Western Civ - Essay Example

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Industrial Revolution refers to the changes in economic and social organization that began in about 1760 in England and later spread in other countries, characterized by the replacement of hand tools with power-driven machines, such as the power loom and steam engine, and by the…
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SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC ELEMENTS AND DEVELOPMENTS (FROM 1780 TO 1840) WHICH HELPED INDUSTRIALIZATION TO BEGIN IN BRITAIN THAN IN OTHER PLACES IN EUROPE Industrial Revolution refers to the changes in economic and social organization that began in about 1760 in England and later spread in other countries, characterized by the replacement of hand tools with power-driven machines, such as the power loom and steam engine, and by the concentration of industry in large establishments. The question therefore is, “Why did industrialization begin in England (Britain) and not other countries?” This essay therefore wishes to discuss the social and economic elements and developments which helped industrialization to begin in Britain and not in other places in Europe.
Firstly, at the end of the British feudalism, after the 17th Century English Civil war, scientific knowledge and entrepreneurial skills quickly started growing in Britain creating an onset of the industrial revolution. Many people wanted things to change for the better. They wanted to improve efficiency and quality of activities they were doing. According to Pearson Education (2010), these people wanted improved transport; manufactured cloth to match with growing demographic needs; maximize agricultural production; agricultural produce to be preserved in the best way; trade to expand beyond the frontiers and others. As such, many people with scientific and entrepreneur skills engaged in heavy technological advancement. Scientists started inventing various technologies such as improved textile machines and the steam engine whilst entrepreneurial capitalists supported the inventions with funding. Such technologies later improved transportation, cloth manufacturing and agricultural production. While this was happening in Britain, other countries had not yet started.
Secondly, Britain had a very big advantage over the other countries on natural resources. She had a very big base of natural resources such as iron, copper, coal, lead, tin, limestone and water power. Such minerals were abundant in places such as the English Midlands, South Wales and Scottish Lowlands. Pearson Education (2010) agrees that advancement in technology, agriculture and abundant labor made it easy for Britain to extract the natural resources and use them to expand manufacturing. On the other hand, other countries had limited natural resources; and it was difficult to extract them because of several reasons such as insufficient capital, poor political systems and lack of labor. Such a situation gave Britain an opportunity to lead in industrial revolution.
Thirdly, it should also be noted that aristocracy in continental Europe helped to put Britain in the lead during Industrial revolution. According to Pearson Education (2010), many aristocratic people who owned land and drew wealth from it did not have a spirit of capitalism (like those in Britain) and were more cautious about investing in a new enterprise. This situation was different in Britain. Land owners quickly embraced the idea of industrial revolution. As technology revolutionized agriculture, their yields and profits increased massively. Land owners, therefore, accumulated more money which they willingly invested in other economic activities, amongst which manufacturing was key. As such, Britain remained in the lead in industrial revolution.
Fourthly, the government of Britain contributed greatly toward the development of Industrial Revolution. Pearson Education (2010) emphasizes the point that the government created a capital base which enhanced the activities of industrial revolution. For example, the government built railway lines and road systems which facilitated the beginning of industrialization. It also encouraged banks to become major active partners in financing the industry. On the other hand, farmers (within Britain and on British colonies) and merchants revolutionized their activities and were able to invest in industrial revolution. Such organization was lacking in other countries, Britain kept leading in industrial revolution.
Furthermore, population growth was another factor that helped Britain to lead in industrial revolution. It doubled between 1680 and 1820. Pearson Education (2010) states that such increase in population provided a large supply of cheap local labor which was needed in factories and mines. Such population also created an increase in the demand for manufactured goods such as food and cloth, especially by the working class whose purchasing power had increased. This increase in population and purchasing power allowed for further expansion of industrialization. Cheap labor also helped investors save on wages; and maximize their capital holdings, hence further expand industrialization. The conditions were different in other countries. Demographic trends were poor due to poor political setups and diseases.
The other point worth noting is that Britain had removed all barriers that would hinder trade to all other states that formed the Great Britain such as Scotland, Wales and England. Pearson Education (2010) further explains that the removal of barriers to trade (market liberalization) created a single market and allowed goods to pass freely across the country. This situation was not the case in other European countries. For example, Germany and France were politically fragmented into many states, each with its own tariffs and taxes. Such a situation hindered free passage of goods and resources across the country. Besides, Britain had already created a big world market on the main land Europe and other continents. Advancement in the creation of the steam engine helped Britain to establish merchant ships that would export goods to the whole world.
Another important reason worth explaining is protectionism. Protectionism is the ability of a country to protect its economy from competition. During the industrial revolution, Britain had already put in place mechanisms that helped to protect her economy from competition with other countries. According to Pearson Education (2010), Britain tried as much as possible to avoid importation of necessary resources. Otherwise she promoted production from local industries and exportation. This was not the case with other countries. Such countries delayed in starting protectionism, hence leaned much on importation, a situation which made their own effort to industrialization lag behind Britain.
The discussion above clearly explores the social and economic elements and developments between 1780 and 1840 which helped industrialization to begin in Britain than in other places. It emphasizes the fact that, while other countries were still wrapped in aristocratic ideologies, Britain had made a shift into capitalist ideologies. People wanted a quick change on their social and economic lives. The solution was to wholesomely engage in industrial revolution as a country. However, just before and after 1840, Britain started experiencing competitors. Other countries started reorganizing themselves and ventured into industrial revolution.
Pearson Education. (2010). The West: Encounters and Transformation. The Industrial
Revolution, 1760 – 1850. Retrieved March 6, 2014, from Read More
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