Free «Industrial Revolution» Essay Sample

Iron and Textile Industrial revolution in US during 1800-1820

The transition to economic growth and the push towards global power house by the United States was majorly achieved in early 1800. The decisive approaches taken by the United States in the iron and textile industries after the withdrawal of British colonizers was based on the adoption of new technologies and lean methods of organization within both industries. "Although economic historians now see these changes within the iron and textile as quite drawn out, building on already high shares of economic activity in industry and involving only a modest increase in the growth rate before 1830, the term "Industrial Revolution" has continued to be widely used" (Wrigley, 2008). As (Wrigley, 2008) argues, "the changes associated with industrialization were revolutionary in the sense that they proved to be irreversible and became an "ideal type", like the French Revolution". Literature works on this period point out that the American industrial revolution within the two sectors of iron and textile did not follow exactly the path of the British style.

Key themes of Iron and Textile Industrial revolution in US during 1800-1820

Technological progress

It is a norm within various literatures that major on the technological progress to provide a distinction between invention, innovation, diffusion and imitation. The iron and textile industry in the United States was characterized by technological progress that centered on the four themes. This is because there was the rush to catch up with the industrial revolution in France and other European countries. The United States had been hardly hit by the struggle for independence and as such was under intense pressure to measure up to the standards of the European industry. Invention is defined as a fresh discovery on a particular field (Habakkuk, 1962). This was also a period characterized by rapid growth in various sectors of the economy. While the American model tried to achieve much higher independence in its modes of operations during this era of industrial revolution, there was a lot of element of these modes in British. The rush to compete effectively with products from the European countries in the textile and iron industry led to increased efforts on new innovations on tools for iron mining and textile weaving.

The General Purpose Technology (GPT) was a term coined in this era to define the vigor on technological advance in this era.

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"Economists have recently used the idea of a General Purpose Technology (GPT) to shed light on periods of accelerating economic growth as Lipsey, Carlaw and Bekar (2005) succinctly defined a GPT as a single generic technology recognizable as such over its whole lifetime, that initially has much scope for improvement and eventually comes to be widely used, to have many uses, and to have many spillover effects". The concept was created to provide an overview on the rate of growth to within the period of industrial revolution.


Wages and technology

In economics, factor prices significantly affect the choice of technology in any given form of activity. The idea of wages and technology has received more attention within the technological areas of iron and textile in the industrial revolution in the United States. "Writing about transatlantic differences in the nineteenth century, Habakkuk (1962) argued that high wages in America induced a substitution of capital for labour (more machines) and a labour-saving bias in the direction of technological progress (better machines) while Broadberry and Gupta (2006) have recently pointed out that the scale of the wage gap between northwest Europe and Asia was substantially larger on the eve of the Industrial Revolution than the wage gap between Britain and the United States during the nineteenth century"

The iron and textile revolution in the United States led to the increase in wages and more civilized society. In comparison to the British and the other European countries, the American laborer was paid more than these other countries due to improved technology and increase in skills. 


Another factor that significantly contributed to the positively influencing the iron and textile industry in the United States was the energy sector. There was great demand for energy to satisfy the thirst of the new developed mining and sewing machines. The wood fuel sector was suffering from shortage and there was the demand for other suitable energy sources. This precipitated the search and exploration of coal as an alternative source of energy. This led to the innovation of coke smelting. This fact is well put by Allen (2006) in demonstrating "that the combination of high wages and cheap coal was important in explaining both the development of the key technologies of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, and the delay in their adoption in other European countries"

The substitution of wood remains the most crucial achievement in the iron and textile industry revolution to date.

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It ushered in the ability to drive bigger machines and innovations of more suitable and faster tools especially for mining and refining of iron ore. The retrieved material from earth's crust could then be separated faster and easier due to the availability of energy. Allen (2006) sees this substitution of coal for wood as a crucial development, enabling Europe to escape from the constraints of the "organic economy" by tapping into the stored up energy of millions of years embodied in coal seams in that coal replaced wood as a source of heat energy in a growing range of industries during the eighteenth century".


In the mine fields, steam provided not only the adequate but also the necessary power in pumping water out of the mine holes and in mine fields thereby precipitating the search for more iron deposits.

Knowledge and human capital

The value of the role of knowledge and human capital in the industrial revolution must be given due emphasis. While a number of economic historians remain skeptical on the contribution of knowledge in the industrial revolution, there is evidence that point out that propositional knowledge (science) and prescriptive knowledge (engineering), albeit primate contributed significantly to improved levels in the quality and quantity of iron and textile products of the time. The dismissive tone on the contributions of knowledge and capital has continued across the decades with some totally dismissing it as non existent. Examine the arguments of Allen (2006),


Economic historians have often been quite dismissive of the role of the patent system during the Industrial Revolution, pointing more to its shortcomings than its advantages. However, more recent literatures on this topic have suggested a more positive role for the patent system, drawing on the importance attached to intellectual property rights in the recent literature on technological change, and pointing to the large sums that inventors were prepared to pay for patent protection. Of course, much crucial knowledge was also embodied in skilled workers and passed on by doing rather than written down. Although human capital has been seen as crucial to economic growth in recent times, it has rarely featured as a major factor in accounts of the Industrial Revolution. One problem is that the machinery of the Industrial Revolution is usually characterized as de-skilling, substituting relatively unskilled labour for skilled artisans, and leading to a decline in apprenticeship.

The organization of the iron and textile industry

The organization of the textile industry was characterized by activities within these industries conducted in the rural areas on small scale and part time basis. The iron industry was different due to its demands in terms of machinery and energy. Clarkson (1995) illustrates clearly that "Of course, there were exceptions, such as mining, metal smelting and grain milling, which required large fixed investments, and even in industries without such large capital requirements, there were always craftsmen working full-time in towns and cities". The textile industry was dominated by the female folk while the iron and mining industry was a domain of men and rich members of the American society. The amount and value attached in the mining fields was of great value.

In the early eighteenth century the textile industry was majorly spread across the countryside and much of the out put in the sector was for local consumption. There were rural spinners and weavers spread across these countryside that supplied the rural folk with the necessary clothing. Cotton, linen and silk were the mayor textile raw materials that dominated the market during this era. The American textile industries were in this period struggling then shed away their dependences on imported textiles materials from Europe, especially in Italy where major textile industries were concentrated. Allen (2006) demonstrates that "It is interesting to note that the technological breakthroughs in the mechanization of textile production in the United States occurred in cotton, a sector where there was no local supply of the raw material "In addition to that" they took place in cotton production, as against that of woollens or linens, owes much to the relative elasticity of the cotton fibre in that the early machines were quite jerky, so repairing breakages in the yarn, which was often the job of child labour, was a major problem".

Furthermore, the organization of the textile industries within the American industrial revolution was dominated by the crisis of the child labor. This sector employed child labor in its various stages of production since most of the work was done in the rural areas. Unlike the iron industry that drew adults and especially men in the mine fields and calls for the abolition of child labor began so early.

  The rise of the cotton industry is noted to have been faster in Britain as compared to the United States. This was due to the overall effect of colonization. Clarkson (1995), succinctly illustrates this in documenting that "By 1830 cottons accounted for almost half of British textile output, and their share in the textile industries of other European countries and in America had also risen due to several factors account for the cotton industry's rapid and sustained growth; chief and most obvious is the mechanization of spinning and weaving"



Iron and textile industry contributed significantly to the entire American industrial revolution in the 1800-1820. This was because of the increasing demand for better and improved lifestyles. The textile industry contributed to the provision of warmer and better clothes while the iron industrial sector supplied the other industries with metallic tools and machines foe easier work. In addition to the above, the iron industry remained instrumental in the provision of the much needed material for the development of military tools and provided the foundation of the exploration of better military equipments. These two industries thus significantly influenced not only the lives of the general population but also contributed to the raising of the economic standards of the United States at that time.


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