Chapter 18 • Revolutions of Industrialization


II. Explaining the Industrial Revolution



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II. Explaining the Industrial Revolution

A. At the heart of the Industrial Revolution lay a great acceleration in the rate of technological innovation, leading to enormous increases in the output of goods and services.

1. use of new energy sources (steam engines, petroleum engines)

2. in Britain, output increased some fiftyfold in the period 1750–1900

3. based on a “culture of innovation”

4. before 1750/1800, the major Eurasian civilizations were about equal technologically



5. greatest breakthrough was the steam engine

a. soon spread from the textile industry to many other types of production

b. agriculture was transformed

6. spread from Britain to Western Europe, then to the United States, Russia, and Japan

B. Why Europe?

1. many scholars have debated why industrialization appeared first in Great Britain, and why it started in the late nineteenth century

2. that view has been challenged by:

a. the fact that other parts of the world have had times of great technological and scientific flourishing

b. the fact that Europe did not enjoy any overall economic advantage as late as 1750

c. the rapid spread of industrial techniques to much of the world in the past 250 years

3. contemporary historians tend to see the Industrial Revolution as a rather quick and unexpected eruption in the period 1750–1850

4. why it might have occurred in Europe

a. some patterns of European internal development favored innovation

b. European rulers had an unusual alliance with merchant classes

5. other societies developed market-based economies by the eighteenth century (e.g., Japan, India, and China)

a. but Europe was at the center of the most varied exchange network

b. contact with culturally different peoples encouraged change and innovation

c. the Americas provided silver, raw materials, and foods

C. Why Britain?

1. Britain was the most commercialized of Europe’s larger countries

a. small farmers had been pushed out (enclosure movement)

b. market production fueled by a number of agricultural innovations

c. guilds had largely disappeared

2. ready supply of industrial workers with few options

3. British aristocrats were interested in commerce

4. British commerce was worldwide

5. British political life encouraged commercialization and economic innovation

a. policy of religious toleration (established 1688) welcomed people with technical skills regardless of faith

b. British government imposed tariffs to protect its businessmen

c. it was easy to form companies and forbid workers’ unions

d. unified internal market, thanks to road and canal system

e. patent laws protected inventors’ interests

f. checks on royal authority gave more room for private enterprise

6. emphasis of the Scientific Revolution was different in Great Britain

a. on the continent: logic, deduction, mathematical reasoning

b. in Britain: observation and experiment, measurement, mechanical devices, practical applications

c. in Britain, artisan/craftsman inventors were in close contact with scientists and entrepreneurs

d. the British Royal Society (founded 1660) took the role of promoting “useful knowledge”

7. Britain had plenty of coal and iron ore, often conveniently located

8. Britain was not devastated by the Napoleonic wars

9. social change was possible without revolution






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