6.2 The Spread of Industry Throughout Europe

5 min readjanuary 28, 2023

Jillian Holbrook

Jillian Holbrook

Sharii Liang

Sharii Liang

AP European History 🇪🇺

335 resources
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Britain Takes the Lead

The OG Industrialized Country

In 1776, Adam Smith wrote a book known as The Wealth of Nations. His novel marked the beginning of a new economic system known as capitalism and the free market. This idea of supply and demand driving the economy instead of the government being involved would eventually be adapted when investors began popping up with an increased interest in new technology and methods of production. Their money helped fuel the revolution, and political/social stability allowed the government to step back and allow the people to take control. 💰
After the Agricultural Revolution, the world’s population increased exponentially. To show the correlation between food supply and population, Thomas Malthus created his Theory of Population (graph above). However, the passing of the Enclosure Acts kicked peasants off of their farms and left them without an occupation. This, combined with the rising and healthy population, led to a surplus of labor looking for work that could be found in the cities. 
An abundance of natural resources, such as coal, iron, wood, and water, gave Great Britain an edge for industrial growth that kickstarted the First Industrial Revolution. Great Britain established its industrial dominance through the mechanization of textile, iron, and steel production, becoming the center of the First Industrial Revolution and a model for other countries to follow.
Natural Resources?  ✓
Surplus of Labor?  ✓ Investment & Money? ✓ 🔜🔜🔜 INDUSTRIALIZATION! 

Effects of Government Support

Economic institutions and human capital, such as engineers, inventors, and capitalists, helped Britain lead the process of industrialization, largely through private initiative. However, while investors and entrepreneurs played a large part in the creation of factories and new inventions, the government also got involved. Seeing how lucrative industrialization was for the country, the British Parliament sought to promote industrial and commercial interests.
To do this, Parliament invested in innovation/transportation and repealed the Corn Laws—regulation on the import and export of grains—in order to please the industrialists and urban workers. Inventors received monetary rewards for new innovations as encouragement while new methods of transportation, such as the railroad and canals, were built under the government's initiative. 🚂
Great Britain was “a bit” of a bragger. In 1851, they hosted the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace (not actually crystal or a palace). It was a major success, a shining example of the wonders of industrialization. The Great Exhibition featured displays from over 15,000 exhibitors, representing countries from all over the world. It included a wide range of products and materials, including machinery, scientific instruments, manufactured goods, and decorative arts. The exhibition attracted over 6 million visitors, and it was seen as a symbol of the progress and prosperity of the Victorian era.
However, to try and keep progress within the country, Great Britain prohibited inventors from leaving. Despite attempted regulation, many inventors left the country regardless, as their services were in higher demand in non-industrialized nations.

An Era of Change

With all progress comes change, and change from industrialization uprooted many farmers and textile workers. New technology meant that their jobs were easier to perform, and the cost of making products compared to the output of finished goods was significantly cheaper in mechanized production when compared to the cottage system
Urbanization and industrialization pushed droves of people to move to cities and seek work for low wages. In response to their sudden loss of work, a faction of textile workers known as the Luddites organized. The Luddites believed that the new machines were taking away their livelihoods and that factory owners were using the machines to exploit workers.
In protest, Luddites attacked factories and machinery, often at night and in secret. The government responded by passing laws that made machine-breaking a capital crime and by deploying troops to put down the Luddite rebellion. While the Luddite movement was ultimately unsuccessful in reversing the trend toward industrialization, it did bring attention to the plight of workers and the negative effects of industrialization on their lives.
New inventions improved the efficiency of life. Food could be produced more efficiently for less effort, and people could get to areas in less than half the time through the use of railroads and canals. Due to cheap mechanized production in the factory system, items that were luxury commodities for the rich became available to the middle class. However, the living and working conditions of cities offset some of these improvements, especially for the working class.
🎥 Watch: AP Europe - Industrial Revolution

Industrial Innovations




Power Loom
Edmund Cartwright
Sped up the weaving process of textiles
Spinning Jenny
James Hargreaves
Allowed for cotton to be spun faster and into better quality cloth
Steam Engine
Thomas Newcomen
Used water to generate steam and powered railroads, factories, etc.
Cotton Gin
Eli Whitney
Allowed cotton to be more efficiently removed from the seed 

Industrialization Spreads

Seeing the success of Great Britain's industrialization, other countries wanted that sweet money for themselves. While Britain attempted to keep factory blueprints and machinery knowledge a secret, inventors fled the country to places like France and America with their inventions memorized, allowing industrialization to spread.
Due to an abundance of natural resources and government support, France followed in Britain's footsteps. However, France was much more careful to gradually upset traditional methods of production, which decreased the dislocation of its citizens in comparison to Britain.
Other countries, such as Italy and Russia, failed to industrialize due to a combination of factors. Serfdom meant that agriculture was still a large part of the people's lives, and the government did not give enough support to those who did want to industrialize. A correlation between power and land ownership reinforced a negative outlook toward industrialization.

Agrarian Consequences

However, the continued existence of primitive farming practices and land-owning practices led to famine, debt, and fertile land shortages.
The "Hungry 40s" is a term used to describe the period of severe food shortages and economic hardship in Britain during the 1840s. This period was marked by a series of poor harvests and high food prices, which led to widespread poverty and social unrest. Widespread reports of malnutrition and starvation cropped up as the working class and the poor struggled to afford enough food for themselves and their families. 💀
Additionally, the Potato Famine, also known as the Great Irish Famine, was a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration in Ireland between 1845 and 1852. It was caused by potato blight, a disease that infected and destroyed potato crops, which were a staple food for the majority of the Irish population.
Western Europe
Eastern Europe 
  • Industrialized or trying to be
  • Good geography
  • Government support
  • Wayyy more money
  • Power is held by factory owners
  • Not industrialized
  • Bad geography
  • Lack of government support
  • Serfdom
  • Power is held by landowners
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