What Factors Made Rapid Industrialisation Possible In England (British Isles) Between 1750 - 1850?

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Many changes occurred in Britain during the period of 1750 - 1850. Consequences of these changes led to what has come to be known as the 'Industrial Revolution'. Rapid Industrialisation was the engine room for such a revolution. In 1750 much of Britain's population were located in rural areas and were in the most part employed in agriculture, by 1850 much of this had changed, by now, the majority of Britain's population had re-located to the urban areas and were employed in various jobs, either in large factories, shops, offices, the railways and other businesses operating to serve the needs of the industrial sector. This shift can be seen by the figures below:

Patterns of employment, income, expenditure and residence (%):


Male Employment in Agriculture = 61.2%

Male Employment in Industry = 18.5%

Income from Agriculture = 37.4%

Income from Industry = 20.0%


Male Employment in Agriculture = 52.8%

Male Employment in Industry = 23.8%

Income from Agriculture = 37.5%

Income from Industry = 20.0%


Male Employment in Agriculture = 40.8%

Male Employment in Industry = 29.5%

Income from Agriculture = 36.1%

Income from Industry = 19.8%


Male Employment in Agriculture = 28.6%

Male Employment in Industry = 47.3%

Income from Agriculture = 24.9%

Income from Industry = 31.5%

There were many factors which contributed to the shift in population from rural to urban areas, coal, iron, textiles, transport and pottery to name a few, they all had a major effect on Britains economy as a whole and enabled her to exapnd her empire and become a major player in the world market.

By 1840, over 200,000 men, women and children worked in the mines. Coal needed many workers in small seams without machinery so families moved into villages and towns in NE England, S Wales, central Scotland, built beside the pits. The Newcomen Steam Engine (and later Watt's engine) made it possible to drain deep mines and extract more coal. Use of the steam engine in factories, mining and transport meant higher demand for coal. Many of the mine owners were the aristocratic landowners who had always been the wealthiest people in the country. They found coal under their land and saw the opportunity to make more money by investing in mining as well as agriculture. Coal could be moved round the coast then inland by river or canal, but was available near to iron deposits, and so had a good market. It was an important export to Europe and to the Empire.

The areas where iron smelting was most developed - South Wales, central Scotland and the Severn valley - became very heavily populated as people moved in looking for work. Houses were built by the iron masters, forming new towns such as Merthyr, Falkirk and Coalbrookdale. Iron was in short supply in the 18th century. The Darby family at Coalbrookdale used coke instead of charcoal for smelting . Abraham Darby II improved the blast in furnaces, so that mass-produced iron could be used for new inventions in machinery, steam engines, rails for wagons, bridges and cheap domestic items. Many of the iron masters were Non-conformists who believed in hard work and investment. They put their profits into new business and sometimes borrowed money. The founding of the Bank of England in 1695 was the start of a national system, but most borrowing was from local banks. Before coke was used, much of Britain's iron was imported. The new methods made high quality iron cheaper than foreign iron, so Britain started to export iron goods. When there was not enough iron from British mines, iron works were built near ports so that the raw materials could be imported.

Wool producing areas became less important, so their population did not grow as people moved away looking for work. Cotton areas such as Manchester grew quickly after the steam engine meant that huge mills were built for the workers. Orphans were even moved many miles from home, to become apprentices....
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