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sooyeah

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« on: 21/09/2007 12:23:03 »
I was wondering if anyone here knows, what caused the Industrial Revolution?


 

another_someone

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« Reply #1 on: 21/09/2007 13:28:18 »
I was wondering if anyone here knows, what caused the Industrial Revolution?

Again, like your other question on economics, it is so wide ranging an issue that there can be no definitive answer to it.

One can say that the world economy must regularly go through paradigm shifts, since nothing ever remains the same, and that the technology had developed sufficiently by the time of the industrial revolution to make industrialisation possible, and so it follows that sooner or later it would have become inevitable.  The question then only remains regarding the exact timing of that paradigm shift, and where the focus of that shift will be.

One difficulty in answering these questions is even precisely defining the start and end points of the industrial revolution.  Like all social paradigm shifts, one can always see antecedents, and drawing a line between an antecedent that formed part of the world before the paradigm shift but was not part of the paradigm shift, and deciding events that actually did form part of the paradigm shift, is always going to be somewhat arbitrary.

One thing one can say about any paradigm shift is that they tend to start in places that have relatively less invested in the old way of doing things.  In many ways, one can see the industrial revolution as part of the shift of power from the Mediterranean (e.g. Spain) to northern Europe (you also see a parallel in the rise of power of the northern States in the USA on the back of industrialisation, and this ofcourse contributed to, and was accelerated by, the civil war in the USA).
 

another_someone

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« Reply #2 on: 24/09/2007 23:30:19 »
While discussing one of the other threads, it occurred to me that a key precondition of the industrial revolution was the reformation - this amounted to a shift of power in Northern Europe from Rome to the local political elites, and thus gave greater political freedom to the northern countries to go their own way.

Ofcourse, in all such things, it is always difficult to disentangle cause and effect.  Did the north become more free because of the reformation, or did the reformation happen as an expression of greater political freedom that was in any case under way.  The reality is almost certainly both are true.
« Last Edit: 24/09/2007 23:32:11 by another_someone »
 

Offline Soul Surfer

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« Reply #3 on: 24/09/2007 23:50:08 »
The industrial revolution started in the British isles and there were two critical features that kick started it.  Firstly the development of efficient and fast running steam engines from the highly inefficient and slow ones that were invented to pump out mines and secondly a significant improvement in the mechanisation of agriculture that allowed farmers to reduce labour forces and left the unemployed to go to the towns to provide an easily available labour forece to man the new machines to make things.
 

another_someone

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« Reply #4 on: 25/09/2007 00:04:41 »
The industrial revolution started in the British isles and there were two critical features that kick started it.  Firstly the development of efficient and fast running steam engines from the highly inefficient and slow ones that were invented to pump out mines and secondly a significant improvement in the mechanisation of agriculture that allowed farmers to reduce labour forces and left the unemployed to go to the towns to provide an easily available labour forece to man the new machines to make things.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_engine
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The first recorded steam-powered device, the aeolipile, was described by Hero of Alexandria (Heron) in 1st century Roman Egypt, in his manuscript Spiritalia seu Pneumatica.[1] Steam ejected tangentally from nozzles caused a pivoted ball to rotate; this suggests that the conversion of steam pressure into mechanical movement was known in Roman Egypt in the 1st century, the device was used for some simple work, such as opening doors, but saw no other major uses.

The first practical steam turbine was invented much later by Taqi al-Din, an Arab philosopher, astronomer, and engineer in 16th century Ottoman Egypt, who exposed a method for rotating a spit by means of a jet of steam playing on rotary vanes around the periphery of a wheel. A similar machine is shown by Giovanni Branca, an Italian engineer, in 1629 for turning a cylindrical escapement device that alternately lifted and let fall a pair of pestles working in mortars. The steam flow of these early steam turbines, however, was not concentrated and much of its energy was dissipated in all directions and would have led to a considerable waste of energy and are usually called "mills".

Commercial development of the steam engine, however, required an economic climate in which the developers of engines could profit by their creations. Classical, and later Medieval and Renaissance civilisations provided no such climate. Even as late as the 17th century, steam engines were created as one-off curiosities. The difficulty in breaking out of this situation is evident judging by the difficulties encountered by Edward Somerset, 2nd Marquess of Worcester and later by his widow in gaining financial investment into the practical application of his ideas for the exploitation of steam power. In 1663, he published designs for, and installed a steam-powered device for raising water on the wall of the Great Tower at Raglan Castle (the grooves in the wall where the engine was installed were still to be seen in the 19th Century). However, no one was prepared to risk money in this revolutionary new concept, and without backers the machine remained undeveloped.

One of Denis Papin’s centres of interest was in the creating of a vacuum in a closed cylinder and in Paris in the mid 1670s he collaborated with the Dutch physicist, Huygens’ working on an engine which drove out the air from a cylinder by exploding gunpowder inside it. Realising the incompleteness of the vacuum produced by this means and on moving to England in 1680, Papin devised a version of the same cylinder that obtained a more complete vacuum from boiling water and then allowing the steam to condense; in this way he was able to raise weights by attaching the end of the piston to a rope passing over a pulley. As a demonstration model the system worked, but in order to repeat the process the whole apparatus had to be dismantled and reassembled. Papin quickly saw that to make an automatic cycle the steam would have to be generated separately in a boiler; however as he did not take the project further all we can say is that he invented the reciprocating steam engine conceptually and thus paved the way to Newcomen’s engine. Papin also designed a paddle boat driven by a jet playing on a mill-wheel in a combination of Taqi al Din and Savery's conceptions and; he is also credited with a number of significant devices such as the safety valve.

None of the foregoing developments were applied practically as a means of undertaking any early useful task. Another early industrial steam engine was the "fire-engine", designed by Thomas Savery in 1698. This was a pistonless steam pump, and apparently not very efficient. It was thus Thomas Newcomen and his "atmospheric-engine" of 1712 that demonstrated the first practical industrial engine for which there was a commercial demand.

In other words, there were many early steam engines, none of the British (or English).  The difference is that none of the early developments had the right economic and political environment to take advantage of the technological opportunities.

What happened in the 17th century was that technology that had been explored in continental Europe were brought into the economic environment of Britain, and it was that which allowed the Industrial Revolution in Britain.
 

Offline Ophiolite

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« Reply #5 on: 25/09/2007 19:53:50 »
We should also note certain other advantages enjoyed by Britain at that time - abundant and accesible coal and iron; a succesful mercantile class; access to a wide variety of natural resources (and potential markets) through their Empire.
 

another_someone

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« Reply #6 on: 25/09/2007 21:05:20 »
We should also note certain other advantages enjoyed by Britain at that time - abundant and accesible coal and iron; a succesful mercantile class; access to a wide variety of natural resources (and potential markets) through their Empire.

This is something one can say of Britain in the 19th century, but was not something that really distinguished Britain greatly in the 18th century.

What is true is that over the period of the 18th century, much of continental Europe racked itself with war, which Britain could join or leave at its own time, and so it could use the degeneration of France to expand its own influence (much as in the 20th century, America successfully used two wars in Europe to mop up the power that Britain was dissipating in fighting those wars).

Certainly, your comment about the mercantile class in Britain is valid, but that merely highlights what I had already said about the political environment in Britain at the time that promoted the expansion of this class, and gave innovators the ability to succeed in Britain at that time.

Some of this free trade environment was apparent as early as the 16th century under Queen Elisabeth, but then became dormant in the early Stuart years, culminating in the problems of the English Civil War (although that war itself was in part an expression of the attempt of the mercantile classes to make their presence felt).  With the restoration of the monarchy, although the old order was now again nominally in control, but beneath the superficial, there was a substantial shift of power (made even more emphatic with the Glorious Revolution) which gave the middle classes far more control over their destiny.
 

Offline eric l

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« Reply #7 on: 26/09/2007 12:13:14 »
You seem to forget that the industrial revolution would not have been possible without an agricultrural revolution.  It is known in the UK as "Dutch husbandry" and was introduced in the 18th century.  A 3 field system, with always one field laying bare for a season, was replaced by a four field rotation where the traditional food crops (barley and wheat) were alternated with crops like clover, that could serve as cattle feed and helped to restore the soil.  See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crop_rotation
This increased food production for the same amount of people involved.  Increased food production leading to increased population, also meant extra work force for the industry.  And as this industry also produced labour saving machinery for the agricultural sector, even more hands became available...
« Last Edit: 26/09/2007 12:20:00 by eric l »
 

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