War and Social Upheaval: Industrial Revolution--Canals


Figure 1.--Canals have existed since ancient times. The Grand Canal playe a key role in the development of the Chinese Middle Kingdom. France and Ebgland built impressive canal systems in the 18th century. The English canals played an important role in the Industrial Revolution. About a century after the industrial revoluton began, the railroads began to supercede, but never entirely replace the canals. This 19th century English canal scene is unidentified, but the English dealer thinks it was located in Devon. These canals were built by hand.

As European economies developed, the existing rivers proved in adequate to the needs of commerce. Canals were built in England, France, and elsewhere in Europe. The canals played a major role in the early phase of the industrial revolution in Europe. Extensive canal construction began in England during the mid-18th century. The Duke Bridgewater at age 22 began the constructiin of canals hen he deciuded to connect his coalmines with cotton mills in Manchester 6 miles distant. The canal eventually extended 46 miles. The cost was enormous and the Duke had to sell his estates and borrow momey. He engaged a millwright, James Brindley, to construct his canal. Brindley had no formal education, but was inventive. He reportedly modeled his aqueducts in cheese. His designs set the standard for canals in the English midlands. The Duke's canal accomodated wide river barges. Brindley worked on many other canals, designinging them more narrow to sav money in construction. Narrow canal barges were built which required little water in relation to carrying capacity. Bridgewater finally opened his canal in 1761, making him a fortune and helping to inspire canal building projects throughout the Midlands. Joseph Wedgewood and other 18th century industrialists were impressed. The economic advantages were starteling. Coal delivered by land had cost 65 pence a ton, delivered by canal it only cost 35 pence. Wedgewood proceeded to organize a group of potters to finance a canal to connect their factories with Liverpool wearhouses. Wedgewood and other English potters had a large domestic market, but faced severe difficulties in shipping raw marials to their factories and the finished product to markets. [Hornik, pp. 53-54.] An extensive canal system was never built in America, but some canals were built in the early 19th century. The Eire Canal in particular played a major role in the economy of the northeast and the opening of the West.

Ancient Canals

We note that canals were built in many ancient civiliztion, both for irrigation and transportation. We note canals in China, Mesopotamia, and Egypt, but have few details at this time. The Grand Canal in China played a major role in the development of the Middle Kingdom. We believe that in Europe after the fall of Rome that there was no extensive canal constuction until the 18th century with the advent of the industrial revolution. We have, however, no persued this subject yet.

Rivers

After the fall of Rome, the extensive and swell maintained Roman road system fell into disrepair. Transporting merchadize and raw materials by land became increasingly unreliable. Not only did the roads declined, but crossing the masny different feudal fiefdoms involved dangers as did the bandits. Rivers became increasingly important as routes to transport cargo. In the process great nations formed around important rivers such as Austria (Danube), France (Seine), Germany (Rhine), and Russia (Volga and he Dnipper).

Industrial Revolution

As European economies developed, the existing rivers proved in adequate to the needs of commerce. Canals were built in England, France, and elsewhere in Europe. The canals played a major role in the early phase of the industrial revolution in Europe. Canals were built as to support new developing industries and in return played a major role in opening new markes for those industries.

Country Trends

A major impediment to trade in the medievl era was trasportation. Merchants used rivers as the easiest way of ttansporting nd trading goods. Roads to the extent that they existed were just muddy tracks. Overlad transport was slow and expensive to carry goods by land. Heavily laden boats could move goods by river. Extensive canal construction in Europe began in France and England before the industrial revolution began. The canals played a major role in the early phase of the industril revolution in England and were expanded. On the Continent and America the industrial revolution began only a few decades berfore the rilroads appeared.

England

Extensive canal construction began in England during the mid-18th century. The Duke Bridgewater at age 22 began the constructiin of canals hen he deciuded to connect his coalmines with cotton mills in Manchester 6 miles distant. The canal eventually extended 46 miles. The cost was enormous and the Duke had to sell his estates and borrow momey. He engaged a millwright, James Brindley, to construct his canal. Brindley had no formal education, but was inventive. He reportedly modeled his aqueducts in cheese. His designs set the standard for canals in the English midlands. The Duke's canal accomodated wide river barges. Brindley worked on many other canals, designinging them more narrow to sav money in construction. Narrow canal barges wer bilt which required little water in relation to carrying capacity. Bridgewater finally opened his canal in 1761, making him a fortune and helping to inspire canal building projects throughout the Midlands. Joseph Wedgewood and other 18th century industrialists were impressed. The economic advantages were starteling. Coal delivered by land had cost 65 pence a ton, delivered by canal it only coist 35 pence. Wedgewood proceeded to organize a group of potters to finance a canal to connect their factories with Liverpool wearhouses. Wedgewood and other English potters had a large domestic market, but faced severe difficulties in shipping raw marials to their factories and the finished product to markets. [Hornik, pp. 53-54.]

France

King Louis XIV with militry conquest brought Nord-Pas de Calais within the frontiers of France (18th century). This severed the region from its natural waterway routes through what is now Belgium. Louis set about creating a new water route within the French frontier. The French canalized the River Aa up to St-Omer. A big tide lock was built near the sea at Gravelines. Behind the lock, the Canal de Bourbourg was cut through the marshes. This linked the Aa to Dunkerque. This allowed river barges to trade along the coast, avoiding the turbulent North Sea. The Neufosse canal was built to link the river Lys to the Aa (1760). This gave Lille and other inland towns a French route to the sea.

The Low Countries

The Spanish monarchy inherited the Low Countries, one of the ichest areas in Europe. They set about improving navigation on the main rivers and their tributaries. Philip II improved navigation from Hazebrouck to the main River Lys. One of the earliest artificial canals in Rurope was built from the port of Dinkerque to Bergues (1638).

Germany


United States

An extensive canal system was never built in America, unlike Europe. Some canals were built in the early 19th century. George Washington was involved in the first major effort--the Chesapeake & Onio Canal (C&O). The major problemn in moving West was getting over the Apalachin Mountains. This is what the C&O tried to do, following the Potomac west to Harper's Ferry. This made Harper's Ferry a major indistrial complex, bit the objective of eaching the Ohio River was never achieved. It wa just too expensive. The Eire Canal in particular played a major role in the economy of the northeast and the opening of the West. It tried a different approch. Instead of crossing the Alschins in cut a route north tho the Great Lakes, effectively going around the Mountains. Crossing mountains with a canal was an impossible undertaking. Building a canal was expensive and labor intensive. Soon after the Erie Canal was completed, the railroads could be built for a fraction of the cist of a cabal. And railroads could cross the Mountains, at forst the Appalchins, but eventually the much more difficult Rockies.

Sources

Hornik, Susan. "A float with fly boats & leggers," Smithsonian, June 2000, pp. 50-58.






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Created: June 18, 2003
Last updated: 8:12 AM 8/31/2017