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History of the British Iron and Steel Industry

he Industrial Revolution[edit]

Main article: Industrial Revolution

In a period loosely dated from the 1770s to the 1820s, Britain experienced an accelerated process of economic change that transformed a largely agrarian economy into the world’s first industrial economy. This phenomenon is known as the “industrial revolution“, since the changes were far-reaching and permanent throughout many areas of Britain, especially in the developing cities.[39]

Economic, institutional, and social changes were fundamental to the emergence of the industrial revolution. Whereas absolutism remained the normal form of governance through most parts of Europe, in the UK a fundamental power balance was created after the revolutions of 1640 and 1688. The new institutional setup ensured property rights and political safety and thereby supported the emergence of an economically prosperous middle class. Another factor is the change in marriage patterns through this period. Marrying later allowed young people to acquire more education, thereby building up more human capital in the population. These changes enhanced the already relatively developed labour and financial markets, paving the way for the industrial revolution starting in the mid-18th century.[40]

Great Britain provided the legal and cultural foundations that enabled entrepreneurs to pioneer the industrial revolution.[41] Starting in the later part of the 18th century, there began a transition in parts of Great Britain’s previously manual labour and draft-animal–based economy towards machine-based manufacturing. It started with the mechanisation of the textile industries, the development of iron-making techniques and the increased use of refined coal. Trade expansion was enabled by the introduction of canalsimproved roads and railways. Factories pulled thousands from low productivity work in agriculture to high productivity urban jobs