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The Cause of the Industrial Revolution

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ASSIGNMENT 1 The Cause of the Industrial Revolution In discussing the main developments of the Industrial Revolution, we must first look at the Agricultural Revolution and the effects of enclosure as writes Peter Mathias a secondary source, "to be given identity, the concept (the Industrial Revolution) implies the onset of a fundamental change in the structure of an economy; a fundamental redeployment of resources away from agriculture" (Peter Mathias (1969,p2) The First Industrial Nation). The agricultural revolution was the precursor to the industrial revolution and began around 1650, with parliamentary enclosure acts dominating the period 1750 - 1830. Enclosure changed agriculture from an open field system, whereby the villagers would each farm on a strip of land to provide for their own requirements to a system of private land management of enclosed fields and individual landowners took over control of the land. The community no longer had communal rights to the land and had to look to the large landowner for their living. Enclosing the land brought benefits to agricultural productivity from new crop rotation and heavy manuring, but for the peasant farmers they were displaced of their land and forced to find work elsewhere. Farming became less labour intensive and the large farms contributed to a rural labour surplus. The Agricultural Revolution created wealthy landowners, which in turn added to a financial situation favourable for the industrial revolution. ...read more.


(T.S. Ashton, The Industrial Revolution (1954)p161) In 1700 45.5% of the labour force were employed in agriculture by 1800 the figure was 35% and by 1871 it was as low as 15%. When compared with the population estimates, these figures substantiate and support the distribution of the population and the growth of the towns and factories. At the same time as a growing population, Britain was increasing its markets abroad as the British Empire grew. If we look at the primary source Map of the British Empire 1783, we can see that by winning India, Canada and more islands in West Indies in 1763, Britain increased the markets for British goods and also its access to raw materials. The growing population increased the pressure on England to produce more manufactured goods. Cotton textiles had to change from the old cottage industry in order to meet the demand. In 1733 John Kay (1704 - 1764) invented the flying shuttle, this improvement enabled weavers to weave faster but once its use was widespread it caused a shortage or yarn and the need for a faster method of spinning. The first machine invented to improve spinning was by James Hargreaves in the 1760's, he named it the 'spinning jenny' after his wife, it was, though, only suitable for threads to be used for weft. ...read more.


All this progress though, was at a huge cost to much of the population; one of the adverse consequences of the new factory system was the use of child labour and the dangerous and dreadful conditions they worked in. In a primary source report by the Committee on Factory Children's Labour of 1832, a father of two mill girls tells of the nineteen hours of labour the girls had to perform with one hours rest split into three breaks in which the girls often had to clean the machinery. The Industrial Revolution formed a new class of people dependent on the factory owners for their food and shelter, the term 'working class' was used for the first time in the nineteenth century. Charles Dickens, who, in 1838 wrote Oliver Twist, a secondary source, showed the terrible living conditions of the poor and protested about the Poor Law of 1834, which dictated that all public assistance must be channelled through the workhouse. The improvements in manufacturing and the new factories left Britain with a new set of problems. Another primary source to look at when discussing the standard of living debate is Thomas Carlyle who in 1839 stated that "A feeling generally exists that the condition and the disposition of the working classes is a rather ominous matter at present: that something ought to be said something ought to be done in regard to it. ...read more.

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