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The Age of Industrialisation

Before the Industrial Revolution

  • Industrial production is not same as Factory production.
  • Industrial workers don’t necessarily mean Factory workers.
  • This is the misconception. Production of goods took place even before the first factories were set up.
  • This period of the History of Industrialisation is called Proto-Industrialisation Period.

Features of Proto-Industrialisation

Study all the following THREE SLIDES

Why did the merchants move from Towns to Countryside in Europe?

  • In 17thC and 18th C, Merchants in Europe, began to move to country from the towns and persuaded the villagers to produce textile for the international market.
  • During this period, world trade expanded, colonies were acquired and demand for products increased.
  • The merchants couldn’t expand their business in the towns.
  • There were powerful Guilds, that restricted the entry of new merchants and controlled production, prices and every other aspect of production and trade.
  • Some Guilds were given monopoly over certain goods. Other traders couldn’t deal with these goods.

Why did the Villagers accept the jobs offered by the Merchants?

  • In the countryside, open fields were disappearing, and commons were enclosed.
  • Poor peasants and cottagers collected berry, hay, straw and wood for their survival.
  • Many of these farmers owned small pieces of land. All the members of the family couldn’t get full employment.
  • So, when the merchants offered jobs and gave advances, these farmers eagerly accepted the jobs.
  • Now, they could remain in the countryside. They could cultivate their small land and produce goods for the merchants. Their income also increased.
  • All the members of the family got full employment.

The Network of production in the Proto Industrial Period

  • There was a close relationship between the town and the countryside.
  • Merchants were in towns, but the production happened in the countryside.
  • A Cloth Merchant in England purchased wool from a wool stapler and carried it to the spinners.
  • The yarn was taken to weavers, fullers, and then to dyers.
  • The finishing was done in London.
  • Cloth was then sold in the international market.
  • London was known as finishing centre.
  • The goods were produced not in factories but by a vast number of producers working in their homes and cottages.
  • At each stage of production, 20 -25 people were employed by the merchants.
  • Thus, a merchant controlled more than 100 producers.

The coming up of Factories

  • The first factory set up in England was Cotton Mill.
  • In 1760 Britain was importing 2.5 million pounds of raw cotton to feed its cotton industry. By 1787 this import soared to 22 million pounds.
  • A series of innovations increased both production and quality.
  • These improvements could be seen in Different stages of production like carding, twisting, spinning and rolling.
  • Richard Arkwright created the first Mill.
  • Advantages of Factory
    • All the process of production could, now, take place under one roof.
    • A careful supervision of production process was made easy.
    • Control over labour was also possible as all workers worked in the same premises.
    • These were difficult when production was spread out.

The Pace of Industrialisation

Why was it slow?


Only Two sectors observed Industrialisation

  • Only two sectors – Cotton Textile and Metals (Iron and Steel) were industrialised.
  • With the expansion of railways, demand for Iron and Steel increased.
  • By 1873 Britain was exporting iron and steel worth about £ 77 million, double the value of its cotton export.
  • Industrialisation did not happen in other sectors.



Traditional Industries couldn’t be replaced easily

  • The new industries could not easily displace traditional industries.
  • Even at the end of the 19th C, only 20% of the workforce was employed in technologically advanced Industries.
  • Textile observed rapid Industrialisation, but large production still took place within domestic units.


Non Mechanised Sectors were happy with small innovations

  • Small and simple innovations were the basis of growth in Non Mechanised sectors.
  • Such sectors were food processing, building, pottery, glass work, tanning, furniture making, and production of implements
  • They didn’t want to invest on costly machines. 


Steam Engine was not easily accepted

  • Technology was not easily accepted.
  • New technology was expensive.
  • Merchants and industrialists were cautious about using it.
  • The machines often broke down and repair was costly. They were not as effective as their inventors and manufacturers claimed.
  • James Watt improved the steam engine produced by Newcomen and patented the new engine in 1781.
  • His industrialist friend Mathew Boulton manufactured the new model.
  • They couldn’t sell Steam Engine for years.
  • At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were no more than 321 steam engines all over England. Of these, 80 were in cotton industries, nine in wool industries, and the rest in mining, canal works and iron works.
  • So, even the most powerful technology that changed the way we live, was not easily accepted. Hence the process of Industrialisation was slow.

Hand Power Vs Steam Engine

Why the Industrialists prefer Hand Labour

  • There were more number of job seekers than the jobs available.
  • Villagers and vagrants wandered about the streets of London hoping to get job.
  • The wages were low, and the Industrialists didn’t want to invest on expensive machines that broke down often.
  • Many industries were seasonal in nature.
  • Breweries and Gas works worked only during cold months.
  • Printing and binding needed more workers before Christmas.
  • Ships were repaired and spruced up during winter.
  • So, these industries required labour only seasonally. They preferred hand labour to machines.

Variety possible only by hand labour

  • Machines could produce uniform and standardised products for mass consumption.
  • A wide range of products could be produced only by hand.
  • Demand in the market was often for goods with intricate designs and specific shapes.
  • For example, 500 varieties of hammers and 45 kinds of axes were produced. These required human skill not machines.
  • Machines couldn’t manufacture such a variety.
  • The upper classes – the aristocrats and the bourgeoisie – preferred things produced by hand.
  • They symbolised refinement and class. They were better finished, carefully designed and individually produced.
  • Machine made goods were meant to export to the market.
  • In the 19th C America, there was shortage of labour. So, mechanical power was used extensively.

Life of Workers

  • As news of possible jobs reached the countryside, hundreds thronged the cities.
  • The actual possibility of getting a job depended on existing networks of friendship and kin relations.
  • But not everybody had friends and relatives.
  • Many job seekers had to wait for weeks spending their nights under bridges and night shelters.
  • Some stayed in night refuges set up by private individuals and some in Casual Wards maintained by Poor Law Authority.
  • Seasonality of industries rendered many jobless after the busy season was over.
  • They were back on streets looking for work. Some went back to countryside where agricultural labour was required. Most stayed in cities looking for jobs.


  • Wages increased but it was not proportionate to rise in price.
  • The real value of money went down as the prices increased. The purchasing power of money decreased.
  • At the best of times till the mid-nineteenth century, about 10 per cent of the urban population were extremely poor.
  • In periods of economic slump, like the 1830s, the proportion of unemployed went up to anything between 35 and 75 per cent in different regions.
  • New technology left many people jobless.
  • The introduction of Spinning Jenny made women weavers so hostile that they attacked the Spinning Jennies.
  • Job opportunities increased after construction industry picked up after 1850s.
  • Roads were widened, new railway stations came up, railway lines were extended, tunnels dug, drainage and sewers laid, rivers embanked.
  • The number of workers employed in the transport industry doubled in the 1840s and doubled again in the subsequent 30 years.

Industrialisation in Colonies – India

The Age of Indian Textiles

  • Though many countries produced coarse cotton goods, the finest quality cotton goods were produced only in India.
  • Indian Textile was in great demand in the European market.
  • Armenian and Persian merchants took the goods from Punjab to Afghanistan, eastern Persia and Central Asia.
  • Bales of fine textiles were carried on camel back via the north-west frontier, through mountain passes and across deserts.
  • Surat on the Gujarat coast connected India to the Gulf and Red Sea Ports.
  • Masulipatam on the Coromandel coast and Hoogly in Bengal had trade links with Southeast Asian Countries.
  • A variety of Indian merchants and traders were involved in this network of trade.
  • Some carried the goods to the port; some financed the trade.
  • Supply merchants linked the ports to inlands.
  • They gave advances to weavers and procured cotton textile and carried it to the ports.
  • In the port, they would bargain with the brokers of big shippers and export merchants for better price.

Breaking down of this network

  • By 1750s, this network was breaking down.
  • The European Companies began to control this trade.
  • They got various concessions form the rulers and later they got monopoly rights to trade.
  • Surat and Hoogly lost their importance to Bombay and Calcutta respectively.
  • In the last years of the 17th C, the value of export from Surat port was Rs. 16 Million. It declined to mere Rs. 3 Million by 1740.
  • Finances of Indian weavers dried up and many Indian bankers became bankrupts.
  • This was the sign of the growth of the Colonial Power.
  • Trade through the new ports were controlled by the European companies.
  • Many old Indian trading houses collapsed.
  • Those who wanted to survive, had to operate within the network created by the Europeans.

What happened to the Weavers?

  • Initially, the weavers and supply merchants were benefitted by the European traders.
  • The textile mills were slow to come up in England and the demand for Indian Textile still was very high.
  • The English, the French and the Portuguese competed among themselves to get cotton goods from Indian merchants.
  • The Indian Merchants and weavers, thus, could bargain for better prices.
  • All this changed after the expansion of the British Power in India.
  • They developed a system by which they could enjoy monopoly rights to trade, eliminate competition, control cost and ensure regular supply of cotton goods.
  • They achieved this by adopting the following measures.