The Industrial Revolution

The population of England doubled in the seventeenth century. There were more people than the farm and village economy could employ. England's leading companies had created enough capital for the industrialization necessary to spin and weave great quantities of fabric cheaply.

The industrial revolution really began with a revolution in the way cloth was spun and woven. All of the conditions necessary to change the family and village-based culture and economy into the factory system occurred in the eighteenth century.

In 1733, John Kay invented the fly shuttle loom, which increased weaving speed and thus the need for more yarn. By 1767, James Hargreaves devised the spinning jenny, which could only spin weft yarn. To supply the need for higher-twist warp yarn, Richard Arkwright


invented the water frame, and by 1782 his mill employed 5,000 workers. The cotton mule, invented by Samuel Crompton in 1779, required only one worker to watch over 1,000 spindles. By the 1780s, Edmund Cartwright devised a way to connect the machines to power supplies.

People from villages, which had bred farmers, craftsmen, and merchants for centuries, now flocked to the cities to find work. Home production could no longer compete in speed and price. Some villages were decimated, with only the old, the infirm, and babies left to fend for themselves. Conditions in most of the early textile mills were deplorable. Children as young as five or six worked long hours. Workers were fined for arriving late, being ill, or breaking any rules. When people could not find work, they turned to drink or begging.

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