Britain's Industrial Age

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Essential Question

How the Industrial Revolution impacted Great Britain?

Summary of Research

The Industrial Revolution was a major impact in Great Britain in the 1700's and early 1800's. Coal and iron improved Great Britain's products, tools, and developed factories. The textile industry, steam engines, and different sorts of transportation helped generate the Industrial Revolution. All these things made a difference in changing the lives of farmers and workers to have a better life. Even though Great Britain's Industrial Revolution had some ups and downs, it changed the modernization and progress of the world we live in today.


Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution & Great Britain: The life before the Industrial Revolution consisted of people spending most of their working day farming; These people in rural areas made most of their own clothing, furniture, and tools from raw materials produced on the farms or in forests. Some products made in the towns were exchanged for food raised in the countryside. Town products were also exported to pay for luxuries imported from abroad, or they were sent to the colonies in payment for raw materials. The way of life changed little from one generation to the next, and most sons followed their father's trade. Before the Industrial Revolution, most European countries were ruled by a monarch who had much personal power. Workers and farmers had no voice in the government but landowners, rich merchants, and some members of the clergy had considerable political influence. Many countries did not even hold elections and Great Britain had a Parliament, but only male members of the Church of England who paid a certain amount of taxes could vote. A handful of voters often determined who would represent a district in Great Britain. All these social, economic, and political conditions changed in Great Britain as the Industrial Revolution developed.

During the 1700's and early 1800's changes started taken place in the lives and work of people in different parts of the world. These changes resulted from the development of industrialization called Industrial Revolution and began in Great Britain for several reasons. Two natural resources, coal and iron, which industrialization depended on. And the country had become the world's leading colonial power in the mid-1700. Great Britain's colonies provided raw materials and also provided markets for manufactured products. These colonial markets helped stimulate the textile and iron industries, which were probably the two most important industries during the Industrial Revolution.

Coal & Iron: Great Britain's large deposits of coal and iron ore helped make it the world's first industrial nation. Coal helped drive the steam engines and was needed to make iron; iron improved machines, tools, and helped to build ships and bridges.
In the early iron making, the metal had to be separated from the nonmetallic element in the ore; this separation process is called smelting. Thousands of years before the Industrial Revolution, smelting was done by placing iron ore in a furnace with a burning fuel that lacked enough oxygen to burn completely. Oxygen in the ore combined with the fuel and the pure, melted metal flowed into small molds called pigs. Pigs were then hammered by hand into sheets. Pigs in the beginning of the 1600’s were shipped to rolling mills. The pig iron was softened by reheating and rolled into sheets by heavy iron cylinders at a rolling mill. The most practical fuel for smelting was charcoal, made by burning hardwoods. Great Britain had almost used up its hardwood forests by the early 1700's. Charcoal became so expensive that many iron makers in Britain quit the industry because of the high costs of production. As an alternative for the expensive cost of charcoal Abraham Darby, an iron maker, came up with using coke to smelt iron between 1709 and 1713. Coke is made by heating coal in an airtight oven. Smelting with coke was much more economical and efficient than smelting with charcoal. After 1760, coke smelting spread throughout Britain.
A Fareham iron maker named Henry Cort took out a patent for improved grooved rollers in 1783. The next year, he patented a puddling furnace. Cort did not invent the puddling furnace, but he made great improvements in it. The puddling process produced high-quality iron. Before Cort developed his puddling furnace, iron makers had to use charcoal to reheat the pig iron for rolling. But Cort's furnace--with its combined rolling mill--used coke. The use of coke for smelting and puddling finally freed the British iron industry of any dependence on charcoal.
Iron making techniques continued to improve, and iron production expanded enormously. In 1788, for example, British iron makers produced about 76,000 short tons (68,900 metric tons) of iron. In 1806, they produced over three times that amount. Most machines were made of wood. But by the early 1800's, manufacturers used iron to make a wide variety of products, including machine frames, rails, steam engine parts, and water pipes.
In addition to coal and iron, other resources came along with the Industrial Revolution such as Textile Industry, Steam engine, and Transportation.

Women working with textile machines.
The Textile Industry: One of the most mark able features of the Industrial Revolution was the introduction of power-driven machinery in the textile industries of England and Scotland. This took place between 1750 and 1800 and marked the beginning of the age of the modern factory.

Before the industrialization of the textile industry, the workers lived in farms, cottages, or villages and manually spun the plant and animal fibers into yarn and others into cloth. This system was called domestic or cottage industry. Under the domestic system, unlike mandatory orders, the workers had freedom to work to different merchants and could work in their own pace. It causes lots of problems because they had no rules to follow through. Thus, the merchants turned increasingly to machinery for greater production and to factories for central control over their workers.
Agriculture as well as rural industry began to feel the changes brought about by the industrialization of textile manufacturing and a large capital investment happened to meet the increased demand for textiles and other products. The device called spinning wheel was used in the houses for hundred of years before the Industrial Revolution. It was a slow pace operated system as only one person could manage the wheel, so the machine produced only one thread at a time. In 1738, John Wyatt invented a new machine to improve the spinning machine even though it was not completely successful, it was the first step in the industrialization of textile manufacturing. Little by little new machines was introduced to revolutionize the textile industry, each of new machines spanned better and were more efficient than the previous ones and ended the home spinning system.
The first textile mills appeared in Great Britain in the 1740's. By the 1780's, England had 120 mills, and several had been built in Scotland.
Many machines were introduced to the world of the textile revolution, the weaving machines for instance, until the early 1800's, almost all weaving was done on handlooms because no one could solve the problems of mechanical weaving. In 1733, John Kay, a Lancashire clockmaker, invented the flying shuttle. This machine made all the movements for weaving, but it often went out of control.
In the mid-1780's, an Anglican clergyman named Edmund Cartwright developed a steam-powered loom. In 1803, John Horrocks, a Lancashire machine manufacturer, built an all-metal loom. Other British machine makers made further improvements in the steam-powered loom during the early 1800's. By 1835, Great Britain had more than 120,000 power looms. Most of them were used to weave cotton. After the mid-1800's, handlooms were used only to make fancy-patterned cloth, which still could not be made on power looms

Steam Engine: It was the most efficient source of power that the Industry needed among the most important invention of the Industrial Revolution. In 1698, the first commercial steam engine was used and since then many others were invented trying to improve the development of the steam engine. For instance, in 1785, James Watt eliminated problems that he found in 1760 by improving the engine by using the heat with less fuel. Furthermore, in 1775, John Wilkinson invented a boring machine that drilled a more precise hole and between 1800 and 1825, English inventors developed a planer, which smoothed the surfaces of the steam engine's metal parts. By 1830, nearly all the basic machine tools necessary for modern industry were in general use.

Transportation: It was an essential source to deliver the finished products and to bring raw materials over long distances, especially because Great Britain had many rivers and harbors. British engineers built canals to link cities and to connect coal fields with rivers. In 1777, the Grand Trunk Canal connected the River Mersey with the Trent and Severn rivers and thus linked the English ports of Bristol, Hull, and Liverpool. British engineers also built many bridges and lighthouses and deepened harbors. In 1807, the American inventor Robert Fulton built the first commercially successful steamboat. Within a few years, steamboats became common on British rivers. By the mid-1800's, steam-powered ships were beginning to carry raw materials and finished products across the Atlantic Ocean.
Another important way of transportation was the roads. Great Britain had poor roads until the early 1800's. Horse-drawn wagons traveled with difficulty, and pack animals carried goods over long distances. People rarely traveled by stagecoach. They either walked or went horseback riding. Then between 1751 until 1771, several turnpikes were built, making the transportations much easier. After the roads being improved constantly the manufactured goods to be delivered and the money involved in the industry moved faster and more simply.
In regards to the railroads, the first rail systems in Great Britain carried coal. In 1804, a Cornish engineer, Richard Trevithick, built the first steam locomotive and many more in the next twenty years. Steam locomotives did not begin to come into general use for passenger and freight transportation until the late 1830's.


The Industrial Revolution marked a transformation in Great Britain in terms of progress. Before the Industrial Revolution, the workers in Great Britain were in rural areas and farms; the concept of money exchange was not in practice because they based their commerce in a exchange for food in the countryside. Great Britain was rich in coal and iron therefore the Industrial Revolution began there and impacted the whole country in a successful way. Consequently, changes during the late 1700's and early 1800's took place for all Great Britain workers. In addition to development of the industrialization, other resources came up and contributed to generate more jobs, also modernization and progress of the country. New factories were built, improvement of transportations, such as railroads, turnpikes, steamboats, etc. replaced horse-drawn wagons and horseback riding.


Before the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain, everything in life was much harder to get through. Coal and iron made myriads of change, along with social, economic, and political conditions to the development of the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution was a success and created a modern world. But it also fell behind competing nations by losing its leads in cotton, steel, and finally in electrical and chemical technologies. Nevertheless, Great Britain has marked industrial revolution for centuries and has changed the world.


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