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Q1) Describe the reasons that made Britain the birthplace of Industrial Revolution. In what ways the process of industrialization differ across countries?


Industrial revolution refers to the transformation of industry and economy through the use of new machinery and technologies for production of goods that started in Britain around 1750’s. The reasons that made Britain the birthplace of Industrial Revolution are:

  1. Technological revolution: Industrial revolution in Britain was aided by the forces of technological revolution. E.g., inventions like Power loom, steam engine revolutionized textile industry and transportation of coal respectively.
  2. Stable political conditions:
  3. As per contemporary historians like Yuval Harari, factors like certainty and enforceability of contracts and functional democracy in Great Britain attracted investments from all over the Europe.
  4. Apart from Britain nearly all European countries, at the time, had antiquated political systems like “absolute monarchies”, with “rule of men” instead of “rule of law”.
  5. Glorious revolution in Britain provided stable political conditions.
  6. British Parliament passed laws protecting private properties, and ensuring that the legal contracts are upheld even against the Monarch.
  7. Fewer government controls promoted the interests of capitalist class.
  8. Robust economic framework: British banks started providing finance and credit operations for overseas trade and commerce, giving a fillip to trade and commerce.
  9. Agricultural revolution: Enclosure movement led to availability of cheap labor for the British capitalists.
  10. Infrastructure: Abundance of rivers, canals; indented coastlines; development of roads, railways etc., facilitated easy and cheap transport.
  11. Colonial trade:
  12. Enhanced and early access to colonies enabled Britain to import cheap raw materials. E.g., import of cotton from India, USA.
  13. British colonies, further, provided a ready market for the finished products from Britain. E.g., British colonies in Caribbean, India, and Africa.

The process of industrial revolution was different in different countries, as can be seen from:

  1. Germany:
  2. Unlike Britain, initial focus of industrialisation was in coal, steel and railroad construction.
  3. Government of Prussia protected local industries.
  4. Establishment of zollverein eliminated the trade barriers.
  5. Population expansion in provided market and workforce.
  6. Russia:
  7. State-led industrial revolution; state was the primary producer and consumer of goods.
  8. Unlike Britain, transportation was a challenge. The same was overcome by construction of Trans-Siberian rail network.
  9. Railways and heavy industries were built in the initial phase of industrialisation.
  10. Abolition of serfdom in 1861 provided the labour base.
  11. European scientists, engineers, and experts played a major role in industrial development.
  12. France:
  13. French revolution and Napoleon wars delayed the onset of industrial revolution.
  14. Lack of coal reserves was a major bottleneck.
  15. Protective policies by the government, development of transport sector etc., steps revived the pace of industrialization.
  16. USA:
  17. Expansion of machine tool industry and demand for interchangeable parts lead the transition towards industrialisation in the middle of the 19th century.
  18. USA was seen as a land of opportunity by European businessmen to rise in social and economic stature.
  19. USA gained prominence with the exports of machinery and consumer products, surpassing even Britain.
  20. Japan:
  21. Japan was forced to open its trade with America in 1850s. This national humiliation triggered Japan to become industrialized.
  22. Meiji restoration further accelerated the process of industrialisation in Japan.
  23. Unlike in western countries, the government in Japan itself became the entrepreneur.
  24. Private investments from zaibatsu aided in industrialisation process.
  25. Imported western technology fuelled industrial revolution in Japan.

Industrial revolution followed different trajectories in different countries, however, the socio-economic impacts of the industrial revolution continue to persist, even in the contemporary times.

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