Industrial Revolution in Great Britain (1760-1840)

The Industrial Revolution of 1760-1840 was a remarkable time that changed the world picture impressively (Stearns, 2010). During this period, progress influenced the way the society lived. Before this time, the agricultural segment was dominant, however, after the revolution several countries in Europe and the United States became industrial. Before the revolution, the goods were made mostly at homes by hands. It took too much time and effort to produce well without the machinery. The process of industrialization stimulated the progress, and the balance was shifted towards machinery work. The progress affected not only the change in the production; however, it had a significant influence on textile and iron sectors as well (Osborne, 2013). The period of the Industrial Revolution is commonly characterized by the invention of the steam engine that facilitated transportation and communication. Although the contribution of the revolution should not be undervalued, it is worth highlighting that it hurt the living condition of the working class and poor people. The fundamental purpose of the paper is to evaluate the contribution of the Industrial Revolution and examine the impact it had on the world-changing process.

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Modern historical and economic scientists outline three major revolutions that changed the world and influenced the way we live now. The Neolithic Revolution stimulated the creation of a productive economy; Industrial Revolution led to the transition from an agrarian to industrial society; ongoing scientific and technological revolution leads to a transition from an industrial society to the service one (Horn, Rosenband, & Smith, 2010). All these processes occurred asynchronously in different countries and regions; however, there was a global character that should be taken into consideration. The reason for choosing this period that the Industrial Revolution became a turning point in history and affected the way people live nowadays in an impressive way.

Birthplace of the Revolution

Great Britain can be considered as a country that gave a stimulus for the Industrial Revolution to emerge. Before the revolution, the vast majority of people were part of small communities, and their activities were centered on farming (Stearns, 2013). The life of such people was rather difficult as their income was not enough to cover the expenses on good nutrition, and that is, diseases were common phenomena (Stearns, 2015). People produced goods themselves, made by hand or sometimes by simple machines.

There were several factors, which influenced the way people lived in Great Britain. First and foremost, it should be stressed that deposits of iron ore were an integral and essential part of the industrialization. Furthermore, the country was powerful and had several colonies that could be used as a labor force. The increasing demand for the products consequently led to the understanding that old methods of production could not serve the needs and should be improved and innovated.

The Development of the Machinery

In the era of modern times, the first industrial product of mass consumption has become a garment. Therefore, the Industrial Revolution began in the weaving industry. The center of the Industrial Revolution was England. It was a major center of sheep farming in Europe, whose wool was used for the manufacture of fabrics not only for Great Britain but for other countries as well (Stearns, 2015).

The beginning of the Industrial Revolution was characterized by the invention of the mechanical spinning wheel by English weaver James Hargreaves. This spinning wheel increased the productivity of weavers by more than twenty times.

The Invention of the Engine

The first engines worked due to the power of water. However, these engines could be used only near rivers. The rapid development of the machinery required the universal motor, which could be used in any location (Stearns, 2010). The invention of the new engine did not only accelerate the development of the old industries, for example, the textile segment but also led to the development of fundamentally new industries. There was a revolution in the sphere of transport, in particular.

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The Invention of the Machines for the Machinery Production

Earlier, the spread of machines was limited by the fact that they had to be done manually, so every machine was dependent on the ingenuity of the master. It should be stressed that it was rather difficult to create two identical products. The revolution in the production was finished when machines for machinery production were invented. There was no need to make machines by hand. The progress has also influenced the production of the weapon. The mechanization of the production of weapons underpinned the high economic efficiency of Western Europe and the efficiency of their armies. This colonial subjugation of the world was only a matter of time.

Controversial Nature of Revolution

Historians note that the machines could not be considered for Western Europe as something completely new. A lot of mechanical devices were invented in antiquity. Moreover, they used steam power as well. Furthermore, attempts to use machines for the manufacture can be traced in the medieval period. These facts prove that from the possibilities of inventions, the Industrial Revolution might have happened much sooner.

One of the reasons that the Industrial Revolution was not possible earlier is that society was not ready, and systems, organizations, and structures demanded innovations as well (Hudson, 2014). For the revolution to be possible, the society had to eliminate the medieval guild system that was against the competition. It is worth noting that it was essential to create a system that would legally protect the rights of the inventor. In the medieval period, inventions were seen as a threat to artisans. They feared to lose jobs and income. Feudal regulation created not incentives but disincentives for the innovations. There are many examples of repressions against the inventors.

The most important prerequisite for the invention of machines has become a patent revolution in the middle of the eighteenth century. Great Britain developed and adopted laws to protect the exclusive rights of the inventor. The government changed the vision of people towards inventions as they became an additional source of income. As a result, many inventors (Arkwright, Watt, Fulton, and Stephenson) became successful and reached prosperity, making money on the exploitation of their discoveries (Stearns, 2010). Without the protection of intellectual property and implemented laws, the Industrial Revolution could not be possible.

Industrial Revolution and Economic Growth

The era of the Industrial Revolution changed the quality of economic growth. In pre-industrial societies, economic growth was unstable and low: the periods of growth alternated with periods of recession, resulting in a low average growth rate. Walt Rostow offered a new understanding of the era of the Industrial Revolution concerning the concept of transition to self-sustaining growth (Horn, Rosenband, & Smith, 2010). The expert stated that there are five stages of growth, namely:

  1. The traditional society;
  2. Transitional Stage;
  3. The take-off;
  4. The drive to maturity;
  5. The age of high mass consumption.


In conclusion, it should be pointed out the Industrial Revolution contributed not only to the changes in the technological segment. It inevitably entailed social, political, and economic implications, creating new classes of society (workers, bourgeoisie), accelerating the growth of cities (urbanization). The increasing complexity of social processes led to the development of new political and socio-economic doctrines and movements. It is difficult to imagine the modern world without the Industrial Revolution. Although not everyone accepted the changes and progress, at first, it should be highlighted that the progress is impossible without changes. Human nature tends to reject everything new. However, all the inventions were made by overcoming rejections and struggling with an old system.

The consequences of the Industrial Revolution resulted in complex socio-economic changes in the structure of the economies of the countries where it took place. The creation of the machinery meant the increase and surplus of the goods produced by the states. This, in turn, has become a significant factor in the development of world economic relations, the formation of the world market, and has served as a prerequisite to the creation of the global economy. The downside was the increased exploitation of the colonies by powerful countries. Industrial Revolution became a turning point for the whole of humanity.

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Horn, J., Rosenband, L., & Smith, M. (2010). Reconceptualizing the Industrial Revolution. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Hudson, P. (2014). The Industrial Revolution. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Osborne, R. (2013). Iron, steam & money: The making of the Industrial Revolution. London, UK: The Bodley Head.

Stearns, P. (2010). World history in brief: Major patterns of change and continuity (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Stearns, P. (2013). The Industrial Revolution in world history. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Stearns, P. (2015). Debating the Industrial Revolution. London, UK: Bloomsbury.

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