5.6 Government's Role in Industrialization from 1750-1900

7 min readmarch 16, 2023

Andrew Fultz

Andrew Fultz

Riya Patel

Riya Patel

AP World History: Modern 🌍

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State-led industrialization refers to a model of industrialization in which the government plays a leading role in promoting and directing industrial development. This model of industrialization was adopted by several countries during the period of 1750-1900.
One of the most notable examples of state-led industrialization during this time period was in Japan. Starting in the late 19th century, the Japanese government implemented a series of policies aimed at modernizing and industrializing the country. These included investments in infrastructure, protectionist tariffs, and subsidies for key industries such as steel, shipbuilding, and textiles. The government also played a role in promoting education and training in technical fields to support industrialization.
In Russia, Tsar Alexander II's government also implemented policies to promote industrialization, such as the creation of state-owned factories and the construction of railroads.
Egypt attempted to industrialize during the time period, under the rule of various leaders and governments.
Overall, state-led industrialization was a model of industrialization that was adopted by several countries during the period of 1750-1900, in which the government played a leading role in promoting and directing industrial development.

Japan & the Meiji Era

Japan was isolated from the rest of the world for about two centuries, from the early 17th to the mid-19th century. During this time, Japan pursued a policy of sakoku, or "closed country," in which it restricted foreign trade and interaction. Japan valued its own traditions and sought to protect itself from foreign influence, which it saw as a threat to its culture and way of life.
However, in the mid-19th century, the United States, which was already an industrial power, began to pressure Japan to open up to foreign trade. In 1853, U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Japan with a fleet of ships and demanded that Japan sign a treaty granting the United States trading rights. Faced with this threat, the Japanese government decided to modernize and strengthen its military and economic defenses. This marked the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, a period of political and social reform that led to Japan's rapid modernization and westernization.

Meiji Restoration

The Meiji Restoration was a period of political and social reform in Japan that took place during the late 19th century. It marked the end of the Edo period, a time of isolation and feudal rule, and the beginning of Japan's modernization and westernization.
During the Meiji Restoration, the government underwent a series of significant changes. The shogunate, a military government led by the shogun, was abolished, and the emperor was restored to a position of political power. The feudal system, in which the country was divided into domains controlled by powerful daimyo (feudal lords), was also dismantled, and a centralized, constitutional monarchy was established.
In addition to these political changes, the Meiji Restoration also saw the introduction of many western ideas and technologies, such as railroads, telegraphs, and public schools. These changes had a profound impact on Japanese society and played a key role in the country's rapid modernization and emergence as a major world power in the 20th century.
Japanese government leaders traveled to Western Europe, studying European ideas in order to adopt the practices they liked. As a result of those travels, Japan created some major progress and:
  • ended feudalism (local lords ruling an area, with Samurai loyal to the local lords) and
  • unified as a nation under a constitutional monarchy
  • adopted equality before the law as an ideal
  • reorganized their military and instituted conscription
  • expanded educational opportunities
  • built railroads and roads
  • government subsidized (partially pays for) tea, silk, shipbuilding, and sake industries.


Samurai were a class of warriors in ancient Japan who followed a code of conduct called bushido, or "the way of the warrior." They were known for their martial skills and their loyalty to their lord.
Samurai were members of the noble class in Japan, and they held a high social status. They were expected to be loyal to their lord and to serve as his protectors. They were also expected to embody the virtues of bushido, which included honor, courage, and self-discipline.
Samurai were trained in the use of a variety of weapons, including the sword, bow and arrow, and spear. They also practiced martial arts such as jujitsu and kendo. Samurai played a significant role in Japanese history, and they continue to be revered as symbols of bravery and honor in Japanese culture.
The rapid industrialization of Japan during the Meiji Restoration period allowed the country to become a major world power and to resist being colonized by European nations and the United States. The Meiji government implemented a number of policies to modernize and westernize the country, including the adoption of western technology, the establishment of a centralized, constitutional monarchy, and the promotion of education and economic development.
However, not everyone in Japan supported these changes. Many samurai, who had traditionally held a high social status and played a significant role in Japanese society, found themselves out of a job and struggling to adapt to the new, modernized society. Some resisted the changes brought about by the Meiji Restoration and clung to traditional ways of life. Despite these challenges, the Meiji government was able to push forward with its modernization efforts and successfully transform Japan into a modern, industrialized nation.
🎥Watch: WHAP - Industrialization

Russian Industrialization

Russian industrialization was a period of rapid industrialization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the Russian Empire. The period of industrialization was marked by a significant increase in the country's industrial output, a shift from an agrarian to an industrialized economy, and the expansion of the Russian Empire's industrial base.
Tsar Alexander II began the process of industrialization in 1861 by implementing a series of economic and political reforms. These included the abolition of serfdom, which freed millions of peasants from feudal obligations and allowed them to move to the cities to work in factories. The government also invested heavily in infrastructure, particularly in the construction of railroads, which greatly improved transportation and communication throughout the country.
In the late 19th century, the government also implemented protectionist tariffs and provided subsidies to key industries such as steel, coal, and textiles. Additionally, the government established state-owned factories and encouraged foreign investment in the country. These policies helped to spur rapid industrial growth, particularly in the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Despite the rapid industrialization, it was uneven. The industrialization was mainly concentrated in the European part of the empire, while the majority of the population, who lived in the rural areas, did not benefit much from the process. Also, the industrialization was done in a way that it increased the gap between the rich and the poor.
Overall, Russian industrialization was a period of rapid industrialization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the Russian Empire, marked by a significant increase in the country's industrial output, a shift from an agrarian to an industrialized economy, and the expansion of the Russian Empire's industrial base.

Attempts at Egyptian Industrialization

Under the leadership of Muhammad Ali in the 1830s, Egypt separated from the Ottoman Empire and began a process of industrialization to strengthen the state against potential reconquest by the Ottomans. Ali focused on increasing the production of raw cotton and investing profits in Egypt's own industrial production. He also focused on the production of weapons and textiles. He allowed foreign companies to build and manage large infrastructures such as dams, railroads, and canals, which helped to build these projects cheaply and without much investment of Egyptian money. However, this arrangement resulted in the European companies that built the projects keeping most of the revenue, with only a small portion going to Ali's government.
Egyptian industrialization failed by the late 19th century. Despite initial progress, the Egyptian economy began declining in the second half of the 19th century, and Egypt was deep in debt to Britain. The Anglo-Egyptian War of 1882 resulted in a 50-year British occupation of Egypt.
The reasons for the failure of Egyptian industrialization were poor leadership, debt, and the actions of various European countries. Egyptian leaders focused too heavily on cotton production, which left the economy vulnerable to fluctuations in cotton prices. The leaders also took on excessive debt to finance their own luxurious lifestyles and to fund industrialization, which left the country heavily dependent on foreign loans. European countries, particularly Britain, used this debt to exert control over Egyptian policy, often requiring changes that primarily benefited European economies.
Additionally, the European countries worked to make Egyptian goods more expensive and less competitive by eliminating import tariffs on European goods imported into Egypt, while charging import tariffs on Egyptian goods coming into their economies. These policies raised the price of Egyptian goods and lowered the price of European goods, making it difficult for Egypt to compete in the international market.
Overall, the failure of Egyptian industrialization was due to a combination of poor leadership, excessive debt, and the actions of European countries that hindered the country's economic growth and development.
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