Chapter : 2. The Age of Industrialisation

Before the Industrial Revolution

Before the Industrial Revolution
(i) Histories of industrialisation very often begin with the setting up of the first factories. Even before factories began to dot the landscape in England and Europe, there was large-scale industrial production for an international market. This was not based on factories. Many historians now refer to this phase of industrialisation as proto-industrialisation.
(ii) In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, merchants from the towns in Europe began moving to the countryside, supplying money to peasants and artisans, persuading them to produce for an international market. With the expansion of world trade and the acquisition of colonies in different parts of the world, the demand for goods began growing. But merchants could not expand production within towns. This was because here urban crafts and trade guilds were powerful. Rulers granted different guilds the monopoly right to produce and trade in specific products. New merchants turned to the countryside.
(iii) In the countryside when open fields were disappearing and commons were being enclosed, cottagers and poor peasants had to now look for alternative sources of income. When merchants came around and offered advances to produce goods for them, peasant households eagerly agreed. Income from proto-industrial production supplemented their shrinking income from cultivation. it also allowed them a fuller use of their family labour resources.
(iv) Within this system a close relationship developed between the town and the countryside. Merchants were based in towns but the work was done mostly in the countryside. The finishing was done in London before the export merchant sold the cloth in the international market.

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