Origin of the industrial revolution?

#1
I thought that the origin of the industrial revolution was understood fully. That technological innovations lead to the ability to produce things at a greater rate, which lead to division of labor, rather than one person producing the whole thing, which further helped increase output.

I kept seeing, however, articles and books with supposedly new ideas about the origin of the IR and now I'm listening to a podcast with two economists talking about it as if it is NOT a settled matter and is still an open question.

What am I missing???
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
#2
Why did the industrial revolution get started in the first place is a question still debated. We know the mechanism of how it happened, but not the why it happened.

China, for instance, long lagged in the Industrial Revolution, even after it was exposed to it. It.was not until after losing in the Opium Wars and the First Sino-Japan War that it got serious about modernizing, andnit did not go all out like the Japanese did. The Japanese became fully committed to modernizing and the industrial after Admiral Perry's fleet demonstrated how advanced westerners had become, but Korea did not become committed to the industrial revolution until after Japan had mad Korea a colony.

So while the process of the Industrial Revolution seems straightforward, the why it happened is not.
 
Jul 2012
751
Australia
#3
My 4 ingredients to the industrial revolution:

Key - steam power.
Yes there was wind power and water power, but only steam power allowed you to have a source of non-animal power where you wanted it, and in the quantities you will need, large and small.

Essential - Science and technology.
Understanding the rational order of the world allowed you to manipulate it and to devleop machines to replace human labour.

Wider markets
Need to supply a wider market than just your local area - national and then later international. Needed advances in communications to aid the transportaton of goods.

Wealth needed to build and acquire the assets required.
 
Likes: Rodger

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,847
US
#4
My 4 ingredients to the industrial revolution:

Key - steam power.
Yes there was wind power and water power, but only steam power allowed you to have a source of non-animal power where you wanted it, and in the quantities you will need, large and small.

Essential - Science and technology.
Understanding the rational order of the world allowed you to manipulate it and to devleop machines to replace human labour.

Wider markets
Need to supply a wider market than just your local area - national and then later international. Needed advances in communications to aid the transportaton of goods.

Wealth needed to build and acquire the assets required.
I would add one more ingredient: free markets, or relatively free markets. As opposed to the mercantile system that was present throughout much of Europe past and present , but not in Britain and the U.S., such an economic system permitted the engine (pun intended) for innovation and technology, as well as the labor and capital for production for those wider markets. The end result was the necessary accumulated wealth and assets to continue the venture.
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,847
US
#6
Interesting that the masses, a vast labouring class, don't get a mention :nerd:
I mentioned labor, but should have given more due to it. Yes. The labor that was necessary to make products such as steel was immense, especially before automation. While the wages were low and the work hard and dangerous, many flocked to work in the industries for the the pay was steady. Internally, people left the rural areas and came to the cities. Externally, many immigrated to places such as the U.S. to take part.
 
#7
Why did the industrial revolution get started in the first place is a question still debated. We know the mechanism of how it happened, but not the why it happened.

China, for instance, long lagged in the Industrial Revolution, even after it was exposed to it. It.was not until after losing in the Opium Wars and the First Sino-Japan War that it got serious about modernizing, andnit did not go all out like the Japanese did. The Japanese became fully committed to modernizing and the industrial after Admiral Perry's fleet demonstrated how advanced westerners had become, but Korea did not become committed to the industrial revolution until after Japan had mad Korea a colony.

So while the process of the Industrial Revolution seems straightforward, the why it happened is not.
Hmm... but why does the why question need to be asked at all? Isn't it natural that if technology to make production easier and increase output become available people are gonna use it to make more products and consequently more money?

You could counter with the China example - why didn't it happen in China once the technology was available, but it seems to me that the more natural question then would be why DIDN'T the IR happen in China, rather than why did it happen in England, no?
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,847
US
#8
Hmm... but why does the why question need to be asked at all? Isn't it natural that if technology to make production easier and increase output become available people are gonna use it to make more products and consequently more money?

You could counter with the China example - why didn't it happen in China once the technology was available, but it seems to me that the more natural question then would be why DIDN'T the IR happen in China, rather than why did it happen in England, no?
In England? I would say the empire spurred new ideas and development, like the steam engine and bessemer furnace. The market was there , as Britain had a vast empire and beyond, with which to trade. And that Trade helped to provide the materials while Smith and Locke the ideas.
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
#9
Hmm... but why does the why question need to be asked at all? Isn't it natural that if technology to make production easier and increase output become available people are gonna use it to make more products and consequently more money?

You could counter with the China example - why didn't it happen in China once the technology was available, but it seems to me that the more natural question then would be why DIDN'T the IR happen in China, rather than why did it happen in England, no?

You operate on the assumption the IR was inevitable, but that is not the case. It didn't happen in India, the Islamic world, world, so if the IR just happened in one place, is more fruitful to ask why, rather than ask the ehy of all the places it did not happen to.

Plus asking the why might help illustrate a "how" factor that was overlooked. It can also help us to understand the nature of change.
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,847
US
#10
You operate on the assumption the IR was inevitable, but that is not the case. It didn't happen in India, the Islamic world, world, so if the IR just happened in one place, is more fruitful to ask why, rather than ask the ehy of all the places it did not happen to.
There was a freedom of ideas underfoot in Britain. Scotland in particular. While I have never understood the Freemasons, they had some revolutionary ideas. Maybe the diminishment of religiosity had something to do with it, or the Calvinistic ideas that were present among some of them.
 

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