16 Sep 2022


The Role of the British Industrial Revolution in Economic Growth

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The British industrial revolution played a crucial role in the economic growth and development of the European countries most especially England. In this case, it is believed that it is as soon as the textile and coal industries started operating in the Great Britain when the standards of living of people started improving. However, as much as the industrial revolution had its positives and negatives, this paper tries to explore some of the ways in which the industrial revolution affected the commerce industry and hence the economic growth of England and its surrounding areas. Some of the areas that will be explored include the history of industrial revolution, the working conditions of the people, life expectancy, and public health, living conditions of the Great Britain population among others. This paper will conclude by a brief restatement of the facts and opinion on the impact of industrial revolution on Great Britain. 

Thesis statement: 

This paper explores how Commerce Created the British Industrial Revolution and the Modern Economic Growth. 

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How Did Commerce Create The British Industrial Revolution And The Modern Economic Growth? 


The industrial revolution is universally acknowledged as one of the most renowned watersheds in the history of humans. In addition to this, it is no longer considered as a discontinuity that happened abruptly as the name suggests. Nevertheless, it was something that came about because of the economic expansion that commenced in the 16 th century (Allen, 2009) . Apparently, the 18th century is also accepted as the decisive break as far as economic and technology history is concerned. In this case, some of the famous inventions and innovations such as coke smelting, the steam engine, and the spinning jenny among others started a revolutionary process that put the European countries on the map at least up to the mass prosperity associated with the twenty first century. Therefore, the British’s remarkable contribution to the industrial revolution played a very crucial role in creating industries that promoted economic development that we see today. 

The History of the British Industrial Revolution 

The industrial revolution is believed to have commenced in Britain with some of the inventions that were able to establish textile factory production, steam engine perfection and the shift in the demand and production of coke and coal in the iron industry (Hudson, 2014) . Apparently, economic growth and development were experienced when some of this industries were adopted (Mathias, 2013) . In fact, this issue was first determined by the national income studies that claimed that the level in which the economic growth of France was growing was not very different from what was being experienced in England as much as both countries possess different economic structures. Moreover, this argument also gathered attention when some scholars argued that it was indeed the scientific revolution that played a crucial role in the growth of industries. In this case, as much as these arguments broaden the comprehension of the individual in regards to the industrial revolution, one thing for sure is that it was fundamentally British (Allen, 2009) . 

Industrial Revolution Implication on the British Economy 

The industrial revolution is accepted as an era that possessed both the negatives and the positives for both the American and British society. In this case, the mechanization of goods production made it possible for goods used for consumption purposes to be produced with ease. Additionally, items such as clothing, guns, furniture and related items were believed to be more expensive and therefore needed a lot of investment in terms of labor and time (Allen, 2009) . However, immediately the machines were invented, the products were made more available hence making the price of these items to reduce tremendously among the American colonies. 

Industrialization also impacted agriculture positively. In this case, through the mechanization of farm labor, it was clear that the firms started producing more output and in the process, the food supply started increasing. Additionally, industrial revolution also established new opportunities among the British and American colonies for export and trade with other countries. In fact, Britain and America were also in a position to increase trade (Humphries, 2013). 

Working Conditions of the British workers 

The working class during the industrial revolution was approximately 80% and had very minimal bargaining power with their employers. In this case, since the number of people living in Great Britain was on the increase while simultaneously, those people who owned lands were enclosing common village lands; it is acknowledged that people from the rural areas had to move to the city to look for employment in the factories (Allen, 2009) . As a result, this led to a high unemployment rate to workers during the first stage of the British industrial revolution. The owners of the new factories were in a position to set the conditions for work since there were an extensive number of unskilled workers who would take any job since they had few skills. Apparently, because the textile industry was something new to many people at the end of the 18 th century, it is acknowledged that there were no rules and regulations to control its operations. Since most of the migrants were desperate for work, they had no opportunity or bargaining power top request for high salaries, better working conditions, fairer work or related activities (Allen, 2009) . Another worst situation was that, since in Great Britain only the wealthy individuals were the ones allowed to vote, it is acknowledged that the desperate workers could not at any one point exercise their democratic political system to advocate for reforms and rights. Furthermore, in the year 1799 and around 1800, the Combination Acts was passed by the British parliament which legalized the ability of thee workers to form unions or come together as a group to improve their working conditions (Humphries, 2013). 

Many of the individuals who were underemployed or unemployed were workers who were skilled in the form of hand weavers whose experience and talent became useless as soon as the mechanization swung in since they could not compete with the new textile machines effectively. In fact, when it comes to the first phase generation of workers who worked between the 1790s and 1840s worked conditions that were very tough and to others, these conditions were tragic (Allen, 2009) . Additionally, each industry that existed during this period had its safety hazards. For instance, the process involved in purifying iron required that the workers had to work tirelessly in temperatures that rose even beyond 130 degrees (Clapp, 2014) . Moreover, besides such dangerous conditions, it was also clear that job accidents also occurred on a regular level. Apparently, life in the factory was the most challenging since it entailed the 

Living conditions 

Working in new industrial cities had an impact on the lives of individuals living outside of the factories. In this case, as the workers transferred to the city, it is accepted that their family’s lives and their lives were transformed permanently (Mathias, 2013) . Based on statistics, it is clear that for most of the newly employed workers, the quality of life reduced heavily in the first sixty years of the British industrial revolution. For instance, those hand weavers who had skills lived well as a middle class in pre-industrial society. In other words, they were able to tend to their own animals, weaved their own textiles in shops or at home and also domesticated farm animals. However, immediately after the British industrial revolution, the standards of living of the hand weavers decreased (Allen, 2009) . As a matter of fact, they could not work at their own supplement or pace or improve their income with spinning, gardening or communal harvesting. In simple terms, for skilled workers, the quality of life took a sharp decline (Mathias, 2013) 

During the first six decades of the industrial revolution, it was argued that those people who were working had very limited time for leisure or recreation. Apparently, they tended to spend much of their day working hence making them come home with little space, energy or light to play games or sports. In fact, the new factory system and the industrial pace were in line with the old traditional festivals which in the process destroyed the village holiday calendar. Additionally, the local governments also had a hand in demolishing and banning traditional festivals in the city. In the process, employers fined those employees who left work in order to attend the local fests since they believed that it interrupted the efficient output of work at the factory. However, this situation improved after the 1850s since recreation improved alongside the emergence of the middle-class (Mathias, 2013) . For instance, sports such as cricket and rugby gained popularity and music halls were established in the city as well. Apparently, by the completion of the 19 th century, the cities in Britain had become an avenue of opportunities for entertainment and sports just like they are in the modern era (Allen, 2009) . 

According to Allen (2009) , the living conditions for the poorest of the people during the first 6 decades of the industrial revolution was by far tragic and worst. Additionally, because of the desperate nature of the poor, most of them resorted into living in the poor houses established by the local government.In this case, the 1834 Poor Law established work houses for the poor. Apparently, the poor houses established by the government were made to exist under harsh conditions to deliberately make individuals from sating on government food aid. Moreover, families were separated immediately they set foot on the poor housing grounds including husbands and wives. The families were confined as inmates each day and worked as prisoners every day (Mathias, 2013) 


One of the lasting features and most lasting elements of the industrial revolution were the development and the rise of the cities. Additionally, during the pre-industrialist society, approximately eighty percent of the individuals were living in upcountry or rather the rural areas. In this case, as people migrated from the rural areas into the city, those towns that were small became extensive and robust cities (Allen, 2009) . As a result, in the year 1850; it was a historical moment since for the first time the population in the city surpassed that in the rural areas in Great Britain (Mathias, 2013) . Moreover, as other countries in North America and Europe industrialized, they as well went through the process of urbanization. For instance, by the year 1920, in America, most of its population was found in the city. In Great Britain, the urbanization process was unabated all through the 19 th century (Allen, 2009) .Mathias (2013) further points out that in England, London city population grew from 2 million in the year 1840 to 5 million four decades later. Moreover, the small towns such as the Manchester also expanded into one of the most famous quintessential industrial city. In this case, it was believed that its cool climate favored textile production. Furthermore, it was situated around the Liverpool’s Atlantic port and the Lancashire’s coalfields. In so doing, Manchester became a global hub of textile production and at a later stage; it connected textile production to Liverpool town (Allen, 2009) . 

The urbanization process facilitated the booming new industries by linking factories and workers together. As a result of this phenomenon, the new industrial urban centers became to be renowned as sources of wealth for the nation. However, despite the fact that urbanization resulted into growth in industry and accelerated wealth creation, it is also believed to have resulted in a number of negative implications. On a general level, those neighborhoods that were inhabited by working class people were crowded, bleak, polluted and dirty (Allen, 2009). 

Public Health and Life Expectancy 

According to Allen (2009), during the first period of the 19 th century, poor diets, urban overcrowding, essentially medieval medical remedies and poor sanitation played a very crucial role to the poor health of the public for quite a number of the English people. In this case, the overcrowding and the densely constructed neighborhoods inhabited by the working class facilitated the faster spread of contagious diseases since they were unplanned, filthy and slipshod. Houses were built closer to each other; roads were muddy with no sidewalks hence leaving no room for ventilation (Mathias, 2013) . Additionally, perhaps one most significant observation was the fact that most homes did not have sewage systems and toilets and in the process, sources of drinking water such as rivers and wells were in most cases contaminated. Hence, Tuberculosis, cholera, typhoid, influenza and typhus ravaged through the urban centers most especially in the working class poor neighborhoods. For instance, in London alone, around 10,000 people in the year 1849 died of cholera within a span of three months (Allen, 2009) . 

It is important to note that those individuals that received medical treatment and other related health care services during the first period of the 19 th century worsened under the treatment and care of untrained nurses and doctors. The reason behind this was the fact that most of the doctors still employed those remedies that were popular in the middle ages such as leeching and bloodletting (Mathias, 2013) . In addition to this, they also encouraged the employment of laxatives and heavy use of vomiting which in the process, dehydrated patients and could easily result in their demise. In fact, as much as there were so many doctors living in the urban centers, the life expectancy in the cities was low as compared to the rural areas. Lastly, lack of sanitation, poor nutrition, harmful medical care and disease in the cities had a devastating implication on the life expectancy of the people of Great Britain during the first half of the 19 th century. In the year 1845, the Registrar General reported that the mean life expectancy in Great Britain’s upcountry was approximately 45 years but in London, it was 37 years and in Liverpool, it was an alarming 20 years (Allen, 2009) . This is a clear indication of the role that the industrial revolution played in the public health and life expectancy in England. 

Working Class Families and the Role of Women 

Allen (2009) points out that the role of the family was also transformed by the industrial revolution. In this case, during the ancient agricultural society, the family members worked together as a production unit, knitting sweaters, tending to fields or tending to the fire (Mathias, 2013) . Additionally, women could act as parents while at the same time help out with food production. In other words, work and play were interwoven and flexible (Allen, 2009) . However, industrialization came and transformed all that. In other words, the same type of specialization that took place in the factories was also transformed into families hence braking out the family economy. In simple terms, among the working class families, home life and work became sharply separated. In the process, women took over the traditional home keeping chores that include taking care of children, making of food and housekeeping and this saw their economic production and empowerment decline tremendously (Mathias, 2013) . 


The Britishness of the industrial revolution played a very crucial role in creating industries that promoted economic development. Additionally, since the era of the industrial revolution was something new at the end of the 18 th century, it is understood that there were no rules that initially regulated the operation of the new industries. As a result, there were no rules to monitor and control the issue of child labor, to protect the rights of workers, and to regulate hazardous industrial waste. As a result, free-market capitalism took control and there was no room for the government to control the allocation of cities and factories or rather planning of services around the urban centers. Moreover, this was made worse by the fact that there were no voting rights for the poor hence the country was controlled by the minority who were wealthy. Despite all these, high availability of labor ensured that factories were able to increase their overall production output and in the process resulted in increased economic growth in Britain and the entire Europe. 


Allen, R. C. (2009). The British industrial revolution in global perspective (pp. 135-181). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Clapp, B. W. (2014). An environmental history of Britain since the Industrial Revolution . Routledge. 

Hudson, P. (2014). The industrial revolution . Bloomsbury Publishing. 

Humphries, J. (2013). Childhood and child labor in the British industrial revolution1. The Economic History Review , 66 (2), 395-418. 

Mathias, P. (2013). The first industrial nation: The economic history of Britain 1700–1914 . Routledge. 

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