Development of Industrialization in Continental Europe from 1871 to 1914


The industrial revolution started from the continent Europe in Britain from the second half of 18th century. It is traditionally viewed as the deepest mutation ever known to have affected men since Neolithic times. The industrial revolution shaped the face of new industrial and economically successful societies by modifying their social and economic structures and destabilizing all established hierarchies. It eventually influenced every aspect of people’s daily life. Thanks to the introducing of new high impact inventions into the world of production, which emerged in a changing intellectual environment, the human power of production was released in a spectacular way. The industrial revolution witnessed an explosion of various manufactured goods such as textile items and metal products. This helps to build the basic infrastructures such as road, canal, railways, etc. which contributed to expand market and commercialized the rural areas. The factory system, a new form of labor organization, developed progressively and started to regulate people’s life as never before. The industrial revolution helps to urbanized very rapidly in industrializing countries. (Neuss, 2015)

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The annus mirabilis year 1769, as Cardwell (1972) has called it, during which James watt and Richard Arkwright patented respectively the separate condenser for the steam engine and water frame, has often been considered as the symbolic starting point of the British industrialization. The industrial revolution then swept through Europe- first Belgium and France – and the USA, before reaching Japan and Russia by the end of 19th century. (Neuss, 2015)

The world was more affected by the industrial revolution of the Great Britain and the wealthy Dutch country France. The researchers were confused how did industrial revolution started in the Great Britain but not in France. The major changes of industrial revolution had seen in the Britain and France.

Social and Political condition of Britain and France

Britain was better suited for industrial revolution than France because of its higher standard of living, and relatively stable government. The free market of Britain encouraged technological innovation and the purchase of consumer goods, while France’s stricter economy hindered these things. Britain could use the sea to easily transport goods, while France could not. It had more centralized banking system compared to France and it also did not have tariffs as bad as those in Franc.

The people in Britain had standards of living than those in France, allowing them to spend freely on things produced by the industrial revolution. British people had higher incomes than the people of France and its rapid population growth supplied the demand of labor force. Most importantly, people of Britain were generally more knowledgeable and entrepreneurial than the people in France.

The British government remained stable throughout the eighteenth century, but the French government underwent massive changes due to the French revolution and Nepoleon’s rule. During the 19th century Britain’s government was the model most liberals throughout Europe sought copy (History Home, 2016). Parliament remained in power long after the glorious revolution, allowing industrialization to progress smoothly. It also gained territory and resources from the French after the seven years’ war.

Economy of France and Britain

Prior to the 19th century, the balance between resources and the population was the major issues to determine the real wages of the worker. In the case of Britain black death killed almost one third population, which later on caused dramatic increase in the real wages of worker (Harley, 2014). And on other hand, the real wage of France and along with other European nation in 1870 was low in comparison to Britain.

In 1870 and 1913, the Gross Domestic Product per capita in Britain was $3191 and $4921 respectively (Harley, 2014). And on other hand, the Gross Domestic Product per capita in France in 1870 and 1913 was $1876 and $3485 respectively (Harley, 2014). At the time of 1870’s, the percentage of industrial structure (% of manufacturing) in Britain and France was 14% and 17% in food, drink, and tobacco, 26% and 34% in textiles and clothing, 18% and 3% in metals, and 25% and 3% in mining respectively (Harley, 2014). This data and figures indicates that, Britain were far stronger and developed in Economy and development of industrial raw materials, which lead them to the prosperity of the nation.

Development of Industry

Textiles industries were dominating the other industries during the periods of industrial revolution. Before industrial revolution, almost all countries were based on agriculture and handicrafts, which were not sufficient to boom up the economy of the nation and the world. After the industrial revolution, there was vast change in the living standard of the people and economy of the nation and the world, mostly in European countries like France and Britain. In late 18th century, industrialized nation started to develop their existing industries and companies because they were at infant age. And nation had learned from the past, industries are the backbone of any nation.

In 1900 it was estimated that 30% of the population lived on the edge of starvation. During that time, there was huge gap between working class and middle class family. In comparison with economic development rate of USA and Germany, Britain was relatively declined. Although Britain continued to be the banking capital of the world. Most of the industry had failed to update their machineries and technologies according to the time and changing condition of the global consumer and many factories were slow to use the electricity facilities. For example, by 1910 German steel production was double that of Britain and US output of coal had overtaken and was greater than Britain (History Home, 2016). From the beginning of industrial revolution Britain had used to policy of free trade tariffs to expand their market area in global market. After the industrial revolution, most of the countries erected their tariffs which caused to decrease the market area of Britain industries. The percentage distribution of the world’s manufacturing production of Britain in 1870 and 1913 was 31.8% and 14.0% (History Home, 2016). At the time of 1870’s, Britain was leading the world in terms of manufacturing production. But after almost 4 decades Britain gone very back in the race of manufacturing production.

On the other hand, France faced a problem while industrializing its nation. It did not had lots of resources and most of the coals used in the industries of France was imported from Belgium during the time of industrial revolution. Its natural resources like coal and metals were located in the eastern parts of country. Although France was the major competitor on an equal level with Britain. From the beginning France industries had developed a good image in textile industries. They were focused on the finished clothes.

France experienced a slow rate to commercialized agriculture, power driven machinery and mass production. Even by the end of 19th century, the majority of workers were employed outside of industry and factories were located mainly in a few cities in the northern part of France (Mtholyoke, n.d.). Due to development of industries basic infrastructure were being developed like railway were connecting new cities and market for the industries, road transportation was being developed, etc. France ranked 4th place in terms of manufacturing production in the world and its market share at that time was 10.3% and in 1913, France was again ranked 4th place and its market share was decreased to 6.4% (History Home, 2016). During the time period from 1870 to 1913 only few countries had increased its market share in global market, for example, USA, Russia, Germany, etc.

From 1870-1879, France and Britain produced 16.20 million of metric tons of coals and 129.45 million of metric tons of coals respectively (Munro, 2011). And from 1910-1913, France and Britain produced 39.90 million of metric tons of coals and 275.40 millions of metric tons of coals respectively (Munro, 2011). Thus, France coal output was only about 14% of total production of coal of Britain. This was because, French had very small and scattered coal deposits and mining were running in very small scale. France was mostly depended on the coals of Germany because it was closer to the largest steel factory of France. In terms of iron and steel production, France and Britain produced iron, from 1870-1879, 1.337 million of metric tons and 6.648 million metric tons respectively (Munro, 2011). From 1875-1879, France produced 0.260 million of metric tons of steels and Britain produced 0.695 million metric tons of steel (Munro, 2011). During 1910-1913, the production of steel and iron of France and Britain was 4.090 million of metric tons and 4.664 million of metric tons and 6.930 million of metric tons and 9.792 million metric tons respectively (Munro, 2011). Thus, this data also shows that, France was very slow in terms of development of industries and factories in comparison with the development of Britain industries and factories.

Textile industries was the biggest manufacturing units in terms of both employment and value of output together were textiles: the three most being woolens, cottons, and linens (but not silks in that upper range (Munro, 2011). By 1900 France had developed Europe leading automobile company led by Renault and Citroën (Munro, 2011). Due to this, France exports of automobile was double in comparison to her comparator Britain in World War I.

In terms of development and industrialization Britain was far better than the France. But if we see the data of growth of Per capita income of Britain and France from 1850 to 1910, France percentage of growth was 204% and Britain percentage of growth was 197% (Munro, 2011). France and Britain experienced roughly experienced same kind of economic growth. But keep in mind, France had reached her economic growth in 1850.


The time period from 1870 to 1914 is also known as the second industrial revolution. It is, however clear that, the rapid rate of path breaking inventions (micro inventions)slowed down after 1825, and picked up steam again in the last third of the century (Mokyr, 1990). Everywhere in the world, there was an update in the system of the technology and working conditions of workers in the factories and industries. Some rudimentary “systems” of this nature were already in operation before 1870: railroad and telegraph networks and in large cities gas, water supply, and sewage systems were in existence (Mokyr, 1990). These systems expanded enormously after 1870, and a number of new ones were added: electrical power and telephone being the most important ones (Mokyr, 1990). The second industrial revolution turned the large scale technological systems from an exception to a commonplace. Systems required a great deal of coordination that free markets did not always find easy to supply, and hence governments or other leading institutions ended stepping in to determine railroad gauges, electricity voltages, the layout of typewriters keyboards, rules of road, and other forms of standardization (Mokyr, 1990). The notion that the technology consisted of separate components that could be optimized individually – never quite literally true – became less and less appropriate after 1870 (Mokyr, 1990).

The second industrial revolution was in many way, the continuation of the first. This revolution directly affects the real wages and standards of living of the general people. This also shifted it geographical focus of technological leadership away from Britain to a more dispersed locus, though leadership remained firmly and monopoly of the industrialized western world (Mokyr, 1990). Finally, by changing the relation between knowledge of nature and how it affected technological practices, it irreversibly changed the way technological change itself occurs. In so doing, what was learned in these years prepared the way for many more industrial revolutions to come.


  1. Harley, C. K., 2014. British and European industrialization. In: C. U. Press, ed. The Cambridge History of Capitalism. london: s.n., pp. 491-532.
  2. History Home, 2016. A web of English History. [Online]
  3. Available at: http:/ [Accessed 9 Feburary 2019].
  4. Mokyr, J., 1990. The Second Industrial Revolution, 1870-1914. In: N. University, ed. The Liver of Riches(1990). 2003 Sheridan Rd., Evanston IL 60208: Northwestern University, pp. 219-245. Mtholyoke, n.d. The France of Victor Hugo. [Online]
  5. Available at: https:/ [Accessed 9 feburary 2019].
  6. Munro, P. J. H., 2011. The Economic History of Modern Europe to 1914. Tronto ON, University of Tronto.
  7. Neuss, L. v., 2015. Why did Industrial Revolution Start in Britain?, Liege, Belgium : University of Liege. 
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Development of industrialization in continental Europe from 1871 to 1914. (2021, Dec 30). Retrieved December 5, 2022 , from

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