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The Causes of the Industrial Revolution in Britain

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Introduction

The Causes of the Industrial Revolution in Britain The period in British history known as "The Industrial Revolution" brought about unprecedented changes to British society, culminating in the transition from a mainly cottage industry-based economy around the time of 1750 to a almost fully industrialised and machine-based economy around 1850. This period of change experienced increases of output in agriculture where "both output per hectare and output per person rose" and also in manufacturing industry where "there was spectacular growth in output and labour productivity in two industries, cotton textiles and iron smelting" (both from More, 1997). The growth increases in these two sectors lead to greater specialisation in terms of trade, and also spurred an accelerated rate of growth in the economy as a whole. However, despite the transformations made to the British Economy during the Industrial Revolution, economic historians are still in dispute as to what actually caused the Industrial Revolution - was it due to the supply side factors or were the demand side factors the more influential? David Landes (1969) states that there was a, "piling up of various factors which triggered off a chain reaction." The demand side factors had the effect of not just simply increasing aggregate demand in the economy, but additionally exerting upwards pressure on prices, which then provided incentives for producers to increase production. ...read more.

Middle

The improvements in farming that were made at this time significantly lowered farmer's long-term costs, thus providing an incentive to increase output which, in itself, effectively lowered prices. This coincided with an increase in population which, through increased demand, would have caused significant price rises had it not been for the balancing effect provided by the increase in agricultural output at the same time. As mentioned earlier, Britain did not fall into a Malthusian trap during this period, and as food prices did not increase greatly, there was no cut in consumer's effective purchasing power, which would have caused a decrease in demand for consumer goods and would have greatly hindered Britain's industrial progress. Additionally, the "Agricultural Revolution" caused an increase in demand for specific farming goods, such as iron ploughs that many farmers used to great effect to increase their total output. Demand also increased for wood, and one can assume that growth in many other industrial sectors remained steady as a result of the increases in demand caused by the increase in agricultural output. However, the role of agriculture was seen as only passive, not decisive due to the fact that industrial growth was helped by the increases in agricultural output but not caused by them. ...read more.

Conclusion

Due to the population growth experienced at this time, labour was also in strong supply and coal was already readily available after extensive mining for centuries (a fact that would later assist the development of the steam engine). As shown in the arguments above, there were many crucial factors in instigating the Industrial Revolution, both on the demand side and the supply side. Population growth and the increase in foreign trade were vital in creating a vibrant economy for industry to flourish. This was assisted by an agrarian revolution that occurred at the same time that provided the means for consumers to continue to purchase consumer goods and increased demand for various manufactured goods. On the supply side, technical innovation and the agreeable state of labour and capital, effectively managed by risk-taking entrepreneurs, provided the means for industrial growth to escalate. Due to the obvious importance of many of the factors, it is difficult to distinguish between supply side and demand side as being the more crucial, with both being intertwined with one another. However, there is much evidence to suggest that demand was the decisive factor as the increases in demand due to population growth and the growth in trade ultimately led to producers being stimulated to innovate and lower which would cause the growth in output so vital to sustaining the Industrial Revolution. ...read more.

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