Why did the Industrial Revolution occur in Great Britain before it occured elsewhere in Europe?

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great Britain was uniquely poised to industrialize before the balance of Europe for a variety of reasons. Among them:

  • Britain's mercantilist economic system had been enormously profitable, much of which came from overseas colonies.  Sadly, a major portion of these profits came from the Atlantic slave trade.
  • There were no internal tariffs to interfere with the movement of raw materials within the country. This was not the case anywhere else in Europe. Prior to the passage of the Zollvereign in Germany, each principality had its own individual tariff system.  France also had a system of internal tariffs.
  • Unlike France and much of Europe, England had a stable governmental system, an exceptionally effective central banking system, and an efficient system of credit.
  • As farming lands were enclosed, a large number of workers moved to the cities to work in factories. This abundance of labor was quite beneficial. In Eastern Europe at the time, peasants were denied free movement.
  • England's unique geography meant that no part of the country was more than twenty miles from a navigable body of water. This made movement of goods cost efficient.
  • England benefited enormously from the Agricultural Revolution. As a result, English families spent less of their income on food items and had money for other commodities. This led to increased demand for industrially produced goods.
  • England was blessed with prodigious deposits of iron and coal near the surface, both of which were needed for industrial production.

The combination of these factors was unique to England. For this reason, it was able to develop industrially long before the balance of Europe could do so.