The Industrial Revolution: Country Trends


Figure 1.--One of the great questions in history and economics is why the industrial revolution occurred first in Britain. Throughout the medieval Europe and into the modern age, China was a much richer society and the source of the most important technological advances. In Europe, France was the wealtiest country, oweing to the richness of the soil and agriucultural productivity. Here we see farmers in Brittany (Bretange) threashing. Modern finance and banking ws born in Italy. Yet it was in England that the industrial revolution occurred. And evn more interesting, it was in the tiny Netherlands that capitalism was born. Why these two small counties played a central role in two such imprtant areas. It is perhaps no accident that in these two reltively small countries were where royal absolutism was first constrained and democracy began to grow.

Britain led the way into the Industrial Revolution. One historian writes, "Great Britain was the pioneer and a portent for the world's future economic organization." [Ashworth, p. 7.] One of the great questions in history and economics, but rarely asked in our modern politiclly corect world, is why this first occurred in Britain and not other richer countries like France or China. It is no accident that the Industrial Revolution was first centered in Britain a variety of factors coallesed that brought this about. A primary factor was that Britain was at the center of scientific debate and experimentation. One factor here was that like the rest of the Protestant north of Europe was that Britain was free of the Holy Office of the Inquisition which as the result of the suppression of Galieo (1564-1642) and other inquisitive minds discouraged or prevented scientific thought to varying degrees in Italy, Spain, and other countries of the Catholic South. The Inquisition not only curtailed scientific thought, but because it also attacked usury, also curtailed economic sevelopment. A year after Gaileo's death, Sir Issac Newton (1643-1727) was born in England. His work meant that by the beginning of the 18th century that English and other scientists and tinkerers had through the Newtonian system a more sophisticated understanding of the fundamental laws of physics than ever before. Another factor in Britain's emergence as the center of the Industrial Revolution was English law. The limitations on absolutist, often aribitary rule. This promoted the interests of the middleclass and yeoman farmers, creating an interest and rewarding those able to put the increasingly important scientific discoveries to practical purpose. While more attention is given to the technolgical developments, underlying English law protecting property rights are a key factor in the economic utilization of the technical inovations. The abundant supplies of coal in Britian combined with the technological advances by British inventors were key elements explaining why Britain led the way in European industrial expansion. The Royal Navy and the acquiisition of colonies, especially India, helped create markets for Britain's expanding production. Other countries followed Britain in the 19th century. The process varied from country to country. The United States benefitted greatly by its linguistic and cultural ties even after separting politically as a result of the Revolutionary War (1776-83). Belgium was the first Continental country to experience the Industrial Revolution. Gradually similar developments spread to the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Austria, and the German states. The industrial revolution in Germany had its own unique characteristics. The state played a greater role in direction the Prussian/German industrial revolution than was he case in Britainy and America. Japan would be the first industrial country in Asia.

Britain

Britain led the way into the Industrial Revolution. One historian writes, "Great Britain was the pioneer and a portent for the world's future economic organization." [Ashworth, p. 7.] One of the great questions in history and economics, but rarely asked in our modern politiclly corect world, is why this first occurred in Britain and not other richer countries like France or China. It is no accident that the Industrial Revolution was first centered in Britain a variety of factors coallesed that brought this about. The first important factor was that Britain was at the center of scientific debate and experimentation. One factor here was that like the rest of the Protestant north of Europe was that Britain was free of the Holy Office of the Inquisition which as the result of the suppression of Galieo (1564-1642) and other inquisitive minds discouraged or prevented scientific thought to varying degrees in Italy, Spain, and other countries of the Catholic South. The Inquisition not only curtailed scientific thought, but because it also attacked usury, also curtailed economic sevelopment. A year after Gaileo's death, Sir Issac Newton (1643-1727) was born in England. His work meant that by the beginning of the 18th century that English and other scientists and tinkerers had through the Newtonian system a more sophisticated understanding of the fundamental laws of physics than ever before. The second factor was Britain's emergence as the center of the Industrial Revolution was English law. The limitations on absolutist, often aribitary rule. This promoted the interests of the middleclass and yeoman farmers, creating an interest and rewarding those able to put the increasingly important scientific discoveries to practical purpose. While more attention is given to the technolgical developments, underlying English law protecting property rights are a key factor in the economic utilization of the technical inovations. The third factor was the abundant supplies of raw materias (coal and iron) in Britian. Much of the indistrialization took place in the English Midlands. The coal and iron was located just to he west in Wales. Thus scientific inquiry, English law, and avaiable raw material combine to explain why Britain led the way in European industrial expansion. The Royal Navy and the acquiisition of colonies, especially India, helped create markets for Britain's expanding production.

America

The United States benefitted greatly by its linguistic and cultural ties even after separting politically as a result of the Revolutionary War (1776-83). Along with immigrants from Germany and other indudtrilizing countries, America quickly acquired advanves being made in Europe. The British origins was a great advantage to the United States. It meant that among the immigrants to America were Britons with a wide range of technical skills. Along with them, the American commitment to free market capitalism and the rule of law created the stable conditioins for foreign investments. The British were especilly active. The British-based legal system facilitated economic development and guaranteed contracts. And the free market outlook of most Amnericans prevented Government interference which had impeded economic development in many European countries. While the British legal tradition was vital for America, the Revolution was also necessary for America's own industrial revolution. This was Britain saw America as an adjunct for the British economy. America's role to provide agricultural products and raw materials and to serve as a market for British manufactuers. Laws restructured the development of American manufacturing. This was only possible after America achieved its independenc. American policies toward public schools also resulted in a well-educated population. These factors combined with abundant natural resources created favorable conditions for the spread of the industral revolution to the United States. This set the fondation for the United States emergence as the most technologically advanced country in the world. Especially important was the availability of cheap energy. Intially this meant seemingly inexhustable forrests and rivers, but as the industrial revolution developed emense coalfields and then oil fuel America's indudtrial expansion. Even before the Revolution (1776-83) America had constructed a substantial merchant fleet, but inland commerce was at first dependant on rivers. This changed with the contruction of first canals and than railroads.

Belgium

Belgium was the first Continental country to experience the Industrial Revolution.

Netherlands


France


Germany

The industrial revolution in Germany had its own unique characteristics. The state plyed a greater role in direction the Prussian/German industrial revolution than was he case in Britainy and America. ermany at the time of World War I had largest and most efficent industrial economy in Europe. The Industrial Revolution began in Britain (mid-18th century). Germany did not begin to industrialize until well after the Napleonic Wars (1799-18-15). The German states in the 18th century inclusing Prussia was aargely agricultural country with a very small industrial base compared to Britain and France. We begin to see substanyial industrial activity (1850s). Even before unification, the Germans began forming customs unions to create a large donestic market. The process once begun, however, moved very quickly. The German economy underwent an astonisly rapid economic transformation from agriculture to industry. This process prived different than the much slower industrialization of Britain. British industrialization was virtually entirely the result of private invetors pursuing their own personal intersts without Government direction. This was not the case in Germany. The Prussian state and subsequently the Imperial Government provide state financing to direct industrial development in ways that would support the German Army. The German railways system developed with military needs in mind. Germany was thus a recently developed European superpower. Industrial development and German unification (1871) made Germany the single most poweful European country. A major factor in Germany;s industrial deelopment was the country's emphasis on steel promoted by the Imperial Government. Resources from Alsace- Lorraine, especially iron ore, gained in the Frnco-Prussian ar (1870-71) expanded Germany's steel manufcturing capacity. Germany was the largest European steel producer (late-19th century) and this supported the development of many other indudries. Industrialkization brought increasing rivalry with Britain (1890s onwards). German and British manufactures were competing for markets around the world. German merchant ships also competed with Britain's carrying trade.

Austria


Switzerland


Russia


Japan

Japan would be the first industrial country in Asia. The super-isolated Japan became the first Asian country to introduce Western methods and industrialize. After the Unied States forced Japan to open its ports (1850s), the Tokogawa Shogunate began the industrilization of the country. That process was excelerated by the Mejii Restoration. One of the major steps taken by the Mejii reforers was to end the feudal system. The first sector to industrilize as with the induistrial revvolution in the West was the textile industry, primarily cotton and especially silk. Cotton had to be imported, but silk was produced domesticlly. Traditionally silk was produed at home workshops in rural areas. Modern Japanese textiles plants dominated the domestic marke and had begu to competey with British textiles in China and India (1890s) Japanese shippers had begun competing with European lines to carry goods in the Pacific and had begun to open European routes. The textile mills employed mainly employed women, about half of whom were teenagers. Their fathers incouraged this to increase family income. Japan largely skipped over theearly water power phase that Britain went thrug and early mills oprated on steam power. This created ademand for coal, onentural resource Japan had. The Mejii Government intervened massively in the economy. The government often introduced new industries seen as important, especially industries needed for producing military weapons and supplies. The Goverment would not operate these new industries over a long period. Once a factory had achieved some success, it was sold to private operators, not uncommonly at attractiove prices. Thus the Japanese Government was financing the creation of a capitalist economy. Many developing countries maintain high-import duties on foreign goods to promote the development of domestic industries. Japan did not do this. Thus Japanese industries while supported by the sate developed in a competitive environment and became highly efficient. It also meant that the companies could compete on the world market. Even before World War I, Japanese products had begun to compete with Western goods in China and other Asian markets. The relationship between industry and military power was clear. The country, however, took to economic moderization much quicker than to political ans social modernization.







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Created: 6:20 AM 3/17/2015
Last updated: 12:37 PM 12/9/2017