Industrial Revolution and Its Consequences 1750-1850 Essay

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Industrial Revolution and Its Consequences, 1750-

Industrial Revolution

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Industrial revolution refers to the rapid and complex changes, both socially and economically, mainly because of introduction of extensive mechanization resulting in a change in production. Mechanization changes the formerly small scale hand-based production to a large scale production system that employs extensive use of machinery (Mokyr, 1985). Before 1750, the then population of the world depended on natural means to meet their everyday needs. All the basic needs be it food, shelter, clothing, were all obtained from the available natural resources. However, in the period 1750 to 1850, there were notable changes that affected lives of many people as a result of introduction of machinery. This paper intends to discuss how cotton textile played the biggest and most important role in industrial revolution.

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Weaving of cotton cloth and spinning began in the eighteenth century in England. The English introduced machinery into the textile industry with the invention of the spinning jenny, the mule, and the water frame. However, the reason and the way this industry was revolutionized by England lies outside the west and in Asia (More, 2000).). Late into the seventeenth century, people in England suddenly developed strong love for cotton which was originally from India. Women increasingly desired the Indian cotton, commonly known as Calicoes. Soon, every household whether rich or poor, was dressed in this imported cotton. The bed sheets, curtains, cushions and clothing themselves were all made of calicoes imported into England from India. This sudden change of interests raised so many questions. Why and how could imported stuff flood households when locally prepared stuff was not desired? There are two reasons for this; first, Indian cotton was of very high quality as compared to the locally produced cotton. It was light and could therefore be won any time especially during the summer. Its high quality also made it feel good when it was won next to the skin. In addition, unlike the locally made cotton, it could easily accept bright color as dyes.

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Another reason for the massive popularity of the Indian cotton in England is as a result of its price. Indian cotton was comparatively cheaper to any locally available cotton at the time. The low price made Indian cotton more available to the poor population who could not afford the locally produced cotton. This made India a great exporter of cotton not only to England but also to East and West Africa, Europe and South East Asia not forgetting the fact that they had to cater to the massive market back at home (Mokyr, 1985). Due to the better and cheap production of cotton products in India, the Indians undersold their products hence dominating the market. The British related the low price of Indian cotton as a result of the large population of Indians earning low wages. Secondly, the Indian living standards were usually comparatively low. This is because of the large population in India at the time. Those trying to explain the market dominance of Indian cotton over British cotton, tried to argue that since Britain paid their working population relatively better and higher wages, then Britain could not compete with India. It was becoming clear that for the British to develop on the textile scale, then their competitiveness had to be improved. However, following research showed that the textile industries workers in India have the same living standard as their counterparts in Britain. This again raised question on why the Indian cotton was sold cheaply yet their living standards were the same! Therefore, researchers and economists had to increase their attention and to redirect it towards finding the solutions to these questions.

Agriculture, mainly concerned with plant growth as opposed to animal keeping, was the main reason for the low price of the Indian cotton. Agriculture in India at this time was at its best. It was highly productive, ensuring that food was highly and always available for the Indian population. The reason for the flourishing agriculture in India at this time was attributed to the large population which could provide cheap labor. In addition, the people of India were generally industrious and could therefore provide skilled and quality labor dedicated to agriculture. During the seventeenth century, food was very important in the economical spectrum. As a result, families could spend up to eighty percent of their earnings on food and therefore in a way, food could determine the economical power of a household and by extension, a family. At around this time, the Indian Agriculture was twice as productive when compared to the English agriculture. Availability of food in plenty therefore could reduce the spending factor of Indian population. High yield per acre in India made it possible for availability of unlimited amounts of food. This in turn led to reduced and hence low price on food. Since food was now cheap, low wages could still maintain a given household since expenditure was reduced altogether. This gave India a comparative advantage over its competitors (Jacob, 1946). On the other hand, in England, lack of mechanization and cheap labor affected them negatively. Their agriculture was poorly developed leading to low yield per acre. Therefore, food became limited, leading to high price of food. Since food is a basic need, it had to be bought expensively and this resulted to high wages ending up with a comparative disadvantage. This comparative disadvantage had to be changed in order for the English economy to be stable and secure. Yet another question arises, how did England convert this comparative disadvantage in their favor?

Raising tariffs on Indian Imports was the major action they took. Also known as protectionism, the British increased the taxes charged as a result of importation of textile from India. By doing so, they prevented the massive importation that could lead to flooding of British markets with cheap Indian clothing and textile. This step salvaged their market by ensuring scarcity of cotton in Britain and hence desirable. This action made it possible for England to compete with India in the cotton business, once again.

Unlike before the seventeenth century when England had less impact in terms overseas business domination, the English began to make much business money out of Portuguese and Spanish in both the East and West Indies. By doing so, England found itself competing with the Dutch, who initially had dominated East Indies as well as West Indies. Later in the eighteenth century, England found itself on the battlefield with France over the overseas market dominance. Conflict developed in Europe between different countries, although initially, this battle was started by certain privately owned companies, in these countries. These companies were; Dutch Vereengidge oost-Indische compagnie (VOC East India company), the English East India company (EIC) and the French compagnie des Indies. These were private companies given monopoly rights by the government to trade with India, and Asia in general. They were given permanent capital and their stock could be traded. Their main goal initially was, to trade with Asian countries, and in the process, makes profits to be used in their mother countries.

The Dutch VOC, at the time led by its Governor-general proved to be very hostile to powers of Spain and Portugal. This is because they were held responsible to protect the interests of Dutch Protestants. They viewed war and trade as two things that are dependent on each other. Trade had to be protected by their weapons thus making war very likely (Mokyr, 1985). Throughout the seventeenth century, the Dutch took Malacca from the Portuguese and in the process; they seized Java and converted it into a sugar producing colony. In addition, they tried to form a colony on the Chinese island Taiwan. Trade was growing more and more dangerous as these wars could lead to great losses in terms of lives and property.

On the other side however, the English East India Company, EIC was busy concentrating with trade and business as opposed to war. To avoid the danger of being attacked, the EIC concentrated on trade with India. The main reason why the English East India Company chose India is because the Indian states were generally weak politically and in terms of military action. In addition here, competition from European countries was absent or very small. They therefore camped in Bengal and Madras, trading with Indians and making massive profits in the process. Things changed toward the end of seventeenth century however and the French and British forces clashed in India (Williams, 1994). During this war, the French had an upper hand because initially, they recruited Indians into their army and therefore had relatively higher manpower. Later, the British also started recruiting the locals and at the end of nearly a decade of war, each of the two had more than tens of thousands of soldiers. Most of these soldiers were of Indian origin recruited into the forces by the visitors.

Meanwhile, the political as well as military power of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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