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Causes of the Early Industrial Revolution

The period of 1760 to 1851 was marked by huge leaps in the technological and industrial fronts of man and gave rise to the manufacturing powerhouse of Western nations in Europe. Such growth was in effect a byproduct of numerous influences and has profound impact on the world as we now know today.

The Early Industrial revolution began primarily in the Great Britain during the 1760s until 1851 and was marked by drastic major changes in agricultural, manufacturing, and transportation sectors, which had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions in Britain (initially) and the rest of Continental Europe and eventually the US and the world.

Causes of the Industrial Revolution

  1. Population Growth

    The end of Feudalism and the English civil war all played a role in the population growth. Disease resistance grew as survivors of various plagues and diseases began to bear more children that were resistant to these diseases. Early marriages among young couples in society began to also lead to higher birth rate so more the population makeup was characterized by a large young population because of these children.  The direct result of the young population was large labor workforce that was made available throughout Britain and Europe.  People also began to migrate in large numbers to cities and began to develop new methods of labor like the factory systems.

  2. Agricultural Revolution

    The agricultural revolution began well before the 18th century with the introduction of new crops from the New World into the European society. The rise of new staple foods rich in carbs needed to sustain large populations such as Potatoes  were readily available throughout Britain (Ireland) and Europe. The Columbian exchanged played a huge role in this as new products were shipped into Europe from the New Work as well as development of colonial workforce (slaves) for intense labor conditions (sugar and cotton production). The cattle industry as well as the cattle production was increased so more alternative foods (dairy products) were mass produced. The enclosure movement by wealthy landowners in Britain led to more privatization of land instead of open grazing lands used by the commons. Thus the tragedy of the commons was avoided at the same time, the profits and fruits of the land were more exclusive to the landowner. It also gave rise of tenant workers and landless laborers throughout Britain. Such people began to move into cities to seek better employment opportunities as more food enabled specialization to develop in the various aspects of society.

  3. Trade and Inventiveness

    The driving force behind all of this development was demand. It is often said that “necessity is the mother of all inventions” but that can readily be rephrased as “Demand is the mother of all inventions.” Thus the increased demand for goods leads to increased stresses for more production. This was a contributing factor in slavery for cash crop production as well as the technological invocations such as the assembly line, replaceable parts and factory style intense labor system that developed in the cities. The development of the “Putting out system” or a form of subcontracting work where certain elements of labor was given to various individuals to do at their own facilities (usually at home or within your factory or workshop) was in full swing. In general, Europe was fascinated by technology and driven largely by the Enlightenment principles to understand the world and solve social problems through technology and scientific methods.

  4. Conditions in Britain and continental Europe

    Britain was most unique in this time period. As wars raged throughout Europe, Britain finished its civil war and ended the Feudalistic system to the replaced by a constitutional monarchy and thus peace was relatively existent throughout Britain. This led to large economic growth as a strong merchant marine class developed in Britain. The population growth also enabled a larger workforce and gave rise to various new ideas for further social development. The social structure was also well established with a lot of fluidity for success and rise in wealth. Britain, since it was a island, has to establish good naval and water transportation systems so when it came to the industrial revolution, this well established water transportation system played a large role in helping to trade with nations in Europe and into Asia (as well as Africa) and contributed to acquiring the various natural resources needed to manufacturing.

    Thus the highly developed commercial system marked by Mercantilism and foreign trade was essential for the industrial development in Britain. Continental Europe only began to catch up with Britain and develop the same industrial progression as Britain much later. This was largely due to the wars that plagued Europe from 1789 to 1815 and this impeded economic and technological growth as people were unwilling to invest in infrastructure due to the risks involved and losses from the war. After the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, Europe rushed into an age of technological and Industrial development and reaches on the same level as Britain in a relatively short time. Belgium and France were the two nations that were remarkably successful in this sector of industrialization after the end of Napoleonic wars.

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