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I was wondering if anyone here knows, what caused the Industrial Revolution?
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.
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. 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.
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.