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Before the Industrial Revolution

Before factories came into existence a different kind of Industrialisation took place. This was called proto-industrialisation.

Proto - industrialisation :-

Proto – industrialisation began in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

  • Merchants from towns in Europe moved to the countryside.
  • They asked the peasants and artisans in the villages to produce goods for them, as there was an International market for them.
  • Merchants sought the artisans in the villages as the urban artisans were very expensive and they belonged to Trade Guilds which were very powerful.

Now let us see how these Merchants functioned :-

  • A Cloth Merchant who sells cloth or clothes first invests money and buys wool from a wool stapler.
  • He then takes the wool to the craftsmen in the villages and asks them to spin it into yarn.
  • The yarn is given to the weavers, who are also in the villages.
  • From the weavers it moves on to the fullers and then the dyers
  • The final finishing of the cloth or garment is done in the town.
  • The finished product is then sold in the International market, by the Merchants.

The benefit enjoyed by the villagers in the proto- industrial system :-

  • Common agricultural land was disappearing. The cottagers and poor peasants, who had earlier depended on common lands for their survival, had to look for alternative sources of income.
  • The Merchants provided them with this alternative source of income.
  • By working for the merchants, the peasants could remain in the countryside and continue to cultivate their small plots.
  • It allowed the villagers a complete use of their family labour resources, as all the members of the family could work for these merchants.

This proto-industrial system was thus part of a network of commercial exchanges. It was controlled by merchants and the goods were produced by a vast number of producers working within their family farms and not in factories. Each merchant employed 20 to 25 workers.

So we can say that industrialisation started with this proto-industrial system. Usually when we talk of industrialisation we think of factories but in the proto-industrial system production was carried out not in Factories but in cottages. Different kinds of goods were produced under this system.

Proto Industrialisation

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