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Process of Industrialization


From 1800 to 1870, Britain produced more than half of the world’s pig iron, and was in the lead in devising ways to make steel. In 1880, Britain produced 1.3 million tons of steel, and in 1893 3 million tons; by 1914 output was 8 million tons. Germany caught up in 1893 and produced 14 million tons in 1914.[175] After 1900, the U.S. dominated global steel production, while the British industry languished.[176]

Britain’s steel industry brought in academic experts, such as Professor Oliver Arnold to analyse and make recommendations for improvements in productivity. The industry made significant technical advances in terms of vanadium, phospho-magnetic steels and other specialized high-strength alloys, using the electric furnace and other innovations, the devising of new techniques over the smoke issue. The industry trained a cadre of experts that made large firms scientifically self-sustaining.[177]


Politics became a central issue for the coal miners, whose organization was facilitated by their location in remote one-industry villages. The Miners’ Federation of Great Britain formed in 1888, and counted 600,000 members in 1908. Much of the ‘old left’ of Labour politics can trace its origins to coal-mining areas.[178]

General Strike of 1926[edit]

Main article: General Strike of 1926

In April 1926 the owners locked out the miners because they had rejected the owners’ demands for longer hours and reduced pay in the face of falling prices caused by demand as oil started to replace coal.[179] The general strike was led by the TUC for the benefit of coal miners, but it failed. It was a nine-day nationwide walkout of one million railwaymen, transport workers, printers, dockers, ironworkers and steelworkers supporting the 1.5 million coal miners who had been locked out. The government had provided a nine-month subsidy in 1925 but that was not enough to turn around a sick industry. The TUC hope was the government would intervene to reorganize and rationalize the industry, and raise the subsidy. The Conservative government had stockpiled supplies and essential services continued with middle class volunteers. All three major parties opposed the strike. The general strike itself was largely non-violent, but the miners’ lockout continued and there was violence in Scotland. It was the only general strike in British history and TUC leaders such as Ernest Bevin considered it a mistake. Most historians treat it as a singular event with few long-term consequences, but Martin Pugh says it accelerated the movement of working-class voters to the Labour Party, which led to future gains.[180][181] The Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act 1927 made general strikes illegal and ended the automatic payment of union members to the Labour Party. That act was largely repealed in 1946.