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Child Labour

Industrialisation beyond the United Kingdom

Continental Europe

The Industrial Revolution on Continental Europe came a little later than in Great Britain. In many industries, this involved the application of technology developed in Britain in new places. Often the technology was purchased from Britain or British engineers and entrepreneurs moved abroad in search of new opportunities. By 1809, part of the Ruhr Valley in Westphalia was called ‘Miniature England’ because of its similarities to the industrial areas of England. The German, Russian and Belgian governments all provided state funding to the new industries. In some cases (such as iron), the different availability of resources locally meant that only some aspects of the British technology were adopted.


Belgium was the second country, after Britain, in which the Industrial Revolution took place and the first in continental Europe: Wallonia (French speaking southern Belgium) was the first region to follow the British model successfully. Starting in the middle of the 1820s, and especially after Belgium became an independent nation in 1830, numerous works comprising coke blast furnaces as well as puddling and rolling mills were built in the coal mining areas around Liège and Charleroi. The leader was a transplanted Englishman John Cockerill. His factories at Seraing integrated all stages of production, from engineering to the supply of raw materials, as early as 1825.[150]

Wallonia exemplified the radical evolution of industrial expansion. Thanks to coal (the French word “houille” was coined in Wallonia),[151] the region geared up to become the 2nd industrial power in the world after Britain. But it is also pointed out by many researchers, with its Sillon industriel, ‘Especially in the HaineSambre and Meuse valleys, between the Borinage and Liège, […] there was a huge industrial development based on coal-mining and iron-making…’.[152] Philippe Raxhon wrote about the period after 1830: “It was not propaganda but a reality the Walloon regions were becoming the second industrial power all over the world after Britain.”[153]“The sole industrial centre outside the collieries and blast furnaces of Walloon was the old cloth making town of Ghent.”[154] Michel De Coster, Professor at the Université de Liège wrote also: “The historians and the economists say that Belgium was the second industrial power of the world, in proportion to its population and its territory […] But this rank is the one of Wallonia where the coal-mines, the blast furnaces, the iron and zinc factories, the wool industry, the glass industry, the weapons industry… were concentrated.” [155]