Why was Britain the first nation to industrialize?
Britain began to industrialize around the 1750’s and it continued to progress until the mid nineteenth century. There were many factors that triggered Britain to industrialize. For example, its vast population growth and gradual advancement in technology, nevertheless there were also pre-existent natural resources that appeared advantageous to Britain’s industrial expansion. Furthermore this essay will demonstrate some of the major causes of the industrial growth and analyze to what extent their aid was significant for Britain’s transformation into the first industrial nation. The population of Britain remained more or less stable up until the 1740’s after which it began to increase decade by decade. Some historians have argued that population growth acted as one of the main causes for the industrialization, others saw a completely different scenario where the industrialization was in fact what caused the population to grow in the first place. Population growth after the 1740’s may have been the result of the remarkable agricultural harvest periods between 1730 and 1760 when the price of meat and grain was relatively low . The wages of those living and working in the country side were lower than of those from industrial towns so when it came to cheap, yet nutritional food availability, it was very rare in the countryside, this is perhaps why their population remained stable. On the other hand in industrial towns fertility rates went up. Here, nutritional food was much more affordable and available, so there is a clear implication that a better diet and higher wages encouraged higher fertility rates and the subsequent population growth that occurred in industrial areas. The population growth meant that the demand for manufacturing goods would rise as there were more people to feed and clothe, hence requiring a larger labor force in order to allow greater productivity. Sweden and Ireland also saw a major population growth, but perhaps ‘they lacked the commercial super structure’ or their society may have naturally opposed radical changes unlike Britain who appeared more eager to advance. As well as the population growth during the 18th century, the English colonial empire came as major advantages to the industrial evolution. Britain got cotton through cheap trade from the English colonies in India and North America where slaves were used as cheap labor on cotton plantations. Although American colonies were lost in the late 18th century, slave orientated labor in India remained up until the introduction of the Abolition Act in 1807, by then Britain had sunk deep into industrialization and had a growing population which required job availability, therefore the loss of slave labor would not have had a major effect of profits. Without this cotton it may be argued that the industrial growth would have occurred at a much slower rate. This is evident as by 1840, 70% of British exports were that of textile manufactures to which cotton was vital. By the early nineteenth century the British international trade of textiles was so successful that even stubborn Napoleon’s embargo on Britain, set up in 1807, did not weaken the British textile industry. On the contrary, Ireland was ‘cut off from direct trade’ with the English colonies which meant it would have to get its cotton from England at a higher price hence why Ireland was unlikely to expand on its cotton industry and in the long term to industrialize. It may therefore be argued that the colonial supply of cotton allowed the cotton industry to expand on the basis of cheap trade thus making profit for the first several decades of the industrialization giving it a comfortable beginning. Furthermore, appropriate means of transportation were required in order to allow trade growth in the domestic as well as the international markets. The cheapest way of transporting goods at...
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