First British Industrial Revolution



The manufacture of military munitions and the development of

a home market were critical underpinnings of the first industrial

revolution in Britain. Military manufacturing supported by the British

Government contributed directly to technological innovation and

spurred industrialization. This is because the companies that choose

to fulfill the government contracts to make military munitions found

money could be made if new processes and technology was developed to

fulfill the huge contracts. Military manufacturing was one of the few

industries where innovation was rewarded. In most other industries

conservative investors were reluctant to invest in new manufacturing

technology. But in military manufacturing the government was the

investor and was unconcerned with the manufacturing technology as long

as the product was delivered on time. Many technological advances were

made through military manufacturing some of these were new ways to

manufacture iron, conveyer belts, and the use machine tools . The

technology developed for military manufacturing then spilled over into

the civilian sector of the economy. And because it was now a tested

technology investors who were normally cautious were willing to put

their capital into these ventures which instead of pouring iron to

make guns now made iron ore into stoves and pots.

The second critical underpinning of the first industrial

revolution was the development of a home market in Britain. The

first British industrialists manufactured textiles; specifically

cotton for the home market. The growth of the home market in Britain

promoted industrialization in several ways. First, it was a steady

market which able to cushion the export market which was very dynamic

and had sudden fluctuations. This allowed a steady rate of growth even

when exports fell. Second, the home market started the process of

urbanization by causing people to leave the agricultural sector of the

economy and move to the cities to work in the cotton and textile

factories. This urbanization had a snowballing effect throughout the

economy because it caused other business and factories to open in the

cities to support this new urban class. Third, the home market caused

investments to be made in improving infrastructure including roads,

bridges and canals. This paved the way for industrialization which

needed an efficient system to transport goods from factory to market.

The home market also provided the base for other industries such as

coal. This was because the home market created greater urbanization

and thus the need for coal in urban England grew. The military sector

of the economy provided some of the key technological innovations that

promoted industrialization. And the home market that was produced by

the cotton textile trade promoted improvements in infrastructure

and spurred other industries to develop.