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The Rise of Factory System

The factories in England came up around 1730s. The first symbol of the new era was cotton. Raw cotton was supplied to the cotton industry in Britain. A series of inventions in the eighteenth century took place, e.g., carding, twisting and spinning and rolling. Richard Arkwright created the cotton mill. This encouraged the production of cloth.

Iron and steel industry grew rapidly in Britain up to 1840s. There was a great demand for iron and steel from 1860s.

The new industries could not replace traditional industries. Textile industry had a large portion of the output produced outside, within domestic units. But the traditional industries did not remain stagnant; there were small innovations which became the basis of growth in many non-mechanised sectors such as food processing, building, pottery, glass work, tanning, furniture making and production of implements.The technological changes occurred slowly. New technology was expensive and industrialists were cautious about the repair cost, while it broke down.

James Watt improved the steam engine produced by Newcomen in 1781. At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were more than 321 steam engines all over England. Though technology productivity was enhanced, the labour productivity was slow. A typical worker in the mid-nineteenth century was not a machine operator but the traditional craftsperson and labourer.

Labour and Steam Power

Labour was abundant in Victorian Britain. The wages were low and the industrialists recruited human labour instead of machines. The demand for labour was seasonal. Industrialists preferred hand labourers as the demand in the market was often for goods with intricate designs and specific shapes.

There was a great demand for handmade products which symbolized refinement and class by the upper classes or aristocrats and bourgeoisie.

Workers’ Condition

The abundance of working force created difficulty in getting job. Many job seekers had to wait weeks spending nights under bridges or in night shelters and other in the casual wards maintained by the poor law authorities.

Seasonal work in many industries created temporary unemployment and the poor were on streets without work. The welfare of the workers was poor. The workers were hostile to the introduction of new technology fearing unemployment.

With the development in infrastructure like road widening, construction of buildings, railway networks gave a relief which provided the employment to the people.

Industrialisation in Colonies

India dominated the international market in textiles. A vibrant sea trade operated through the main pre-colonial ports like Masulipatnam; Hoogly had trade links with the South East Asian ports as well as the land route to the western countries.

With the advent of European companies, the old ports of Surat and Hoogly declined. The Europeans secured trade through concessions, later monopoly rights to trade with India. New ports such as Bombay and Calcutta grew, this was an indicator of growth of colonial power in India. Many trading houses disappeared when the English took control over trade in India.

Once the East India Company established political power, it controlled the supply of cotton and silk goods by eliminating competition. The company eliminated brokers and appointed ‘Gomastha’ to supervise weavers. The weavers were given loans to produce the cloth and later, hand over the cloth to gomastha. There was decline in the weaving industry of India. The East India Company sold the British cotton goods in India. The cotton weavers lost their job and the local market was dumped with Manchester imports at lower costs.

During the Civil War in America in 1860s, the cotton supplies were cut off. Britain exported raw cotton from India. The prices of cotton shot up and the weavers of India could not compete with this new situation. Along with this, at the end of nineteenth century, factories in India began production and flooded the market with machine goods. As a result, the weavers were totally devastated.

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