Essay: Industrial Revolution Started in Britain

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Industrial Revolution started in Britain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries but gradually spread to other European countries, North America and the rest of the world. Major developments took place in areas such as agriculture, mining, transportation and manufacturing which in turn, had a profound impact on the socioeconomic and cultural climate throughout the world. In the period between the accession of George III and that of his son, William IV, England went through a series of important changes. As far as agriculture in Britain, areas that for centuries had been cultivated as open fields were hedged or fenced, and hamlets turned into towns. Infrastructure developed quickly, i.e. highroads were made, and navigable reaches of the Mersey, Trent, Severn, Thames, Forth and Clyde were joined together by threads of still water. In the North the first iron rails were laid down for the new locomotives, and steam packets began to ply on the estuaries and the narrow seas (More 9). Thesis: The technological developments associated with the Industrial Revolution had a strong impact on both social and cultural circumstances chiefly by a sharp increase in population, and the workers' shift from rural to urban areas.

The topic of the Industrial Revolution cannot be tackled without discussing the aspect which distinguishes this age from its predecessors, i.e. The rapid growth of population. Changes occurred in the structure of society. The number of people increased vastly with the proportion of children rising due to the increase in the number of births. The growth of these communities shifted the balance of population from the South and East to the North and Midlands, and many Irish workers came to work in England. Moreover, many Englishmen and women left the countryside and came to towns and cities and integrated into the labor force of factories. This shift was also caused by the fact that beginning with the 18th century, the number of jobs in rural areas decreased, leaving many people unemployed because rural population had risen sharply as food was no longer scarce, and death rates declined due to fewer wars and plagues. At the same time, nonetheless, many small farms disappeared because of new legislation which required farmers to put fences or hedges around their fields, and many small farmers could not afford to enclose their fields. As a consequence, they were forced to sell out to larger landholders, and look for work. There was what we might call a vicious circle which forced ex-farmers to move to towns and cities and try to make a living working in manufacturing or other branches of the industry. This way, work became more and more specialized and new forms of skill developed whereas some old ones were lost. However, what was most important during this process was the fact that labor became more mobile and as a direct consequence, the quality of life improved (Ashton 21).

As far as statistics, it is interesting to note that careful estimates have been put together by social scientists based on the numbers of burials and christenings during the period in question. These figures show that around 1700, there were approximately five and a half million people in England and Wales, a number which reached six and a half million in 1750. The first census which was taken in 1801 showed that the total population had risen to nine millions, and by 1831, it had reached fourteen million people. In the second half of the eighteenth century, population had thus increased by 40 per cent, and in the first three decades of the following century, by more than 50 per cent (Stearns 13). For Great Britain, the figures are around eleven million people in 1801 and sixteen and a half million in 1831 (Ibid).

New manufacturing towns and cities grew dramatically especially thanks to their proximity to coalfields which ensured a constant supply of fuel to the factories. Factories needed to be close to sources of power because infrastructure did not allow power to be distributed very… [END OF PREVIEW]

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