Industrialization Research Paper

Within the scope of this research, we will analyze the factors that contributed to the timing of the industrial revolution in England and France. After careful research, it is apparent that the pace of Industrial revolution in England was much more intensive than in France. The various factors that contributed to progress in England and inhibited on quick development of manufacturing capacities in France will be elaborated upon in this report. Moreover, different characteristics of industries developed that were pertinent to England and France at that time will be discussed.

The slowness of progress of the Industrial Revolution in France between 1815 and 1848 is well known, but there is still doubt as to what some of the causes of that slowness were. “France had a much larger area than England and a larger proportion of arable land to the total area.” (Coleman 39) This meant that she could feed a much larger population from her own resources than could the British. It meant also that the people would be less inclined to emigrate; the whole of French history bears this out.

France did not really settle Canada, Louisiana, India, or her insular possessions far from home in the period from the middle of the seventeenth to the middle of the eighteenth century, during which she was the strongest and richest of the great states of Europe. The emigration of her Huguenots was the result of religious persecution and, while a grievous loss to French industry and trade, was not due to causes that were fundamentally economic.

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Closely related to the love of the French people for the land and their refusal to leave it in great numbers, because there was no need of their doing so, was the fact that France was more continental than maritime. She was sufficiently maritime always to be interested in expansion overseas, yet not sufficiently to build up as durable a colonial empire as England’s. Her interest in the continent of Europe was always stronger, yet not strong enough for her to abandon wholly her maritime interests. In her youth she learned much about industry and trade from the city states of Italy and the provinces of the Netherlands, and she was “always more interested in the Mediterranean world than in the American or the Oriental.” (Hudson 99)

When we consider, then, the causes of the Industrial Revolution, we find in France a considerable development of industry, probably greater than that of England up to the middle of the eighteenth century, and a very respectable development of trade; but the industrial development, great as it was, was not made at the expense of agriculture, or because of the inability of the soil to nourish its people. Likewise, the commercial development was never so striking as to constitute what many economic historians, when looking at the growth of trade in England, have called the Commercial Revolution.
“Regional specialization has long been recognized as an integral part of the history of England during this period”, and many scholars have focused on such questions as the reasons for the increasing concentration of the wool industry in Yorkshire. (Coleman 101) The emergence of new industries gets little attention in the literature as a phenomenon though some of its components, such as the emergence of machine-making firms, have been noted. The fact that the English Industrial Revolution was characterized by the increasing scale of operation of a large number of productive units is commonly recognized.

The emergence of the factory during this period receives, with good reason, much attention in the literature. As with technological change, the Industrial Revolution in England marks the beginning of the modern era; while isolated factories had existed before, it is in late eighteenth-century England that the factory begins to emerge as a common form of industrial organization.

The coincidence of dramatic changes in the rate of technological innovation and in industrial organization has unfortunately led many scholars to attribute the latter to the former. This, it will be seen, is putting the cart before the horse; “the beginning of the transition from domestic production to workshop production in England clearly predates the introduction of new technology in most industries.” (Hartwell 116) Rather, the new workshops played a key role in fostering the new technology that is supposed to have created them.

French production was not wholly unbalanced, of course. Normandy produced great quantities of rouenneries and cheap prints. Even Lyons used about three quarters of its looms for plain silks, and we hear emphatically, even if only occasionally, of the everincreasing production of cheap woolens. But one feels that French writers recorded these facts rarely because they were not proud of them. There was something vulgar in their eyes, almost indecent, in the sudden rise of a city like Roubaix largely by imitating in cheaper forms the products of France’s greatest designers of fine textiles.

“Roubaix even had the impertinence to imitate cheaply the English when they produced goods of fine quality and real beauty.” (Snooks 157) There was probably a far greater production of cloths of poor and medium quality than we know, because too much information has had to be drawn from the reports of expositions, which always featured the products of which the public would be most proud. Clothing for the peasants or the lower middle class, who constituted the great majority of the French people, was not considered interesting by the judges of exhibits and the writers, who were generally socially or professionally prominent.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the foreign trade of France suffered because too many of the few exports were high-priced goods of fine quality. “They gave France a fine reputation in Europe, the United States, and some of the states of Latin America, but they did not bring a large volume of sales.” (Hartwell 156) This gave England a great advantage, for she was well equipped for mass production at a low price. There were many reasons why France was not well equipped, and some were sound ones, but they have been dwelt upon and so are familiar.

It is well known that France could not export coal, that her ports were few and inadequate, and that she had little machinery and steam power and few facilities for credit. The situation was better in 1848 than in 1815, but the improvement had not been decisive; in fact, “the problem of exports in great volume has continued to be a difficult one for France.” (Mathias 80)

Another cause of the slow development of the Industrial Revolution in France was the marked individualism of the average manufacturer. Small and scattered supplies, costly fuel, inadequate power, and scarce and dear capital are not enough to explain the small size of the vast majority of French firms. Even in Alsace, where capital soon became plentiful, most of the textile firms were small partnerships, usually of relatives, although the mills were sometimes large.

In Roubaix, which, like Mulhouse, grew rapidly and showed amazing audacity, nearly all the successful firms were small partnerships, and the great majority of the mills were small also. Most Frenchmen, as we have seen, did not wish to co-operate. In the study of the silk industry, the researchers saw how bitter was the struggle between the many small manufacturers in both Lyons and Saint-Etienne and how this tended to hurt business and produce crises even more than the excessive production of fine and costly silks and ribbons. (Snooks 168)

France in 1848 had developed far beyond the France of 1815, although few of the changes were sudden or dramatic. But research has shown that most of the great changes in England did not come suddenly; it took many years to make Watt’s steam engine a commercial success, and the same can be said for the use of coal in smelting and refining iron, for Cort’s puddling process, and for the power loom invented by Cartwright. In the period we have studied, France increased her production of coal about sevenfold and her importations tenfold, while her production of pig and wrought iron was increased about fivefold.
French textile machinery was first changed from wood to iron, as had been done earlier in England, and then was produced in sufficient quantities, together with the machine tools needed, to be able to meet British competition when England repealed her prohibition of the export of textile machinery in 1843. (Coleman 123) This was no mean achievement. In other forms of applied metallurgy the French learned, when the need arose after 1842, to make a large part of both the rails and the locomotives they needed for their railroads. They were far more successful than has yet been generally recognized.

The spinning of cotton was completely mechanized before 1848, while the victory of machinery in the other textile industries was clearly foreshadowed. The power loom was being used on a large scale in manufacturing cotton and had been introduced into the other textile industries. In transportation, the network of main highways had been greatly extended and that of local roads well begun under the wise provisions of the Law of 1836.

The network of waterways had been substantially completed, although much work was yet to be done on the river and the canals were not uniform in depth or width or in the dimensions of their locks; nor was there uniformity in the tolls levied upon the traffic that used them. They were valuable to industry chiefly in the north, where they formed a system connecting Belgium with the Oise and the Seine. The network of railroads had been ably planned, but very few lines had been completed and those only in the last five years before 1848. “But it can be said that the cost of transportation had been reduced materially and the facilities increased so much that industrial development had been stimulated very greatly indeed.” (Berg 76)

The period from 1815 to 1848 marks in France the infancy and the beginning of the adolescence of the Industrial Revolution, but not its maturity, which was not attained until after 1860. In 1848 France was still largely agricultural. Mills were more numerous and larger and were coming to play a decisive part in most of the processes of the textile industries. Where this was not quite the case, as in the spinning of flax or the pulling or reeling of silk, it was clear that their part would be decisive in the future.

France had learned from England how to use coal and iron together; she had borrowed back some of her own ideas on roads and waterways that had born fruit across the Channel, and she had imitated England in tramroads and, later, in true railroads, while adding herself the important contribution of the tubular boiler, which Stephenson gladly accepted from his friend Séguin. (Hartwell 140) She had gone far towards mechanizing her textile industries. But France in the Industrial Revolution, as in other things, retained her individuality and remained shrewdly realistic, yet quite slow.


Berg, Maxine. The Age of Manufactures: Industry, Innovation and Work in Britain, 1700-1820. London: Fontana/ New York: Oxford UP, 1985.
Coleman, D.C.Myth, History and the Industrial Revolution. London & Rio Grande: Hambledon P, 1992.
Hartwell, R.M. The Industrial Revolution and Economic Growth. London: Methuen, 1991.
Hudson, Pat.The Industrial Revolution. Sevenoaks, Kent, & New York: Edward Arnold/ New York: Hodder & Stoughton/Chapman & Hall, 1992.
Mathias, Peter, and Davis, J.A., eds. The First Industrial Revolutions. Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1989.
Snooks, Graeme Donald, ed. Was the Industrial Revolution Necessary? London: Routledge 1994


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