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View Poll Results: No salvery = industrial revolution
Yes, machines don't need to paid 0 0%
No, it was other factors 12 80.00%
But.... Britain had slaves in it's colonies 3 20.00%
Voters: 15. You may not vote on this poll

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Old December 5th, 2017, 04:08 AM   #1

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Did the abolishment of slavery lead to the industrial revolutoin??


Why did the industrial revolution occur in the UK but not in Ancient Rome or other Empires.

I recently heard one theory for this which I found quite interesting.

For the Industrial revolution to occur we needed, natural resources, a large market for products and an extensive trade network.

These are all things that the Romans, Egyptians, Spanish, Russian and many other great empires had but yet they did not experience an Industrial Revolution; why????

One theory is that Britain was the first country to achieve these conditions without slaves. What difference did that make???

Well if you had a large amount of slaves you just threw them at a problem until it was fixed. As Britain did not have slavery as an option, they either had to pay people to do things or invent a mechanical way of doing them. Hence the incentive was there to create a machine to do work, rather than just using slaves.

Do you agree or disagree with this theory, did the absence of slavery lead to the invention of machines to do the work without pay???
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Old December 5th, 2017, 04:22 AM   #2

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I think the point of this theory is that slavery is not compatible with a strong internal trade, and without this trade people couldn't accumulate much money by selling lots of manufactured goods. The incentive for innovation came from people's need for more profit, for producing things at a faster and more efficient pace with less investment, less cost, and it seems that slaves don't have that incentive because they simply don't profit from what they make. Machines were a solution if you didn't want to pay salaries, but you have to remember that slaves were also costly ó even though you didn't need to pay them salaries, you still had to feed and house them and spend some initial money buying them. And, of course, as you pointed out in the poll, Britain had slaves in its colonies that produced some of the necessary materials for industrialization.
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Old December 5th, 2017, 04:53 AM   #3

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The Industrial Revolution was a daughter of the Scientific Revolution [1543 - 1687 CE, usually these are the dates delimiting it].

The first Industrial Revolution, the one which happened in UK started around 1760 CE and it involved metallurgy and textile production. Then agriculture ...

The abolition of slavery in UK happened in 1833.

So we could say that the abolition of slavery affected the job market in occasion of the second industrial revolution ... not in occasion of the initial one.
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Old December 5th, 2017, 05:11 AM   #4
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Another thing you need for the industrial revolution is a large, unemployed, urban population. The ideas of assembly lines and division of labor/specialization of task had been around for centuries. No one wanted to work in factories (who can blame them), and in the post-Black Death labor shortage workers had right of refusal. Manufacturers could not convince workers to work in factories, so no industrial revolution. However, by the 18th century population had recovered from the Black Death. The Scientific Revolution (mentioned above) created a surplus of farm workers. Surplus rural workers moved to the cities where factory jobs were the only jobs available, so workers worked in factories.

I can't speak for the rest of the world, but slavery took root in America because of a labor shortage. The Industrial Revolution only started because of a labor surplus. If there is a relationship between the end of slavery and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution it's because of the changing labor market. In a time of labor shortage, slavery makes sense. In times of labor surplus, slavery no longer makes sense.
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Old December 5th, 2017, 05:32 AM   #5
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Actually you have it backwards. The Industrial Revolution led to the end of slavery.
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Old December 5th, 2017, 05:36 AM   #6

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The theory that slave based labor actually spurred on the industrial revolution has been around for a while, mostly as a result of Eric Williams' book Capitalism and Slavery. Williams was wrong about his notion that slave-based labor became less profitable or unprofitable around the time of the industrial revolution, since it in fact remained highly profitable pretty much everywhere, but some of his other arguments seemed generally sound to me.

I did come across some counter-arguments to the idea (that huge supplies of slave-based labor, and the great profits this yielded plus the jobs that were created were important to the start of the industrial revolution), but these didn't seem particularly strong/convincing to me.


Also, labor for extremely low wages or peonage did continue in British colonies after abolition:

https://books.google.com/books?id=4hKDDQAAQBAJ&pg=PT63
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Old December 5th, 2017, 05:55 AM   #7

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A part the chronological matter [slavery had abolished decades after that the industrial revolution begun ...], I tend to think to slavery as a social phenomenon [with clear economical consequences] not as an economical dynamic which affected an economical process [a process of economical evolution, if we want to be more accurate
] like the industrial revolution.

Slaves or not slaves, the introduction of machines [automation] reduces the direct costs of production in any case [and in fact, one of the reasons of the increasing demand of slaves in the Southern States was the invention of a machine: the “cotton gin” which substituted the hands of the men allowing a well quicker and cheaper production of a kind of cotton product, making it possible to exploit a cotton suitable for highlands … the extension of the cultivations increased … like the margins of profit].
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Old December 5th, 2017, 06:04 AM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlpinLuke View Post
I tend to think to slavery as a social phenomenon [with clear economical consequences] not as an economical dynamic which affected an economical process [a process of economical evolution, if we want to be more accurate] like the industrial revolution.
Well, this is certainly debatable. Economists have certainly analyzed slavery as an "economical dynamic which affected an economic process" in other contexts.
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Old December 5th, 2017, 06:45 AM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ighayere View Post
Well, this is certainly debatable. Economists have certainly analyzed slavery as an "economical dynamic which affected an economic process" in other contexts.
Absolutely debatable [without debate there isn't a discussion ...]. Probably I could elaborate further saying that the nature of the industrial revolution [which was in good substance technological] was motivated by the will [the desire] to increase margins of profits or by the need to cut direct costs to be more competitive ... and this was not connected with slavery [also who exploited slaves introduced machines to cut costs].

P.S. obviously the corollary of this was the increase of the global production and of the turnover [the GDP, we would say nowadays].

Last edited by AlpinLuke; December 5th, 2017 at 06:50 AM.
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Old December 5th, 2017, 06:53 AM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlpinLuke View Post
Absolutely debatable [without debate there isn't a discussion ...]. Probably I could elaborate further saying that the nature of the industrial revolution [which was in good substance technological] was motivated by the will [the desire] to increase margins of profits or by the need to cut direct costs to be more competitive ... and this was not connected with slavery [also who exploited slaves introduced machines to cut costs].
Well whether it was or was not connected with slavery has been debated. I haven't seen anything definitive one way or another for or against the idea. It's been several years since I read Williams' book (Capitalism and Slavery) so I can't quote anything directly from it, but I remember him specifically arguing for a connection with slavery.

The latest incarnation of Williams' idea seems to be the book Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England: A Study in International Trade and Economic Development by Joseph Inikori, which I own but unfortunately still have failed to sit down and read, being preoccupied with other things.
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