The Industrial Revolution may be defined as the application of power-driven machinery to manufacturing. It had its beginning in remote times, and is still continuing in some places. In the eighteenth century all of western Europe began to industrialize rapidly, but in England the process was most highly accelerated. England's head start may be attributed to the emergence of a number of simultaneous factors.
Britain had burned up her magnificent oak forests in its fireplaces, but large deposits of coal were still available for industrial fuel. There was an abundant labor supply to mine coal and iron, and to man the factories. From the old commercial empire there remained a fleet, and England still possessed colonies to furnish raw materials and act as captive markets for manufactured goods. Tobacco merchants of Glasgow and tea merchants of London and Bristol had capital to invest and the technical know-how derived from the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century.
Last, but not least important, the insularity of England saved industrial development from being interrupted by war. Soon all western Europe was more or less industrialized, and the coming of electricity and cheap steel after 1850 further speeded the process.
The Agricultural Revolution.
The English countryside was transformed between 1760 and 1830 as the open-field system of cultivation gave way to compact farms and enclosed fields. The rotation of nitrogen-fixing and cereal crops obviated the necessity of leaving a third or half the land fallow each planting. Another feature of the new farming was the cultivation of turnips and potatoes. Jethro Tull (1674-1741) and Lord Townshend popularized the importance of root crops. Tull's most original contributions were the seed drill and horse hoe. The seed drill allowed a much greater proportion of the seed to germinate by planting it below the surface of the...