Chapter 5: Industrialization: “Stuff Would Never Be the Same”


5.1: The Birth and Infancy of Modern Manufacturing

The beginnings of the Industrial Revolution were actually agricultural. Improved farming technology helped make farming much more efficient in England throughout the beginning of the 18th century.

The “Before” Snapshot: Lower-class tenant farmers would work and live on a farm, ensuring that crops were planted and harvested and that the farm would be kept free from grazing animals (or humans) that could diminish the crop. The central area of this land was designated the “commons,” an area where the tenant farmers could commonly gather and perhaps plant their own crops and feed their own livestock “on the side.” (For most of the farmland, the profits would go to the landowner, and there was little chance of the tenant farmers actually owning any land permanently.) All members of a tenant farmer’s family would work the land, starting at a very young age. Especially come harvest-time, you could expect 14-hour days of hard work.

What Caused the Agricultural Revolution: Aided by barbed-wire fences, landowners turned their land into enclosures, literally enclosing different crops with fences that were guaranteed to keep livestock and other scavengers out. With enclosures and other practices that made farming more efficient (like crop rotation), the landowners did not need the tenant farmers as much. Instead, migrant workers could be hired to plant the crop during spring and harvest it during fall. (This is the predecessor to today’s system of “corporate farming.”)

The “After” Snapshot: Landowners in rural areas “fired” the lower-class tenant farmers. However, due to crop rotation and more efficient farming, those lower-class farmers experienced a great population boom. (More crops equals more nutrition equals more children who survive to adulthood.) What is the landowner going to do with all of his profit? Become an entrepreneur and invest in a factory. What are the tenant farmers (and families) going to do? Work in the factory and, eventually, move to the cities when the factories do. So, really, you have the same relationship between the landowner/entrepreneur and the tenant farmer/factory worker—the location has simply changed.

Why would England develop factories first?

You might remember a similar question when we talked about Italy and the beginnings of the Renaissance. Italy’s location was ideal for spreading Renaissance culture from the East because of “geographic luck.” England’s emergence as a global industrial power was really for the same reason. For industrialization, we call the factors that lead to factory production “factors of production.” So, countries like England that were more prone to rapid industrialization were “good-factor countries.” Other countries, like Russia or Austria-Hungary (it was one country back then), were “bad-factor countries.” We’ll use England’s example as we define some of these factors…


Factors of production:

  • Ports/harbors for exporting finished goods: England is an island, so it is full of these
  • Rivers/streams for internal transportation and for water power: early factories required rapidly-moving water to turn a water wheel for mills—England is full of rivers throughout the island, all heading to the coast
  • Mineral deposits: necessary for making steel and other alloys for factory production
  • (Later, in the early 19th century) Coal: the British Isles are known for coal mines, and coal would later replace water power and lead to industrialization’s widespread expansion
  • (Later, in the mid- to late-19th century) Flat terrain: for transporting goods by railroad

Lastly, and most significantly for England in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars:

  • Political stability: if a country is going through a political revolution, it is not likely to industrialize or focus on economic expansion (because it has an uncertain governmental situation)

This list of factors here essentially explains the balance of power in Europe and the rest of the world for the next 200 years, and perhaps beyond…

“Good-factor” countries were the first to industrialize and the first to imperialize (we’ll see this connection later). The countries with the biggest empires competed with each other—which pretty much led to the world wars. So, looking at the following list of “good-factor” and “bad-factor” countries, you can see the major world powers in the 20th century:

“Good-factor countries”:

  • England (aka Great Britain)
  • United States
  • Germany (united in the 19th century)
  • France (esp. after mid-19th century)
  • Japan (first country in Asia to industrialize)

“Bad-factor countries”:

  • Russia
  • Austria & Hungary (though not AustriaHungary)
  • Italy (united in the 19th century)
  • Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey)
  • Spain


11 thoughts on “5.1”

  1. The relationship between tenant farmers working for landowners, then becoming factory workers working for the entrepreneurs, relates back to the Estates system. How the First Estate wasn’t allowed many freedoms/opportunities, while the Second Estate was able to work jobs and hold a family and we’re pretty much born into wealth. And how the people of the First Estate weren’t allowed to work their way up to being in the Second Estate.
    After factories started populating, what happened to the farms, how did the people get nutrition/food? Who took care of the farms?

  2. Was there anyway for the farm tenants/ later factory workers to climb the social ladder or were they forever stuck in the lower class?

  3. One additional factor of production not on the list was technology such as the fences, the factories and the trains. Interesting how technology was used to make or grow more for a few but not to make lives better for all. Not an improvement for workers.

  4. if Italy was the beginning of the renaissance why did they not build factories first and England did.

  5. I can identify that the tenant farmers and landowners compare to the people of the estates in France. The tenant farmers take the spot of the lower class people working for the landowner’s benefit like the first and third estates versus the landowners taking the high-class spot of the second estate while the tenant farmers or people of the first and third estate work and sit below them in society while they enjoy luxury.

  6. Why did the tenant farmers help create the enclosures if it was going to take away their jobs and living space? Did they want to work in factories instead or be fired?

    1. In the reading it says that they were able to plant crops on the farmers land, but it was very unlikely to happen. Did you have to be a certain rank or authority to be able to own the land? What did you have to do to own that land?

  7. Did being landlocked effect being a good factor country or a bad factor country? If so was there a way to get around it and still trade with overseas countries? Or did they only trade with countries near them?

  8. The reading says that the countries with the biggest empires competed with each other, eventually leading to the world wars, however, were the biggest countries competing the “good factor” countries against other “good factor” countries? Or was it a “good factor” country against a “bad factor” country?

  9. Political Stability was the most important factor in an industrial revolution because they can focus on revolutionizing instead of fighting within their own country.

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