"Industrial Revolution" -

Sometimes defined as Britain 1760 - 1830 - but ?

Clear start? Clear end?

How measured? Who defines it?

Industrial Revolution — the "period during which the economy of a backward or undeveloped country is transformed into a modern industrial economy":

- backwardness to modernity,

- poverty to wealth,

- significant forward momentum in technology;


BUT - progress for whom? progress for what?

- child labor

- 18-hr work days

- dangerous working conditions

- pollution

- poor living conditions & health problems

- social uncertainty

2 schools of historical thought:

Old school — Industrial Revolution was a real revolution;

New school - evolutionary change;

1901 historian wrote: "In the early 18th century, England had been virtually medieval - quiet, primeval and undisturbed by the roar of trade and commerce. Suddenly, almost like a thunderbolt from a clear sky, the storm & stress of the Industrial Revolution were ushered in."


1960s historian: "It is now known that the speed of transformation was far from rapid, that the ground was not quickly captured by new technology. The revolution alleged to have taken place in 1760 had already been in preparation for two centuries. British industry of the early 1800s is in fact a study in slow motion."

So who to believe? Possible truth on both sides.

New school right - historical continuity:

- Industrial Revolution did not come out of nowhere - rested on prior knowledge;

- Existing economic strength important

- since 1500s, English economy expanding faster than rest of Europe.

- Capital, investment power;

- high-productivity British agriculture

- needed to support population growth, urbanization;

- Previous growth of trade markets.

- Concept of "mercantilism" - national quest for wealth thru conquest, colonization & commercial enterprise;

- Since 1500s, European maritime expansion - great explorers (Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Columbus)

- spice trade, slave trade;

- British naval power, growth of colonies

- protectionism;


Old school right — noteworthy changes:

- 1830-1860 economic acceleration:

- national income growing 4 times faster

than 1730-1760;

- per capita income rising 5 times faster;

- productivity rising 3 times faster;

- Sense of transformation, British leadership

- 1851 Great Exhibition in London;

- Important technological changes — textile manufacture;

new machines (flying shuttle, water frame, power looms);

increase productivity at lower cost;

- Physical shift in production — change from "cottage industry" to factories;

- workers sell time & labor.

- steam engine — powerful new energy source;


New school right — didn’t see overnight change in everything;

- old and new patterns of work side by side;

- still rely on old energy sources (water, wind, animals)

- 1850, British wool manufacture still got

1/3rd of its power from water.

- Change uneven, complicated.