Commerce and Imperial expansion (1815-1870)
What was the Industrial
The Industrial Revolution changed
labour patterns, social structure, the
function of the family and the values and
attitudes of the individual. It involved more
than simply technological expansion - it
was driven by a massive social shift…
Pre 1750 Europe was agricultural.
Aristocratic landowners leased their land
to tenant farmers who paid for it with the
goods which they produced.
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The nature of the shift
Non-agricultural items were created by
individual families with specific skills
(such as making wagon wheels).
Many machines were already known,
and there were factories using them, but
these were the exceptions rather than
the rule. Wood was the only fuel, water
and wind the only power.
In a single generation shift to a capitalist-
based urban system.
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Pre 1800 new tech forced the development
The steam engine. James Watt's steam
engine, patented in 1769. Watt's 75% saving in
fuel made the steam engine far more efficient
and practical for industry.
The Spinning Jenny, invented by James
Hargreaves in 1797 allowed sixteen strands of
cotton to be spun together at the same time –
doing the work of several labourers in a fraction
of the time. The effect on cotton output was
The Cotton Gin, invented by American Eli
Whitney in 1793 mechanised the separation of
seeds from cotton fibres.
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The mercantile economy was also assisted by
the ease and price of travelling around England.
Trade thrived in England because there were
no internal tariffs or duties on commerce, which
was not true of the continental European states.
Moving goods around cheaply meant that
profits soared and industry thrived.
The big railway boom between 1844 and 1847
meant that cargo could be transported around
the company cheaply.
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Why did Britain succeed
ECONOMY: Increased demand in the
international market for European goods
also drove the conversion to a marketing
FLEET in place: policing foreign markets
from the mid nineteenth century.
COLONIES which could furnish raw materials
and act as captive markets for manufactured
WARFARE: As almost every war that Britain
fought in the eighteenth century resulted in
the acquisition of foreign territory, the
country monopolized overseas trade.
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Why did Britain succeed at
1. A STRONGLY CAPITALIST GOVERNMENT. As a
result, there was much parliamentary legislation that
favoured mercantile interests.
2. ENCLOSURE LAWS: The enclosure laws of the
eighteenth century saw an increase in agricultural
production and turned the established rules of land
ownership on their head.
3. DISPLACED LABOUR FORCE AVAILABLE FOR
FACTORIES. Enclosure caused the displaced peasants
to head for the cities. Subsequently, there was an
abundant labour supply to mine coal and iron, and
man the factories.
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4. A STRONG MIDDLE
The revolution moved economic power away from
the aristocratic classes and into the hands of the
new middle class, the bourgeoisie.
This new force in society was intent on making
money, as much and as quickly as possible. Adam
Smith’s account, The Wealth of Nations, proposed
that the only legitimate goal of government and
human activity is the steady increase of the
overall wealth of the nation. Wealth had replaced
religion, politics and power as the driving force of
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The Legacy of the Industrial
It changed the face of nations, giving rise to urban
centres requiring vast municipal services.
It created a specialized and interdependent
economic life and made the urban worker more
dependent on the will of the employer than the rural
worker had been.
Relations between capital and labour were
aggravated, and Marxism was one product of this
unrest. Doctrines of laissez-faire, developed in the
writings of Adam Smith and David Ricardo,
sought to maximize the use of new productive
facilities. Commerce and Imperial Expansion 9
Interventionism or Laissez-
But the revolution also brought a need for a new type
of state intervention to protect the labourer and to
provide necessary services. Laissez faire gradually
gave way in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere
to welfare capitalism.
The Industrial Revolution also provided the economic
base for the rise of the professions, population
expansion, and improvement in living standards.
These remain primary goals of less developed nations.
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