When Did the Industrial Revolution Start?

Heavy machinery powered the Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution was a period during which society shifted from being rural and agrarian to being urban and machine-oriented. Before the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing was done using simple hand tools and basic machines which utilized a lot of human energy. The industrial revolution began sometime in the 1780s, with its biggest effects being felt in the 1830s and 1840s.  Industrialization led to the use of more sophisticated machines and mass production. Textile and iron industries, along with the development of steam engines, were key to the Industrial Revolution. There was improved communication, transportation, and banking as a result of the revolution. The period was also marked by an unprecedented increase in household income, population, and pollution.

The Start Of The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain. By the 18th century, Great Britain was the leading commercial nation. It controlled the global trading empires with colonies in different parts of the world. The precise start of the Industrial Revolution is still a matter of debate among historians. While some historians like Eric Hobsbawm are of the opinion that the revolution began in the 1780s and was only felt in the 1830 and 1840s, others maintain that the Industrial Revolution occurred between 1760 and 1830. However, rapid industrialization started in the 1780s with mechanized spinning with a high growth rate in steam power and iron production taking place in the early 19th century. The mechanized production of textile spread from Britain to the rest of Europe and the US in the early 19th century.

Britain As The Birthplace Of Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain and spread across Europe and America between the 18th and 19th century. Several factors were responsible for Britain’s role as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. The country had abundant natural resources including iron ore and coal, both of which were essential for industrialization. Therefore, they did not have to import most of these resources, significantly reducing the cost and efficiency in production. Britain was politically stable and was not experiencing conflict at the time, unlike most of the world's other superpowers. The country’s relative peace provided an environment for the Industrial Revolution to take place. Additionally, Britain had several colonies that served as sources of raw material and market for the manufactured goods.

Industrial Revolution Beyond Great Britain

After the Industrial Revolution began in England, it slowly made its way over to Europe and beyond. The technological development on the continent involved the application of the technologies purchased from Britain. Belgium became the second country in Europe after Britain where the Industrial Revolution took place. It started in the mid-1820s and was widely felt after Belgium’s independence in 1830. In France, industrialization and economic growth were slow and steady through the 18th and 19th centuries while in Germany industrialization was centered on chemical research in the late 19th century. In Japan, the Industrial Revolution began in the 1870s with the building of the railroads and initiation of land reform programs.

Industrial Revolution In The United States

At the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the UK in the 18th and 19th centuries, the US was mainly an agricultural economy. The American Industrial Revolution is credited to Samuel Slater who was the first to open an industrial mill in the US in 1793. Samuel’s designs were heavily borrowed from Britain.


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