Industrial Revolution

Why did the Industrial Revolution happen in England and not in someplace like India or China? That fascinating question has repeatedly been asked and answered for two centuries. On this blog too a reader asked that question.

Dozens of books have been written by serious researchers on the topic, and there is quite a bit of consensus among scholars regarding the causes of the Industrial Revolution, although emphases vary. In the following I briefly outline my take on the matter. First, though, here’s how wiki introduces the IR: 

The Industrial Revolution, now also known as the First Industrial Revolution, was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the United States, in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, the increasing use of steam power and water power, the development of machine tools and the rise of the mechanized factory system.The Industrial Revolution also led to an unprecedented rise in the rate of population growth.

The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain, and many of the technological innovations were of British origin. By the mid-18th century Britain was the world’s leading commercial nation, controlling a global trading empire with colonies in North America and the Caribbean, and with major military and political hegemony on the Indian subcontinent, particularly with the proto-industrialised Mughal Bengal, through the activities of the East India Company. The development of trade and the rise of business were among the major causes of the Industrial Revolution.

Something as complex and widespread in its impact at the IR can not be monocausal. A large set of factors, many of which were necessary and many others contingent, created the conditions for it to happen precisely where it did. These include historical, cultural, institutional, technological, scientific, commercial, climatic and geographical factors. Continue reading