Why England? Could Industrial Revolution Begun in a Different Country?


Why England? Could Industrial Revolution begun in a different country?

If there was a single event marked that the beginning of our modern era, that would be the Industrial Revolution, and to be precise, the Industrial Revolution that we are discussing here was the first and it originated from England. The First Industrial Revolution began around 1760s, and it changed the method of manufacturing goods from handmade to machine. England was the first country that started and succeeded in this revolution. The boost of productivity and the increase in profits that England achieved through this revolution made the country, and entire British Empire became the superpower around globe. To understand Industrial Revolution more thoroughly, historians need to know the reason why Industrial Revolution first occurred in England, after all, England was not the dominating power in Europe during 16th and 17th century. Compared to England, due to the discovery of the improved technology for production, Spain and Portugal became the superpowers around globe, and the profits that they made from their colonies put them in an upper hand both economically and militarily. Not to mention that Spanish Empire as the protector of the Catholic faith against Ottoman Empire in the east helped them gain political advantages in Europe. Surprisingly, the latecomer of this Great Game, England, surpassed all hers seemingly overpowered competitors, and finished in the first place. This essay will try to explain the reasons behind England’s success in Industrial Revolution, and four main reasons will be discussed.
First of all, the political environment in England did not resemble that of other European powers because of the revolution of 1688-1689 and the Bill of Rights. Secondly, the Enclosure Movement, and economy policy paved the economic foundation of England’s Industrial Revolution. Thirdly, the scientific advancements and innovations that England achieved in Industrial Revolution era made sure England had the technological means to change the way of production form hand to machine. Finally, the vastness of British Empire helped the nation to have enough natural resources and manpower to back up the revolution. Moreover, British Empire and its military strength also provided enormous markets which absorbed England’s products. Based on the above argument, the readers can have a clearer view on why England was the first country started Industrial Revolution.
Every successful reformation or revolution need to have a solid political and legal foundation to support it, otherwise it would be easily restored to the old status. In the case of England, the political foundation of Industrial Revolution was laid in the years of 1688-1689. In 1689, William III also widely known as William of Orange signed “An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown”
, which was the 1689 Bill of Rights, and this bill guaranteed the supremacy of the Parliament and “restricted the prerogatives of the monarchy”
. In order to understand this, a brief background of England’s Glorious Revolution is necessary. Due to the religious differences between King James II and the people of England, English Parliamentarians and William of Orange who was the governor of Netherlands together overthrew King James II and restored the protestant belief in England. No blood was spilled in this revolution, so historians called this revolution a “Glorious” one. Beyond the religious problem that this revolution solved for England, the true turning point that it caused in the history of England was the signing of the Bill of Rights. The 1689 Bill of Rights was short but powerful, it only contains 13 clauses, but these clauses set the foundation of the Constitutional Monarchy that the entire empire was based on. In our study of Industrial Revolution, some clauses of the Bill of Rights were extremely crucial for the thriving of Industrial Revolution. For example, the Bill of Rights stated that it is illegal for the king to suspend or abuse the law without the approval of the Parliament
, and it is illegal for King to collect tax without the approval of the Parliament
. In a nutshell, the will of England is no longer able to be abducted by the will of one person, which is the king, or queen of England, and the Parliamentary Sovereignty became the most important part of England constitution.
This bill cleared away the influences that old and feudal aristocracies would have on the country, and made sure that new ruling class which was the emerging middle class and merchants would control the country. The new capitalists with its class and ideology were the essential part of the Industrial Revolution, and 1689 Bill of Rights pledged the rights of these people and class, therefore, it paved way for the foundation of Industrial revolution.
Another important contributor for the emergence of Industrial Revolution was the enclosure movement. Started as early as in 1560
, large arable lands were enclosed by landlords, and by the year of 1800, “4000 Parliamentary Acts had been passed and in addition six million acres of land were enclosed”
. People recognized enclosure movement as a method to increase the productivity of land, indeed some of the enclosure movement increased the productivity to a certain extent, but the increase was never very significant. The yields in enclosed village compared to open-field system village were only 7 to 12 percent respectively, which was higher in late 1760s
, and in some area of England, such as South Midlands, the total efficiency gained from 1700 to 1850 due to enclosure was only 2.5 percent
. In the entire time of Industrial Revolution era, the overall increase on output per worker in agriculture area was only 5-6 percents
. Despite the debatable increase in agriculture productivity, the enclosure movement provided large number of free labor forces for both urbanization and industrialization. People who used to have jobs on the common land were lacked employment due to the enclosure movement, thus, those who were “landless rural proletariats rapidly displaced from the countryside”
moved to urban center for survival. Hence, when these people soaked up in the industrialized manufacturing factories, the enclosure movement indirectly speeded up the process of Industrial Revolution.

Beyond the enclosure movement, England’s economic policy was important as well regarding the development of Industrial Revolution. People usually associate Britain in 19th century with laissez-faire economy. To be accurate, like there is no pure communism economy, a hundred percent pure laissez-faire economy is impossible. However, compared to the European continent, Britain’s government often left their merchants to conduct their own business without intervention. Many differences between Britain and the continent after Glorious Revolution, was that the guild system declined, and it made market forces overpower political forces
. Furthermore, even social-overhead projects, like canals, turnpikes, and railroads were left to private sectors.
On the foreign trade sector, British government had more control than internal trade. To protect Britain’s woolen industries from cheap India cotton, the parliament passed the Calico Act, which “prohibited the importation and sale of printed white calicoes”
. Not surprisingly, this act was often evaded by “smart” British businessmen, and after the technological breakthrough which was led by Richard Arkwright’s invention of water power spinning frame, this act was appealed. During post-Napoleonic War period, Britain used government intervention to secure their interests on foreign trade. Tariffs were raised to 64 percent of the value of the import goods in 1822
, and the Navigation Act which limited foreign ships carrying British goods was not appealed until 1849
. Britain used both laissez-faire and government intervention methods to protect their interests on trading, this kind of application of real politics in economics helped Britain in the advancement of Industrial Revolution.
As mentioned above, Arkwright’s invention and patent made sure Britain would have the advantage in the cotton industries, therefore, it is important to study technology and science breakthrough in order to understand why England would be the first to go on the path of industrial revolution. From late 18th century to the end of the first Industrial Revolution, many incredible inventions had been innovated by scientists and inventors. These inventions caused revolutions of manufacturing process in several industries. To achieve maximum profit, entrepreneurs and inventors needed to increase the efficiency and lower the cost of manufacturing goods, thus, machines were tuned to the goal. For textile industry, one of the most important inventions was Arkwright’s water frame. This spinning frame is powered by water, and it can easily spin 128 cotton threads at same time.
Because of this innovation that was created by Arkwright, the total costs of coarse cotton production reduce 20 percents.
As a matter of fact, Arkwright’s water frame was just one of many revolutionary inventions in textile production industry, and with all those inventions Britain dominated the world textile industry. During 1865-1874 which was the end of the first Industrial Revolution the British raw cotton consumption was 475.8 tons, and compared with France and Germany’s 85 tons consumption,
the overwhelming advantage of British textile industry was obvious, and it certainly supported the emergence of British Industrial Revolution
. Another important innovation that moved the British Industrial Revolution forward was the steam engine. Before the steam engine, the sources of power were basically coming from muscles or the Mother Nature (such as wind and water), nevertheless, the founding of the steam engine dramatically changed the way people worked or lived. With James Watt’s improvement of original Thomas Newcomen’s steam engine, the new steam engine technology “accounted for two-fifths of the growth in British labor productivity.
Also the transportation use of steam engine on ships and railways significantly shrank the world, and it made Britain to maintain the control on oversea colonies much easier. Similar with cotton industry, Britain also overwhelmingly dominated the steam engine industry. The Britain, France and Prussia’s capacities of stationary steam engines during 1800 was 35, 3, and 0 respectively. However, seventy years later in 1870 the figures became 2060, 336, and 391 respectively
. This huge gap between Britain and rest of Europe helped the nation to take the lead of Industrial Revolution. Beyond these inventions, the most significant thing that England had was the breeding ground of scientists and inventors. The reasons for that were included the fact that the literacy of people in England increased, and people tended to be more numerated and skilled
. Furthermore, England’s social atmosphere after Scientific Revolution changed at large, people wanted to study sciences and technologies. These reasons contributed toward the development of new inventions which ultimately speeded up Industrial Revolution.
Without steady supply of raw material, and a huge market to consume the products, England’s Industrial Revolution would not be successful. To acquire these essential necessities for the Industrial Revolution, England constantly fought war against other nations, and eventually became the empire where the Sun never sets. British Empire at her heyday occupied 37 million square kilometers and ruled over 400 million people
. Most importantly, Britain severely depended on the import of raw materials from the colonies. Like in the textile industry, cotton was the most important raw material, and all Britain’s raw cotton was imported
. Before 1776 American thirteen colonies were the main provider for the British textile industry, and after the independence of the United States, the source of the raw material moved to India. Thus without the support of the raw material from the colonies, there was no way for Britain would thrive in Industrial Revolution era. Due to the tremendous increase of productivity caused by Industrial Revolution, Britain need to have markets to sell the products that were manufactured in the factories of England. In this case, British oversea colonies still were the best choice of its markets. As an example, India constantly absorbed 13.3 percent of British exports per year from 1786-1856; based on the count for cotton products, then India brought 22.5 percent of Britain’s exports.
Sometimes for the sake of new markets for Britain’s products, British Empire would not mind to use violence to open these markets on the colony. In 1840 and 1856, British Empire invaded China because China refused to completely open its market for British products, mostly, opium. Britain used its vast colonies to plunder the raw materials to support her internal industries, then she sold the products to the colonies or other countries that could not resist, therefore, this cycle helped Britain to embrace Industrial Revolution and to be industrialized.
Other than England, many European countries also had the chance to start Industrial Revolution and became industrialized, however, none of them had the required innovation and machine power to begin the Industrial Revolution like England. France was the most prominent rival of England, but it still fell behind England in many aspects. England developed constitutional monarchy way back in Glorious Revolution, whereas France was under the rule of Louis XIV who was famous for his absolutistic rule. History indicates the advantages that constitutional monarchy had over absolutism during modern time, so England as the first country established a healthy constitutional monarchy and would certainly surpass all her competitor regarding political system. In France, and many other continental countries, they were considering shame if a nobleman conducted business activities, on the contrary, in England business activities did not impact the status of nobles. Thus, English nobles who had means and relations to conduct large business would have no restrain, but French nobles were different. The enclosure movement in France was also hamstrung by lack of capital, widespread presence of small-scale land owners, and the absenteeism of landlords.
Without a vigorous enclosure movement, France could not have the abundance source of free labor which could trigger Industrial Revolution. Although, France acquired many oversea colonies like England did, it lost several colonial war against England, and the most crucial one was the Seven Years’ War. The Seven Years’ War ended with France and England signing the Treaty of Paris, and this treaty was one of the most disgrace treaty that France signed. In the treaty, France gave the entire French Canada, and part of Louisiana to England, additionally, France was pushed out of India and only retain five cities.
All these disadvantages made sure France could not compete with England in this race of Industrial Revolution, and France was just one example of many continental countries that could not compete with England in this matter.
England succeeded to pioneer the Industrial Revolution due to certain fundamental strengths. One of them is the fact that Britain had policies that supported both economical as well as political development. This included the Bill of Rights which greatly contributed towards a conducive political arena. However, the most essential element about these policies was more related to supporting the economic development of the nation. Secondly, the British realized advanced machinery and technology through innovations thus outwitting other competitors such as France in terms of industrial production. Although the other nations were struggling to invest in innovation, Britain had no match for in had excellent skills. Most important, British had many colonies that provided sufficient labor and raw material. Further, these colonies also assisted the British Empire to generate enough revenue for supporting a strong military that assisted in winning wars and more colonies. The enclosure movement also contributed greatly towards the success of the British in starting the Industrial Revolution because unlike other nations, it had large-scale land ownerships that facilitated more production. Therefore, regardless of the efforts fostered by other European competitors, the British Empire surpassed all of them and initiated the Industrial Revolution, which brought about increased industrial productions and spread to the other regions of the world. It had all the mechanics to facilitate for a successful industrial revolution.
? Craik, George L., and Charles MacFarlane. The Pictorial History of England During the Reign of George the Third: Being a History of the People, As Well As a History of the Kingdom. Illustrated with Several Hundred Woodcuts. London: C. Knight, 1841. 660.

?The declareation of rights 282

?Childs, John. 1987. The British army of William III, 1689-1702. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. 84

? Childs, John. 1987. The British army of William III, 1689-1702. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. 84


?https://books.google.ca/books?id=-sya6fxO6zgC&pg=PA14&lpg=PA14&redir_esc=y&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false 14

?https://books.google.ca/books?id=-sya6fxO6zgC&pg=PA14&lpg=PA14&redir_esc=y&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false 15

?The british indu—an econ perspective253

?Ibid 253

?Ibid 254

?Ibid 163

?The industrial revolution 75

?Industrial econimc percepetive 47

?Ibid 48

?Ibid 49



?Global percepective 195

?Ibid 195


?Cpmparative 113

?Ibid 157 golobal




?Econmic 179


?Rozental, Alek A. “The Enclosure Movement in France.” The American Journal of Economics and Sociology 16, no. 1 (1956): 55-71. http://www.jstor.org.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/stable/3484794.


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Why England? Could Industrial Revolution Begun in a Different Country?. (2022, Feb 16). Retrieved from https://essaylab.com/essays/why-england-could-industrial-revolution-begun-in-a-different-country

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