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Industrial Revolution

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The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and transport had a profound effect on the socioeconomic and cultural conditions starting in the United Kingdom, then subsequently spreading throughout Europe, North America, and eventually the world. The onset of the Industrial Revolution marked a major turning point in human history; almost every aspect of daily life was eventually influenced in some way.

Starting in the later part of the 18th century there began a transition in parts of Great Britain's previously manual labor and draft-animal-based economy towards machine-based manufacturing. It started with the mechanisation of the textile industries, the development of iron-making techniques and the increased use of refined coal. Trade expansion was enabled by the introduction of canals, improved roads and railways. The introduction of steam power fuelled primarily by coal, wider utilisation of water wheels and powered machinery (mainly in textile manufacturing) underpinned the dramatic increases in production capacity. The development of all-metal machine tools in the first two decades of the 19th century facilitated the manufacture of more production machines for manufacturing in other industries. The effects spread throughout Western Europe and North America during the 19th century, eventually affecting most of the world, a process that continues as industrialization. The impact of this change on society was enormous.

The first Industrial Revolution, which began in the 18th century, merged into the Second Industrial Revolution around 1850, when technological and economic progress gained momentum with the development of steam-powered ships, railways, and later in the 19th century with the internal combustion engine and electrical power generation. The period of time covered by the Industrial Revolution varies with different historians. Eric Hobsbawm held that it 'broke out' in Britain in the 1780s and was not fully felt until the 1830s or 1840s, while T. S. Ashton held that it occurred roughly between 1760 and 1830. Some twentieth century historians such as John Clapham and Nicholas Crafts have argued that the process of economic and social change took place gradually and the term revolution is not a true description of what took place. This is still a subject of debate among historians. GDP per capita was broadly stable before the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the modern capitalist economy.[9] The Industrial Revolution began an era of per-capita economic growth in capitalist economies. Historians agree that the Industrial Revolution was one of the most important events in history.


The commencement of the Industrial Revolution is closely linked to a small number of innovations, made in the second half of the 18th century:

* Textiles - Cotton spinning using Richard Arkwright's water frame, James Hargreaves's Spinning Jenny, and Samuel Crompton's Spinning Mule (a combination of the Spinning Jenny and the Water Frame). This was patented in 1769 and so came out of patent in 1783. The end of the patent was rapidly followed by the erection of many cotton mills. Similar technology was subsequently applied to spinning worsted yarn for various textiles and flax for linen.

* Steam power - The improved steam engine invented by James Watt and patented in 1775 was initially mainly used for pumping out mines, but from the 1780s was applied to power machines. This enabled rapid development of efficient semi-automated factories on a previously unimaginable scale in places where waterpower was not available.

* Iron founding - In the Iron industry, coke was finally applied to all stages of iron smelting, replacing charcoal. This had been achieved much earlier for lead and copper as well as for producing pig iron in a blast furnace, but the second stage in the production of bar iron depended on the use of potting and stamping (for which a patent expired in 1786) or puddling (patented by Henry Cort in 1783 and 1784).

These represent three 'leading sectors', in which there were key innovations, which allowed the economic take off by which the Industrial Revolution is usually defined. This is not to belittle many other inventions, particularly in the textile industry. Without some earlier ones, such as the spinning jenny and flying shuttle in the textile industry and the smelting of pig iron with coke, these achievements might have been impossible. Later inventions such as the power loom and Richard Trevithick's high pressure steam engine were also important in the growing industrialization of Britain. The application of steam engines to powering cotton mills and ironworks enabled these to be built in places that were most convenient because other resources were available, rather than where there was water to power a watermill.

In the textile sector, such mills became the model for the organization of human labor in factories, epitomised by Cottonopolis, the name given to the vast collection of cotton mills, factories and administration offices based in Manchester. The assembly line system greatly improved efficiency, both in this and other industries. With a series of men trained to do a single task on a product, then having it moved along to the next worker, the number of finished goods also rose significantly.

Also important was the 1756 rediscovery of concrete (based on hydraulic lime mortar) by the British engineer John Smeaton, which had been lost for 13 centuries.[13]

Transfer of knowledge

Informal philosophical societies spread scientific advances

Knowledge of new innovation was spread by several means. Workers who were trained in the technique might move to another employer or might be poached. A common method was for someone to make a study tour, gathering information where he could. During the whole of the Industrial Revolution and for the century before, all European countries and America engaged in study-touring; some nations, like Sweden and France, even trained civil servants or technicians to undertake it as a matter of state policy. In other countries, notably Britain and America, this practice was carried out by individual manufacturers anxious to improve their own methods. Study tours were common then, as now, as was the keeping of travel diaries. Records made by industrialists and technicians of the period are an incomparable source of information about their methods.

Another means for the spread of innovation was by the network



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