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Origins of Industrialization

Updated on April 3, 2015

Industrialization is the process by which a country, or society is transformed from being agriculturally reliant to manufacturing of goods and services. In most cases, human labor is replaced by mechanized mass production, while assembly lines replace artisans. Industrialization is also depicted by technological innovation, which is used in solving problems. This contradicts the reliance of conditions that are beyond human control including weather or witchcraft. In essence, industrialization has created a more efficient economic growth and division of labor(Alan and Saul, 2007).

The origin of industrialization has been mostly related to European Industrial Revolution during the 18th and 19th century. The beginning of( the Second World War also reinforced industrialization, which consequently led to the development and growth of urban centers and suburbs. It can therefore, be said that industrialization was reinforced by capitalism and its significance to the society has not been fully determined. One key thing however, is that industrialization has led to high average income and lower birthrate in many of the world societies (Abbott,2003).

Further, industrialization has been part of the broader process of modernization where economical development and social change have been associated with technological innovation. This is about the development of metallurgy and energy production. It extensively organizes the economy for production and manufacturing purposes. Moreover, industrialization has also led to the introduction of the philosophical change whereby; individuals develops different attitudes towards their nature, as well as the sociological process of rationalization. A number of literatures affirm that various factors are involved in enterprise development and modernization. Key among these is favorable legal and political environment, resource availability, availability of skilled and low cost labor.

As the income for industrial workers rise, there is a tendency for the market for consumer products and service to expand, consequently stimulating economic growth, and industrial investment.

Origin of Industrialization

Prior to industrialization, most economies were relying on subsistence or agriculture to meet their different human needs. A good example is medieval Europe where more than 80% of all the workers were working on agricultural fields. On the other hand, some other economies in pre-industrial period such as classical Athens depended on commerce and trade for their livelihoods. Greeks were hugely supported by slavery, which complimented their subsistence farming. Innovation as a form of industrialization in manufacturing processes first began with industrial revolution in the Midlands and North-West regions during the 18th century. From there, it then spread to North- America and Europe during the 19th century (Ashton, 1948).

Industrial revolution, which occurred in 18th and 19th century, was typically characterized by rural, agrarian societies in America and Europe being transformed into urban and industrial centers. Before the emergency of industrial revolution, which was initiated in Britain during the 1700s, manufacturing or production was mostly done by use of basic machinery and hand tools in people’s homes. Industrialization resulted into the development of powered and special machinery, mass production and factories. The textile and iron industries, alongside the development of steam engine were quite significant in industrial revolution. Further, the industrial revolution also resulted into an improvement of the transportation system, banking and communication systems. While the consequence of industrialization was an increased living standard and volume of manufactured goods, it also led to grim living conditions and employment particularly for the working class and the poor.

During the 18th and 19th century, UK experienced a huge increase in agricultural production, which was identified as the British Agricultural Revolution. This industrial revolution facilitated a massive population growth, whereby; many of the workforces that were employed in agriculture were now freed to work in other sectors. This was one of the factors that helped fuel industrial revolution in the region.

Prior to industrial revolution, majority of the people resided in rural communities where their daily activities concentrated around farming. For the average person, life was cumbersome. Alongside the income being meager, diseases and malnourishment were common phenomena in that era. Most of the people’s food, furniture, tools and clothing were produced by themselves.

Many factors contributed to Britain being the home or origin of industrial revolution. Among these is the presence of natural resources including iron ore and coal. These two resources were quite critical in industrialization processes. This is because the two are involved in making most of the machinery used in industries. In addition, there was political stability in this country, which stimulated this development. Added to these is the fact that Britain was a leading colonial power in the world at that time. This implied that raw materials could be sourced from the various colonies. In addition, these colonies acted as marketplaces for the finished industrial goods. When the demand for British products increased, there was need for cost effective means of production, which consequently led to the development of the factory system and mechanization.

The iron industry also played an important role in industrial development. During the 18th century, an Englishman by the name Darby Abraham (1678-1717) discovered an easier, cheaper means of producing cast iron by use of coke fueled furnace. In 1850, Henry Bessemer a British engineer, came up with a first, low cost process of steel production for mass scale. Both steel and iron were critical materials, which were utilized in making tools, appliances, ships, infrastructure, buildings, and machines (Ashton, 1948).

Another integral factor to industrialization was the development of the steam engine. In the year 1752, Newcomen Thomas (1664-1729) introduced the first steam engine, which was particularly employed in pumping water out of mines. In 1770s, a Scottish inventor, Watt James did improvement on the work of Newcomen and the steam engine was used in locomotives, power machinery, as well as ships during the industrial revolution(Alan and Saul, 2007).. Prior to the development of the steam engine, horse drawn wagons or boats transported finished goods and raw materials. The first successful commercial steamboat was built by Fulton Robert an American. By the mid- 19th century, freight was being carried by steamships across the Atlantic. The emergency of steam-powered ships was followed by a locomotive, which began to be used. The first railways steam locomotive was constructed in 1800s by a British engineer Trevithick, Richard. In 1830, Englands Manchester and Liverpool railway became the first to provide the timetabled and regular passenger service. By 1850, Britain had more than 6,000 miles of railway track. By 1820, a Scottish engineer McAdam John came up with a new process for constructing roads. His method, which came to be referred as macadam, led to development of smoother, less muddy and durable roads (Abbott,2003).

In order to inhibit the movement of industrialization from Britain to other areas, British authorities tried to establish laws that prohibited the export of skilled workers and technology from their country to other parts of the world. Nonetheless, they did not succeed in this endeavor. Industrialization came to spread to other countries such as German, France, Belgium and United States. By 19th century, industrialization had spread in most parts of Europe and America. By 20th century, America was already the leading nation in terms of industrialization in the world (Pollard, 1981).

From Britain, the industrial revolution spread to continental Europe. In this part of the world, industrialization involved the application of technology, which had been derived from Britain in new places. This technology was brought by British engineers or purchased from British authorities. British engineers could also move to Europe in search of greener pasture. By 1808, most parts of Europe had replicated Britain in terms of industrialization. Governments such as those of Belgian, Russia, and German supported industrialization in their various countries by sponsoring and funding new industries. Many governments in third world nations also pursued the same state led industrial programs, particularly during the cold war. These countries included the sub Saharan Africa and the socialist ones after they achieved independence. The main aim of these endeavors by the third world nations was to be self- reliant by producing their goods locally, provision of health care and education and mechanization of agriculture. However, these initiatives by the third world counties were not very successful because of the poor political systems or lack of capabilities and know how on how to run such systems (Timbs, 2005).


There is no doubt that the industrial revolution marked a critical turning point in the history of humankind. Almost all aspects of daily life were in one way or another influenced by the industrial revolution. The notable areas of impact were on the average income and population, which exhibited unprecedented growth in numbers. This may be attributed to enhanced productivity of goods and services because of industrialization. Moreover, industrial revolution resulted into a rise in people’s living standards. This improvement was more significant during the 19th and 20th century.

Concerning the origin of industrialization, it is clear that Britain is the birthplace of industrialization. Moreover, its growth and development was facilitated by sufficient resources which were accumulated from Britain’s many colonies. These colonies also offered ready markets for the finished goods. From Britain, it then spread to other parts of Europe through either industrial workers who were looking for better opportunities, British engineers or literary buying it from the British authorities. Moreover, the third world countries were quick to embrace industrialization after gaining independence in order to become self-reliant.


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