The Industrial Revolution - Management and Unions
The Industrial Revolution (18th – 19th century)
The transfer of production in Britain from agriculture to manufacturing that started in
the mid-18th century.
The textile industry was:
- dominant (accounting for 60% of British exports in 1800).
- mechanized (leading to some of the world’s first factories like Richard
Arkwright’s ,pictured right in 1790, water-powered textile mill in Cromford,
Why did it start in Britain?
1. Steam power
In 1775 the Scotsman, James Watt (pictured
right), revolutionized steam engines by adding a condenser that:
- released hot steam from the engine.
- made it much more powerful and efficient.
Watt’s engine powered:
- locomotives that transformed industry and transport.
a) roads greatly improved
The journey from London to Edinburgh was reduced from two weeks to 2½ days in the second half
of the 18th century.
b) canals and railways
Their construction hugely improved transport.
In 1825 George Stephenson designed the first train (the Locomotion No. 1
, pictured right) that:
- travelled on the world’s first railway line (from Stockton to Darlington in Northern
- reached 15 mph (compared to 6 or 7 by horse).
3. Growing markets
From 1750 to 1800 British demand for consumer goods increased by 42% , largely due to the fast
growing middle class of professionals and businessmen.
Overseas trade also boomed, helped by:
- Britain’s colonial markets (like America).
4. Social mobility
There were fewer class barriers in Britain than anywhere else in Europe, helping poor people to become rich and
successful (like the textile boss, Richard Arkwright, who was originally a barber).
There was a big interest in self-improvement.
Samuel Smiles’, pictured right, 1859 book, Self-Help, even outsold
5. Excellent engineering
Railways (and so bridges and tunnels) were built by great engineers like:
- Thomas Telford (pictured right below).
The Scottish philosopher, Adam Smith
(pictured right), wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776 that supported profit making in businesses
- competition (what Smith called the “invisible hand”).
- minimal government (and so low taxes).
- was much more efficient than anywhere else in Europe.
- could feed people moving to the new industrial cities.
The number of patents (protecting new inventions) rose significantly from the mid-18th century
onwards - see below.
Key British & American inventions in the Industrial
James Hargreaves’ (pictured right) spinning jenny (which automated cloth
But some people claim that Thomas Highs invented it.
James Watt’s steam engine.
Michael Faraday’s (pictured right in
1842) electric motor.
Charles Babbage’s (pictured right) first computer.
Two American inventions were also vital:
Eli Whitney’s cotton gin (that automated cotton cleaning).
Samuel Morse’s (pictured right) telegraph.
Why did British industry decline?
From the early 19th century onwards, Britain was overtaken industrially, particularly by
America and Germany.
The 3 E’s explain why:
Britain didn’t educate enough people.
The best schools (particularly private schools like Eton and Harrow) were anti-business.
Britain’s empire provided easy money and markets which made its industry lazy
The powerful British land owning upper classes snobbishly despised the new rich businessmen (as shown in films
like Chariots of Fire , pictured
- stopped poor people maximizing their potential.
- led to conflict (and strikes) between employers and workers
This worker unrest was shown in films like How Green Was My Valley and
Billy Elliot – see below.
The Industrial Revolution created:
- big gaps in income and wealth between the rich and
- terrible living conditions for the poor (clearly shown in Charles Dickens’, pictured right, novels).
The poor had to live in:
- horrible houses (with 2-4 rooms and no running water or toilet).
- woeful workhouses (for the unemployed and destitute).
Workers’ pay and working conditions were atrocious
Children worked from the age of five.
Help for the workers
1. Trade (or labour) unions
Unions were created to protect the interests of its worker
members from the mid-19th century onwards, leading to lots of strikes, particularly in the coal
This was the name given to workers who destroyed machinery that was destroying their jobs.
The Luddite movement started in 1811.
This movement (started in 1838) wanted every man to have the vote.
At that time poor people had no vote and so no influence over government policy.
4. Kind employers
Some employers treated their workers well like:
- Robert Owen (at his mill in New
Lanark, Scotland) - pictured right above.
- Quakers (such as the chocolate makers John and George Cadbury, pictured right).
5. Co-operative societies
In 1844 the Rochdale Pioneers in Northern England set up the first co-operative stores
that provided workers with:
These stores spread rapidly worldwide.
6. Pro-worker laws
The Factory Acts (starting in 1802) improved workers’ hours and working conditions.
Food prices were cut significantly by the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 that had put a
tax on cheap, imported cereal crops like wheat.
What about mass production?
In 1798 the American Eli Whitney (pictured right) showed how guns could be mass
produced using interchangeable parts.
This principle was developed by Henry Ford’s mass
production of the Model T (pictured right) car in 1908, leading
Key quotes on creativity and quality
Everything comes from experiment.
- Josiah Wedgwood (Engish
pottery manufacturer, pictured right).
A composition for cheapness and not excellence of workmanship is the most frequent and certain cause of the
rapid decay and entire destruction of arts and manufactures.
- Josiah Wedgwood (English
Key quotes on workers and unions
Happiness is achieved by the union and co-operation of all for the benefit of each.
- Robert Owen (English mill owner).
Machinery creates wealth but destroys men.
- George Cadbury (English chocolate
Workers of the world unite!
- Karl Marx , pictured
right and Friedrich Engels in The Communist Manifesto.