the revolution was slow to spread because of a lack of ease of transportation that made transporting goods in America very expensive.  This problem was soon solved, however, as the railroad industry boomed and entrepreneurs invested to build a 6,000 mile railroad system in America by 1850.  In addition, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River became an important transportational addition with the invention of the steamboat.

An early spinning genny - Image Source

     In continental Europe, the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars had periodically shut off communication with Britain and left France severely damaged.  While Britain advanced with new inventions such as the powerloom, spinning jenny, and the steam engine, France and several other countries were trying to cope with damaged ports.  In France especially, the Industrial Revolution was slow to spread as it was constantly involved in wars and thus had not the funds to invest in an efficient infrastructure.  Moreover, internal trade barriers and tariffs had prohibited trade and damaged the countries of mainland Europe.

     In Britain, however, there were no internal trade barriers and the government promoted a free private enterprise system, in addition to passing laws that protected private property.  Aside from Britain's immensely important and revolutionary inventions, it also had a vast market and could supply on demand.  By the end of the eighteenth century's conquests, Britain could trade with its vast colonial empire, which included markets in the Americas, Africa, India, Canada, and later China.  Moreover, since Britain itself was a small country with a strong infrastructure, ease of transportation allowed quick movement of manufactured goods and most importantly, ideas.  The creation of a national bank and sophisticated credit facilities assured that like nowhere else in Europe, the British people were accustomed to using paper instruments to facilitate financial transactions.  By the time of Britain's Great Exhibition, the world's first industrial fair, Britain had asserted itself as the leading manufacturer and power.  Britain produced half of the world's coal and manufactured goods, and its cotton industry was equal to the industries of all countries in Europe combined.  In 1851, Britain produced 3 million tons of iron, more than the rest of the world combined and imported 366 pounds of cotton annually to fuel its cotton industry.  In Britain alone families did not spend all of their incomes on food and thus could buy manufactured goods or put their savings in banks, which re-invested in the industries.  However, Britain eventually reached a plateau and did not continue to maintain itself at the top of the manufacturing industry.

The Great Exhibition of 1851, held at the Crystal Palace - Image Source

     In Germany and the United States, workers from Britain introduced ideas and technology, which later allowed Germany and the United States to surpass Britain in industrial production.  In continental Europe, national banks and joint-stock companies were introduced, while in the United States interchangeable parts revolutionized all industries.  Most importantly, governments removed restrictions that allowed productivity.

© 2010 Gregory Markov

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