To what extent did Great Britain emerge as the leading global power between 1750 and 1850? How did the British state shape political and economic developments around the world during this time?

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Between 1750 and 1850, the Industrial Revolution changed much of the world, and the Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the late 1700s. The key developments that enabled industrialization were the steam engine, railroads, the cotton and textile industries, and a variety of work-saving machines that allowed for the development of the factory system and mass production. Each of these developments depended on coal and iron, which existed in abundance in north-central England. Also, England had a system of canals and waterways that allowed for the movement of trains and products throughout the country to urban areas, which developed in response to these developments and and became increasingly industrialized. The industrialization of port cities in England allowed the nation to increase its exports. This made Britain a leader in world trade.

In addition, the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment encouraged progress in all areas of endeavor. These movements took hold in Britain before they spread to the rest of the world, and they fueled the Industrial Revolution. The agricultural revolution began in Britain, too, and with the advances in industry, Britain became a leading agricultural producer. The increased food production, along with the development of railroads and factories, supported population growth throughout the nation, which in turn supported industry growth and increased the demand for British products. Soon, the Industrial Revolution—and the ideas that spawned it—spread to the rest of the world, but the advancements that took place in Britain paved the way for global progress.

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