Remember that to be called a Marker Event in world history,
a development should qualify in three ways:
- It must cross national or
cultural borders, affecting many civilizations.
- Later changes or developments
in history must be at least partially traced to this event or series of
- It must have impact in other
areas. For example, if it is a technological change, it must impact some
other major areas, like government, belief systems, social classes, or the
Like the Neolithic Revolution that occurred 10,000 years before it, the
Industrial Revolution qualifies as a Marker Event according to all of the above
criteria. It brought about such sweeping changes that it virtually transformed
the world, even areas in which industrialization did not occur. The concept
seems simple &endash; invent and perfect machinery to help make human labor
more efficient - but that's part of its importance. The change was so basic
that it could not help but affect all areas of people's lives in every part of
The Industrial Revolution began in England
in the late 18th century, and spread during the 19th century to Belgium,
France, the United States,
Almost all areas of the world felt the effects of the Industrial Revolution
because it divided the world into "have" and "have not"
countries, with many of the latter being controlled by the former. England's
lead in the Industrial Revolution translated into economic prowess and
political power that allowed colonization of other lands, eventually building a
worldwide British Empire.
The Industrial Revolution helped England
greatly increase its output of manufactured goods by substituting hand labor
with machine labor. Economic growth in Britain
was fueled by a number of factors:
- An Agricultural Revolution -
The Industrial Revolution would not have been possible without a series of
improvements in agriculture in England.
Beginning in the early1700s, wealthy landowners began to enlarge their
farms through enclosure, or fencing or hedging large blocks of land for
experiments with new techniques of farming. These scientific farmers
improved crop rotation methods, which carefully controlled nutrients in
the soil. They bred better livestock, and invented new machines, such as
Jethro Tull's seed drill that more effectively planted seeds. The larger
the farms and the better the production the fewer farmers were needed.
Farmers pushed out of their jobs by enclosure either became tenant farmers
or they moved to cities. Better nutrition boosted England's
population, creating the first necessary component for the Industrial
- A technological revolution - England
also was the first to experience a technological revolution, a series of
inventions built on the principles of mass production, mechanization, and
interchangeable parts. Josiah Wedgwood developed a mold for pottery that
replaced the potters wheel, making mass
production of dishes possible. Many experimented with machinery to speed
up human labor, and interchangeable parts meant that machines were more
practical and easier to repair.
- Natural resources - Britain
had large and accessible supplies of coal and iron - two of the most
important raw materials used to produce the goods for the early Industrial
Revolution. Also available was water power to fuel the new machines,
harbors for its merchant ships, and rivers for inland transportation.
- Economic strength - During
the previous era, Britain
had already built many of the economic practices and structures necessary
for economic expansion, as well as a middle class (the bourgeoisie) that
had experience with trading and manufacturing goods. Banks were well
established, and they provided loans for businessmen to invest in new
machinery and expand their operations.
- Political stability - Britain's
political development during this period was fairly stable, with no major
internal upheavals occurring. Although Britain
took part in many wars during the 1700s, none of them took place on
British soil, and its citizens did not seriously question the government's
authority. By 1750 Parliament's power far exceeded that of the king, and
its members passed laws that protected business and helped expansion.
The earliest transformation of the Industrial Revolution was Britain's
textile industry. In 1750 Britain
already exported wool, linen, and cotton cloth, and the profits of cloth
merchants were boosted by speeding up the process by which spinners and weavers
made cloth. One invention led to another since none were useful if any part of
the process was slower than the others. Some key inventions were:
- The flying shuttle - John
Kay's invention carried threads of yarn back and forth when the weaver
pulled a handle, greatly increasing the weavers' productivity.
- The spinning jenny - James
Hargreaves' invention allowed one spinner to work eight threads at a time,
increasing the output of spinners, allowing them to keep up with the
weavers. Hargreaves named the machine for his daughter.
- The water frame - Richard
Arkwright's invention replaced the hand-driven spinning jenny with one
powered by water power, increasing spinning productivity even more.
- The spinning mule - In 1779,
Samuel Crompton combined features of the spinning jenny and the water
frame to produce the spinning mule. It made thread that was stronger,
finer, and more consistent than that made by earlier machines. He followed
this invention with the power loom that sped up the weaving process to
match the new spinners.
These machines were bulky and expensive, so spinning and weaving could no
longer be done at home. Wealthy textile merchants set up the machines in
factories, and had the workers come to these places to do their work. At first
the factories were set up near rivers and streams for water power, but other
inventions later made this unnecessary. Before the late 1700s Britain's
demand for cotton was met by India,
but they increasingly came to depend on the American south, where plantation
production was speeded by Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin, a machine
that efficiently separated the cotton fiber from the seed. By 1810 southern
plantations used slave labor to produce 85 million pounds of cotton, up from
1.5 million in 1790.
Once the textile industry began its exponential growth, transportation of
raw materials to factories and manufactured goods to customers had to be worked
out. New inventions in transportation spurred the Industrial Revolution
further. A key invention was the steam engine that was perfected by James Watt
in the late 1790s. Although steam power had been used before, Watt invented
ways to make it practical and efficient to use for both water and land
Perhaps the most revolutionary use of steam energy was the railroad engine,
which drove English industry after 1820. The first long-distance rail line from
the coastal city of Liverpool to
inland Manchester was an immediate
success upon its completion in 1830, and within a few decades, most British
cities were connected by rail. Railroads revolutionized life in Britain
in several ways:
1) Railroads gave manufacturers a cheap way to transport materials and
2) The railroad boom created hundreds of thousands of new jobs for both
railroad workers and miners.
3) The railroad industry spawned new industries and inventions and increased
the productivity of others. For example, agricultural products could be
transported farther without spoiling, so farmers benefited from the railroads.
4) Railroads transported people, allowing them to work in cities far away
from their homes and travel to resort areas for leisure.
THE SPREAD OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
The Industrial Revolution occurred only in Britain
for about 50 years, but it eventually spread to other countries in Europe,
the United States,
Russia, and Japan.
British entrepreneurs and government officials forbade the export of machinery,
manufacturing techniques, and skilled workers to other countries but the
technologies spread by luring British experts with lucrative offers, and even
smuggling secrets into other countries. By the mid-19th century
industrialization had spread to France,
and the United States.
The earliest center of industrial production in continental Europe
where coal, iron, textile, glass, and armaments production flourished. By 1830
French firms had employed many skilled British workers to help establish the
textile industry, and railroad lines began to appear across western
was a little later in developing industry, mainly because no centralized government
existed there yet, and a great deal of political unrest made industrialization
difficult. However, after the 1840s German coal and iron production
skyrocketed, and by the 1850s an extensive rail network was under construction.
After German political unification in 1871, the new empire rivaled England
in terms of industrial production.
Industrialization began in the United States
by the 1820s, delayed until the country had enough laborers and money to invest
in business. Both came from Europe, where overpopulation
and political revolutions sent immigrants to the United
States to seek their fortunes. The American
Civil War (1861-1865) delayed further immigration until the 1870s, but it
spurred the need for industrial war products, all the way from soldiers'
uniforms to guns to railroads for troop transport. Once the war was over,
cross-country railroads were built which allowed more people to claim parts of
vast inland America
and to reach the west coast. The United States
had abundant natural resources &endash; land, water, coal and iron ore
&endash; and after the great wave of immigration from Europe
and Asia in the late 19th century &endash; it also
had the labor.
During the late 1800s, industrialization spread to Russia
and Japan, in
both cases by government initiatives. In Russia
the tsarist government encouraged the construction of railroads to link places
within the vast reaches of the empire. The most impressive one was the
Trans-Siberian line constructed between 1891 and 1904, linking Moscow
to Vladivostock on the Pacific Ocean. The railroads also
gave Russians access to the empire's many coal and iron deposits, and by 1900 Russia
ranked fourth in the world in steel production. The Japanese government also
pushed industrialization, hiring thousands of foreign experts to instruct
Japanese workers and mangers in the late 1800s. Railroads were constructed,
mines were opened, a banking system was organized, and industries were started
that produced ships, armaments, silk, cotton, chemicals, and glass. By 1900 Japan
was the most industrialized land in Asia, and was set to
become a 20th century power.
CHANGES IN PATTERNS OF WORLD TRADE
Industrialization greatly increased the economic, military, and political
strength of the societies that embraced it. By and large, the countries that
benefited from industrialization were the ones that had the necessary
components of land, labor and capital, and often government support. However,
even though many other countries tried to industrialize, few had much success.
For example, India
tried to develop jute and steel industries, but the entrepreneurs failed
because they had no government support and little investment capital. An
international division of labor resulted: people in industrialized countries
produced manufactured products, and people in less industrialized countries
produced the raw materials necessary for that production. Industrial England,
for example, needed cotton, so turned to India,
Egypt, and the
American south to produce it for them. In many cases this division of labor led
to colonization of the non-industrialized areas. As industrialization
increased, more iron and coal were needed, as well as other fibers for the
textile industry, and the British Empire grew rapidly in
order to meet these demands.
Many countries in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa,
south Asia, and southeast Asia
became highly dependent on one cash crop - such as sugar, cotton, and rubber -
giving them the nickname of "Banana Republics." Such economies were
very vulnerable to any change in the international market. Foreign investors
owned and controlled the plantations that produced these crops, and most of the
profits went to them. Very little of the profits actually improved the living
conditions for people that lived in those areas, and since they had little
money to spend, a market economy could not develop.
Despite the inequalities, the division of labor between people in countries
that produced raw materials and those that produced manufactured goods
increased the total volume of world trade. In turn, this increased volume led
to better technology, which reinforced and fed the trade. Sea travel became
much more efficient, with journeys that had once taken months or years reduced
to days or weeks. By 1914 two great canals shortened sea
journeys by thousands of miles. The Suez Canal built by the British and
French in the 1850s linked the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, making it no
longer necessary to go around the tip of Africa to get from Europe to Asia by
sea. The Panama Canal, completed in 1913, did a similar
thing in the western hemisphere, cutting a swath through Central
America that encouraged trade and transportation between the Atlantic
and Pacific Oceans.