Industrialisation in Britain from 1760 was seen as a period of sustained economic growth facilitated by an explosion of new innovative ideas that had profound impacts not only on the domestic economy, but indeed the international economy too. This essay explains why the revolution began in Britain rather than similar economies at the time such as France.
The introduction of fresh ideas that led to new ways of production owed much to the political environment in place during this time. Scientific knowledge was free from censorship by the state, allowing many existing ideas to be challenged and new ideas to be exchanged in what became known as the age of reason. This scientific liberalism contrasts starkly with the French system at the time, whose scientific knowledge was centralised as a result of the absolute monarchy in place during the 18th century. During this period British entrepreneurs had the incentive to develop new ideas with the potential to make vast profits. W. W Rostow claims that “the industrial revolution was a matter of the gradual accumulation of a critical threshold energy ignited by an innovative scientific mentality in England” (Rostow 1979). If Rostows claims hold true, which does seem plausible, then we can acknowledge that Britain’s political stance on the free exchange of information, contributed immensely to the initial location of the Industrial revolution.
This development and exchange of fresh ideas led to an influx of new machinery entering the market. Capital machinery such as automated cotton mechanization and WHAT ??? allowed far greater productivity and economies of scale to be achieved, which sparked a demand for such machinery from businesses around Britain. During this period of industrialisation, Britain were producing more goods than she currently had a domestic market for and therefore sought new markets abroad to export its machinery and production. A striking example of this was the colonisation of Antigua by imperialistic Britain. Machinery was shipped abroad to farm sugar cane for which the country was incredibly rich in, this would then be imported back to Britain to be used as a raw input, or sold on elsewhere at a vast profit, colonies in this sense were “regarded as suppliers of raw products” (Johnson R 2003). Pre 1760 Britain had prohibited its North American colonies from making steel and refining iron, a mercantilist policy that Mathias claimed was introduced in order to “protect markets for the export industries” (Mathias), imperialistic mercantile policies such as this were inevitably disliked by North Americans and were labelled “impertinent badges of slavery” by Smith. From this point of view colonies were not just suppliers of raw products as Johnson claims, but also markets to enhance exports providing the wealth to Britain to finance much of the revolution. The impact that the slave trade had at this time should not be underestimated, it was seen as a free endless natural resource that was indeed exploited at little to no cost, without such free labour the costs of producing and farming these inputs would have been far greater, possibly making it economically unviable to transport such goods.
The increased international trade that emerged out of colonisation is evidently seen with the British merchant fleet count. For example “in 1705 Britain possessed approximately 3300 merchant ships, whereas in 1776, the number was closer to 9900” (Anderson MS 1987). This was most definitely because of the increased domestic production from the revolution. The act of pirating as a result of more lucrative trade was neither uncommon, nor unforeseen as opportunistic pirates would attempt to siege and hijack a merchant ships cargo to attain its riches. The British parliament’s response to this was to increase naval protection for its trading routes. During and after the period of the seven years war “Britain had the largest fleet in the world”...