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Industrial Revolution
Spread of the Industrial Revolution



The techniques of industrialization began to spread from Britain to other countries soon after the Industrial Revolution started. Britain tried to maintain a monopoly of its discoveries and skills. British law prohibited the emigration of craftworkers until 1824 and prohibited the export of machinery until 1843. Nevertheless, hundreds of skilled workers and manufacturers left Britain, taking knowledge of industrialization with them.

In 1750, John Holker, a Lancashire manufacturer, settled in France, where he helped modernize spinning techniques in the textile industry. Samuel Slater, a Derbyshire textile worker, immigrated to the United States in 1789 and later established a spinning mill in Rhode Island. William Cockerill, a Lancashire carpenter, moved to Belgium in 1799 and began to manufacture textile machinery. In 1817, Cockerill's son John established factories near Liege that produced bridge materials, cannon, locomotives, and steam engines.

Some manufacturers in the United Kingdom permitted people from other countries to inspect their factories. From 1810 to 1812, Francis Cabot Lowell, an American businessman, visited Lancashire textile mills. Lowell returned to the United States and established a textile factory in Waltham, Massachusetts. This factory was one of the first in the world to combine under one roof all the processes for manufacturing cotton cloth. In 1838, the famous German industrialist Alfred Krupp went to Sheffield, where he learned the most up-to-date processes for making steel.

The export of British capital became even more important than the export of people and machines in the spread of the Industrial Revolution. For hundreds of years, British merchants had extended credit and made loans to customers in other countries. As the Industrial Revolution grew, the flow of British capital to other countries increased. The flow became a flood with the coming of the railroad. British companies financed the export of locomotives, iron for rails, and experts to build and operate railroads in many countries.

Belgium became the second country to industrialize. Steam engines were first installed there in the early 1700's. Between 1830 and 1870, the nation rapidly developed its heavy industry with much financial support from the government. Textile making, which had been important in Belgium for many years, was industrialized. The cities of Ghent, Liege, and Verviers developed into major textile-manufacturing centers. Belgian coal fueled the textile factories.

France made little industrial progress before the 1790's. Industrialization was further slowed by the French Revolution (1789-1799) and by the wars of Napoleon Bonaparte, who ruled France during the early 1800's. After Napoleon left the throne permanently in 1815, the French government encouraged industrial development. But by 1850, more than half of France's iron production still came from old-fashioned and expensive charcoal furnaces. After 1850, however, coke rapidly replaced charcoal for smelting and puddling.

A poor transportation system crippled French industry during most of the 1800's. The transportation system had fallen into bad condition during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Although the government deepened and widened many rivers and canals, these improvements did not meet the needs of growing industries in France. In 1842, the government also approved the building of a national railway system, but many complications forced long delays in its construction. France remained largely a country of farms and small businesses. After World War II (1939-1945), the French government began a series of national plans to modernize the economy.

Germany had the natural resources needed for industrialization, but political and social obstacles held the country back. Until Germany was unified in 1871, it was a collection of separate states that often failed to cooperate with one another in economic matters. In addition, a small group of landowners controlled much of the land. In the early 1800's, the government of the state of Prussia gradually took steps to provide for the industrial development of the land and its minerals. At the same time, Prussia succeeded in arranging agreements among the German states on common tariffs.

Between 1830 and 1850, the coal production in Germany doubled. About 1850, iron ore mining in Germany began to increase sharply. As a result, the number of furnaces fueled by coke also increased rapidly. Foreign investors and new German investment banks provided money for the booming iron industry. Germany's steel production also began to grow rapidly in the late 1800's. By 1900, its steel production exceeded that of the United Kingdom and ranked second to that of the United States.

The United States. The first industrialization outside Europe occurred in the British colonies that became the United States. The colonies had a wide range of industries. The most successful was shipbuilding. By the time the colonies declared their independence in 1776, about a third of Britain's ships were being built in America. Iron manufacturing was also a major industry, and a few American companies exported iron to Britain. By the early 1800's, the small arms industry in the United States had developed machines and machine tools that could produce standard parts that were required for mass production.

Industrial production, especially of textiles and light metals, began to increase sharply in the United States in the 1820's. The greatest increases in manufacturing took place in New England. Industrialization also benefited from improvements made in rivers and canals. These improvements reduced the cost of transporting goods to and from the interior of the country. Beginning in the 1830's, industrialization increased rapidly throughout the eastern United States.

The iron industry in Pennsylvania made especially great advances as iron was adapted for agricultural tools, railroad track, and a variety of structural uses. By the 1850's, the quality and price of American iron enabled U.S. ironmakers to compete with British ironmakers in the international market. During the mid-1800's, the agricultural, construction, and mining industries expanded as the population spread westward. Manufacturing accounted for less than a fifth of all U.S. production in 1840. By 1860, it accounted for a third. Agricultural products still made up more than two-thirds of the value of all U.S. exports in 1860, and the country still imported more manufactured goods than it exported. But by the late 1800's, the United States had become the largest and most competitive industrial nation in the world. By 1870, the main trends of the Industrial Revolution were clearly marked in all industrialized countries. Industry had advanced faster than agriculture.

Goods were being made by power-driven machinery and assembled in factories, where management planned operations and the workers did little more than tend the machines. Capital controlled industrial production, but labor was being allowed to organize to fight for higher wages, shorter hours, and better working conditions.

The railroad, the improved sailing ship, the steamship, and the telegraph had reduced the cost and time of transportation and communication. Living standards of the workers in industrial countries were higher than they had ever been. Populations grew rapidly, and more people lived in cities than ever before.

Contributor: William S. Comanor, Ph.D., Professor of Economics, University of California, Santa Barbara; Professor of Health Services, University of California, Los Angeles.
Source : World Book 2005

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