Free Essay on Knowledge, Technology and the Industrial Revolution

Published: 2023-04-11
Free Essay on Knowledge, Technology and the Industrial Revolution
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  History Economics Industrial revolution
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 906 words
8 min read

The industrial revolution was a transition from learning by doing to science and research, which occurred during the 16th and 17th centuries. Essentially, the economy changed from being agrarian-based to be driven by industries and manufacturing. Rural communities became more urban and advanced technologically owing to inventions such as electricity and railroad infrastructure. For instance, in Britain, the industrial revolution between 1783 and 1802 saw the emergence and development of iron and cotton industries that increased the amount of capital for investments (Craft 1987). As a result, the country experienced sustained economic growth that became the model for other European countries and the US.

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Similarly, the industrial revolution was an era of rapid economic growth that saw the transformation of people's way of life and how they conducted business. For example, capitalism began during this period, where it coincided with the growth of factory systems. These factories employed people, who migrated from rural to urban centers, thereby resulting in the growth of modern cities. The employees were paid wages, which enabled them to live more decent lives than they did in the agrarian system. Moreover, the industrial revolution was marked by the development of knowledge among people through science and research. This knowledge led to the design of technological innovations such as the steam engine that powered the machines used in factories.

The new technologies introduced during this period were mostly applicable to specific industries such as the textile. For instance, the spinning wheel was only used to spin textiles. The steam engine was the only technology that could be used in multiple sectors. Nonetheless, the impact of these technologies on production efficiency and the economy was more significant compared to the production methods used before the industrial revolution.

To bring this issue into perspective, Crompton's Mule, which was one of the new technologies, is considered. MacLeod (1995) stated that one of the stimuli that sparked the constant development of new technologies was the need to save labor. Crompton's Mule was among the labor-saving technologies developed in the 18th century to be used in the cotton textiles industries. Before the period between 1660 and 1750, workers used handicraft means to supply cotton yarn to the local textile industries (MacLeod 1995). These workers offered cheap labor. However, industries feared that they could no longer rely on the labor provided by these workers since most of the male workers would be compelled to abandon their trades and fight in the looming French wars.

With the threat of a dwindling workforce, textile industries bound to experience a shortage in supply of cotton yarn. It was, therefore, necessary to create a technology that required less labor to operate and still meet the demand for yarn in factories. For this reason, Crompton, who worked as a handloom weaver, created the spinning mule in 1779 that could be used in delivering cotton yarn to the industries. Not only did this mule bridge the supply gap that would be created by workers who left for warfare duties but also re-equipped the remaining workers with an advanced device that expanded their output. MacLeod (1995) argued that the Crompton's mule enabled the delivery of a higher-quality yarn than the handlooms and also increased the amount of yarn that could be turned at a go. Ultimately, this technology paved the way for future inventions, whereby industries became interested in developing machines that would boost their production more than their current or previous machines.

This improvement was also mirrored in the economies of productivity. Estimates of economic growth in Britain by Deane and Cole, and Craft (1987) show an increase in industrial output after 1780 when inventions such as the Crompton's Mule were introduced. Deane and Cole's estimates showed a 0.5% growth in industrial output between 1760 and 1780, 3.4% growth in 1780-1801 and 4.4% growth in 1801-1831. Although estimates by Craft (1987) were different from the above estimates, they still showed increased growth in industrial output during the above periods. For example, the growth in industrial output increased from 1.5% in the period 1760-1780 to 2.1% and 3% in 1780-1801 and 1801-1831 respectively.

More robust growth was even witnessed when the cotton textiles industry is considered singly. Craft (1987) stated that production in the textiles sector increased annually by 9.7% and 5.6% in the periods 1780-1801 and 1801-1830 respectively. This growth in cotton textiles was more rapid than the growth in the entire industrial output. The significant contribution of the textile industry is observed on comparing its growth in production to that of another sector such as the iron industry. Craft (1987) revealed that the textile industry accounted for over 20% of the overall industrial output by 1831 while the iron industry contributed less than 10%.

It would be justified to attribute the rapid growth in production of the cotton textile industry to the invention of technologies such as Crompton's Mule since the period between 1780 and 1830 when this growth occurred was after this technology was created. Nonetheless, Mokyr (1990) argued that the improved economies of production that Britain enjoyed were due to an optimum application of the technologies as opposed to just invention. As such, the benefits of improved productivity due to the Crompton's Mule, as seen above, were realized largely when this technology was implemented in the subsequent years after it was created in 1779.


Crafts, N.F.R., 1987. The industrial revolution: economic growth in Britain, 1700-1860. In New directions in economic and social history (pp. 64-75). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

MacLeod, C., 1995. The Springs of Invention and British Industrialization.Mokyr, J., 1990. The lever of riches: Technological creativity and economic progress. Oxford University Press.

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