The Market Revolution, Industrialization, and New Technologies

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What impact did the Industrial Revolution in England have on the American colonies?

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The Industrial Revolution began in earnest in the latter part of the eighteenth century. At this time there were already well-established populations and economies in the American colonies. These were all greatly affected by the expansion of industry in Great Britain. For instance, the textile mills in Great Britain needed...

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The Industrial Revolution began in earnest in the latter part of the eighteenth century. At this time there were already well-established populations and economies in the American colonies. These were all greatly affected by the expansion of industry in Great Britain. For instance, the textile mills in Great Britain needed massive quantities of raw materials from North America, particularly cotton and dyes such as indigo. This resulted in a significant surge in the plantation system that came to characterize the economy and demographics of the southern colonies.

However, prior to independence, most large-scale industry in the American colonies was prohibited. Instead, colonists had to import goods produced in Great Britain. In fact, Parliament outlawed the exportation of machinery manufacturing methods and trade secrets beyond British shores. Several significant developments resulted from this. For one thing, there developed a sense of resentment in the colonies towards their reliance on British-produced goods. As a result, a healthy smuggling industry arose in order to get cheap, foreign-produced goods without paying hefty customs fees. Furthermore, indignation at having their freedoms of production and commerce curtailed by Parliament fueled sentiments of bitterness that were partly responsible for the American Revolution. It should come as no surprise that the Industrial Revolution soon spread to the United States once independence was achieved.

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The Industrial Revolution, at least in the sense that most historians describe it, was only just underway when the American Revolution broke out. Many of the changes that we associate with industry—the uses of new forms of energy and machines, the advent of the factory system, and the rise of an industrial working class—did not fully develop until after American independence. But the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution did affect the colonies in some very important ways.

For one thing, an important precondition for the advent of industry was the enclosure of common lands. This was an attempt to impose a market-driven style of agriculture on the British countryside, and it drove many small farmers off their lands and into the cities. Many of these people came to the American colonies, where they sought the cheap lands that were no longer available to them back home. Another effect was that Parliament, under increasing pressure by powerful merchants and other financial interests, took steps to enforce a mercantilist trading relationship with the colonies.

In particular, the colonies were banned from trading with other European powers, and from producing many of the manufactured goods that came from England. Indeed, the expansion of production in England flooded American markets with these goods, and the result was an imbalance of trade that deprived many of the colonies of specie. The colonies had few of the emerging textile mills that were beginning to pop up in Britain, but some industries like mining and especially sugar growing were beginning to take on characteristics that some historians have identified as industrial.

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The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain impacted the American colonies. The British were in need of raw materials, and the colonies provided them to the British. These raw materials helped the British produce products that they could then sell back to their colonies. The colonies provided a guaranteed market for the British industries.

The British established the mercantile system that was designed to benefit Great Britain. As a result, a series of laws were passed that restricted what the colonists could trade, how the colonists could ship products, and from which countries the colonists could buy certain products. While these laws and regulations were often not enforced, it did create some risk for colonial merchants who tried to smuggle products from other countries into the colonies. When the British eventually tried to enforce some of these rules, the colonists were strongly opposed to this because they had been used to not having to deal with the enforcement of these regulations.

The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain did make more products available in the colonies. The colonists did not develop a strong manufacturing system until after the Revolutionary War. As a result, the colonists did benefit from having access to products made in the British factories.

The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain impacted the American colonies in several ways.

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The industrial revolution had both negative and positive consequences for American and British soceity.


The mechanization of production allowed consumer goods to be more easily produced. Items like guns, furniture, clothing, and like items requried huge investments in both time and labor. But after machines began producing the components or in some cases the finished products themselves, the price fell and availability of these items grew.

Industrialization also had a positive impact on agrculture. Mechanization of farm labor helped farms become more productive and increase the food supply. 

It also created new opportunities for trade and export with other countries. As America and Britain increased their industrial output, they also were able to expand their economy through trade with other nations. In the colonial period, the colonies supplied raw materials such as cotton to the British who milled it into cloth.
This relation stayed pretty much intact until the revolution because America didn't have the industrial capacity to compete with it's Atlantic neighbor.


Inustrialization also had negative consequences. The burning of coal for power led to increased pollution and health issues in cities. It also led to the a decrease in working conditions as artisans lost out to factories as the main providers of goods.

 

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