The Age of Industrialization
Introduction – The age of Industrialisation
- In 1900, E.T. Paull, a popular music publisher, produced a music book with a cover page announcing the “Dawn of the Century.” The cover picture has an angelic figure which symbolizes progress and carries the flag of the new century. And she perched on a wheel with wings which symbolize time. Surrounding her were symbols of progress such as railways, cameras, machines, printing press, and factories.
- The image on the page of a trade magazine from over a hundred years ago shows two magicians, Aladdin from Orient and the modern mechanic. Aladdin represented the East and the past, while the mechanic symbolized the West and modernity. The mechanic’s tools enabled him to build bridges, ships, towers, and high-rise buildings.
- These images celebrated the modern world’s rapid technological change, innovations, machines and factories, railways, and steamships. The modern age appears as a time of technological progress.
- These images and associations have become part of the popular imagination.
- To understand industrialization better, it is necessary to examine its history in Britain, the first industrial nation, and then India, where industrial change was influenced by colonial rule.
1. Before the Industrial Revolution
- Histories of industrialization very often begin with the setting up of the first factories.
- Many historians called the proto-industrialization phase before the establishment of factories in England and Europe.
- In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, merchants from towns moved to the countryside and invested money in peasants and artisans to produce goods for an international market.
- The expansion of world trade and colonization increased the demand for goods, but production couldn’t be expanded within towns because urban craft and trade guilds were powerful.
- The producer’s associations trained craftspeople, maintained control over production, regulated competition and prices, and restricted the entry of new people into the trade.
- But Rulers used the monopoly right to produce and trade specific products. Therefore, difficult for new merchants to set up business in towns.
- Merchants turned to the countryside, where poor peasants and artisans worked for them.
- At this time, open fields were disappearing and commons were enclosed.
- Cottagers and poor peasants who had earlier depended on common lands had to look for alternative sources of income.
- Merchants offered advances to produce goods for them and peasant households eagerly agreed.
- The relationship between towns and the countryside was close. Merchants were based in towns but the work was done mostly in the countryside.
- A merchant clothier in England purchased wool from a wool stapler and carried it to the spinners; and the spun yarn (thread) was taken in subsequent stages of production to weavers, fullers, and then to dyers.
- The finishing was done in London before the export merchant sold the cloth in the international market. London is known as a finishing centre.
- The proto-industrial system was part of a network of commercial exchanges which was controlled by merchants, and goods were produced by numerous workers on family farms rather than in factories.
- Each merchant could control hundreds of workers, with around 20 to 25 workers employed at each stage of production.
1.1 The Coming Up of the Factory
- The earliest factories in England emerged in the 1730s, but their number of factories multiplied in the late eighteenth century.
- Cotton production became the first symbol of the new era and experienced a boom in the late nineteenth century.
- In 1760 Britain imported 2.5 million pounds of raw cotton, but by 1787, this increased to 22 million pounds due to changes in the production process.
- A series of inventions in the eighteenth century increased the efficacy of the production process such as improvements in carding, twisting and spinning, and rolling, and allowed for the production of stronger threads and yarn.
- Richard Arkwright’s creation of the cotton mill brought all production processes under one roof and management.
- In the early nineteenth century, factories became an intimate part of the English landscape, capturing people’s attention and overshadowing the continued production in bylanes and workshops.
1.2 The Pace of Industrial Change
- How rapid was the process of industrialization? Does industrialization mean only the growth of factory industries?
- First: The most dynamic industries in Britain were cotton and metals. It was the first phase of industrialization. Cotton was the leading sector until the 1840s. After that, the iron and steel industry led the way due to the demand created by railway expansion.
- Second: Traditional industries were not easily displaced by new industries. At the end of the nineteenth century, less than 20% of the total workforce was employed in technologically advanced sectors. The textile was a dynamic sector but a large portion of its output was produced outside of factories, within domestic units.
- Third: Traditional industries were not set by steam-powered cotton or metal industries, but they did not remain entirely stagnant either. Non-mechanized sectors such as food processing, building, pottery, glasswork, tanning, furniture making, and implementing production saw growth based on small and ordinary innovations.
- Fourth: Technological changes occurred slowly and did not spread dramatically across the industrial landscape. New technology was expensive and merchants and industrialists were cautious about using it. The machines were not as effective as the inventors and manufacturers claimed.
- For example, the steam engine was improved by James Watt which was produced by Newcomen and patented the new engine in 1781.
- At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were no more than 321 steam engines all over England. But he could not find a buyer.
2. Hand Labour and Steam Power
- In Victorian Britain, there was no shortage of human labour. Poor peasants and vagrants migrated to cities in search of jobs. So, Britain did not face labor shortages or high wage costs, so they don’t want to introduce labor-saving machines that required significant capital investment.
- Many industries had seasonal fluctuations in labour demand. Gasworks, breweries, bookbinders, printers, and shipyards required additional workers during peak seasons or colder months.
- Hand labour was preferred in industries where intricate designs and specific shapes were demanded, as machines were oriented to producing standardized goods for mass markets.
- In Victorian Britain, the upper classes (the aristocrats and the bourgeoisie) preferred things produced by hand. And machine-made goods were exported to colonies.
- The countries facing labour shortages, industrialists were keen on using mechanical power and reducing human labour needs.
2.1 Life of the Workers
- The abundance of labour in the market had an impact on the lives of workers.
- Job seekers from the countryside tramped to the cities but getting a job depended on existing social networks of friendship and kin relations. Those with relatives or friends in factories had a higher chance of finding work quickly.
- Many job seekers had to wait weeks, spending nights under the bridge or in the shelter, some went to the Causal Wards maintained by the Poor law authorities.
- Some job seekers faced prolonged periods of unemployment due to the seasonality of work in various industries. After the busy season, they often found themselves back on the streets or sought odd jobs, which were difficult until the mid-19th century.
- Although wages increased somewhat in the early 19th century, the overall welfare of workers remained low. The average wage figures hide variations between trades and fluctuations from year to year. Rising prices during the Napoleonic War reduced the real value of wages, making it harder for workers to afford basic necessities.
- Workers’ income depended not only on wage rates but also on the duration of employment. The number of days worked determined their average daily income.
- Unemployment rates fluctuated, with approximately 10% of the urban population being extremely poor during the best of times. During economic slumps like the 1830s, the proportion of unemployed individuals varied between 35% and 75% in different regions.
- The fear of unemployment made workers to be hostile to the introduction of new technology. When the Spinning Jenny was introduced in the woollen industry, women who survived on hand spinning began attacking the new machines. This conflict over the introduction of Jenny continued for a long time.
- Building activity in cities increased after the 1840s, offering more employment opportunities. Construction projects such as road widening, railway station construction, railway line extensions, tunnel digging, and infrastructure development provided jobs in the transport industry. The number of workers employed in transportation doubled in the 1840s and doubled again over the following 30 years.
3. Industrialisation in the Colonies
3.1 The Age of Indian Textiles
- Before the age of machine industries, textiles from India, particularly silk and fine cotton goods, dominated the international market.
- Armenian and Persian merchants played a significant role in transporting Indian textiles to regions such as Afghanistan, eastern Persia, and Central Asia. The goods were transported via camel-back through mountain passes and deserts.
- A vibrant sea trade operated through the main pre-colonial ports. Surat on the Gujarat coast connected India to the Gulf and Red Sea Ports; Masulipatam on the Coromandel coast and Hoogly in Bengal had trade links with Southeast Asian ports.
- Indian merchants and bankers were involved in financing production, carrying goods, and supplying exporters. Supply merchants connected the port towns to inland regions, and provided advances to weavers, procuring woven cloth, and supplies to the ports.
- However, the control of the export trade network gradually shifted to European companies, who secured concessions and monopoly rights from local courts.
- The decline of Indian merchants’ control over the trade network led to the downfall of old ports like Surat and Hoogly, with exports and credit drying up, and local bankers facing bankruptcy.
- Bombay and Calcutta emerged as new ports of significance that indicated the growing power of colonial influence.
- Trade through the new ports came to be controlled by European companies and was carried in European ships.
- The shift in trade control from Indian merchants to European companies shaped a new network that wanted to survive but now had to operate.
3.2 What Happened to Weavers?
- The consolidation of East India Company power after the 1760s did not initially lead to a decline in textile exports from India due to the high demand for Indian fine textiles in Europe. The company was expanding textile exports from India.
- Before establishing political power in Bengal and Carnatic in the 1760s and 1770s, the East India Company faced difficulties in ensuring a regular supply of goods for export due to competition from French, Dutch, Portuguese, and local traders.
- After gaining political power, the East India Company aimed to establish a monopoly right to trade and implemented measures to control and manage the textile industry. This was done through a series of steps.
- First: The Company eliminated existing traders and brokers. They appointed a paid servant called gomastha to supervise weavers, collect supplies, and inspect cloth quality.
- Second: The Company prevented weavers from dealing with other buyers by providing them advance for raw materials and they have to hand over the produced cloth to the gomastha.
- Weavers eagerly accepted the advances. If they failed to repay the loans, they become devoted all their time to weaving, and leasing out their land for agricultural needs.
- Clashes arose between weavers and gomasthas, with reports of abusive behavior by gomasthas and the loss of bargaining power for weavers.
- In response, some weavers migrated to other villages where they had family relations, while others revolted against the Company and its officials.
- As a result, many weavers began refusing loans, closing down their workshops, and turning to agricultural labour.
- By the beginning of the 19th century, cotton weavers faced new problems.
3.3 Manchester Comes to India
- In 1772, Henry Patullo, a Company official had ventured to say that the demand for Indian textiles could never reduce.
- The beginning of the 19th century marked a decline in textile exports from India. The demand for Indian textiles would remain high due to their quality. In 1811-12 pieces-goods accounted for 33 percent of India’s exports.
- The development of cotton industries in England led to concerns among industrial groups about competition from imported textiles. They pressured the government to impose import duties on cotton textiles to protect the domestic market.
- Industrialists also persuaded the East India Company to sell British manufactured goods in Indian markets. In the early 19th century, the export of British cotton goods to India increased.
- By 1850 cotton piece goods constituted over 31 percent of the value of Indian imports; and by the 1870s this figure was over 50 percent.
- Cotton weavers in India thus faced two problems at the same time: their export market collapsed, and the local market shrank, being glutted with Manchester imports.
- By the 1860s, weavers faced a new problem. They could not get a sufficient supply of raw cotton of good quality.
- During the American Civil War, when cotton supplies from the US were cut off then Britain turned to India. It was causing a surge in raw cotton exports and a subsequent increase in raw cotton prices. This further affected Indian weavers who struggled to afford raw materials.
- By the end of the nineteenth century, weavers and other craftspeople faced yet another problem. Factories in India began production, flooding the market with machine goods.
4. Factories Come Up
- The first cotton mill in Bombay was established in 1854 and started production in 1856. By 1862, there were four mills in operation with 94,000 spindles and 2,150 looms.
- Around the same time, jute mills were established in Bengal, with the first one set up in 1855 and another in 1862.
- In north India, the Elgin Mill was started in Kanpur in the 1860s, and the first cotton mill in Ahmedabad was established a year later.
- By 1874, the first spinning and weaving mill in Madras (now Chennai) began production.
4.1 The Early Entrepreneurs
- The history of many business groups goes back to trade with China. The British in India started exporting opium to China and importing tea from China to England in the late 18th century.
- Indian businessmen played a role in this trade by providing finance, procuring supplies, and shipping consignments. Some of them earned through trade and had visions of developing industrial enterprises in India.
- Dwarkanath Tagore in Bengal made his fortune in the China trade before investing in industrial ventures. He set up six joint-stock companies in the 1830s and 1840s.
- In Bombay, Parsis like Dinshaw Petit and Jamsetjee Nusserwanjee Tata built huge wealth from exports to China and raw cotton shipments to England.
- Seth Hukumchand, a Marwari businessman established the first Indian jute mill in Calcutta in 1917 and started trading with China. So did the father as well as the grandfather of the famous industrialist G.D. Birla.
- Capital for industrial investments also came from trade networks with Burma, the Middle East, and East Africa.
- Indian merchants’ function became increasingly limited due to colonial control over Indian trade. They were barred from trading with Europe in manufactured goods and gradually edged out of the shipping business.
- European Managing Agencies, such as Bird Heiglers & Co., Andrew Yule, and Jardine Skinner & Co., controlled a large sector of Indian industries until the First World War.
- Indian financiers provided capital, while European Agencies made investment and business decisions. Indian businessmenwere not allowed to join the European merchant-industrialists’ chambers of commerce.
4.2 Where Did the Workers Come From?
- The expansion of factories in India led to an increased demand for workers. In 1901, there were 584,000 workers in Indian factories, which grew to over 2,436,000 by 1946.
- Workers came from the districts’ regions. Peasants and artisans who couldn’t find work in their villages migrated to the industrial centres in search of work.
- For example, over 50% of the workers in Bombay’s cotton industries in 1911 came from the neighboring district of Ratnagiri, and the mills in Kanpur relied on workers of the Kanpur district.
- Many mill workers moved between the village and the city, returning to their village homes during harvests and festivals.
- As news of employment spread, workers travelled long distances in hopes of finding work in the mills. For instance, workers from the United Provinces migrated to work in the textile mills of Bombay and the jute mills of Calcutta.
- Getting jobs was always difficult, even when mills multiplied and the demand for workers increased. The numbers seeking work were always more than the jobs available.
- Entry into the mills was often restricted, and industrialists employed jobbers to recruit new workers. These jobbers are typically trusted and experienced workers themselves. They brought people from their villages, helped them settle in the city, and sometimes provided financial support during crises.
- The jobbers gained authority and power and began demanding money and gifts in exchange for their assistance, exerting control over the lives of the workers.
- While the number of factory workers increased over time, they constituted a small proportion of the overall industrial workforce in India.
5. The Peculiarities of Industrial Growth
- European Managing Agencies dominate industrial production in India, such as tea, coffee, mining, indigo, and jute, primarily for export trade rather than for sale within India.
- When Indian businessmen began establishing industries in the late 19th century, they avoided direct competition with Manchester goods in the Indian market. Instead, the early cotton mills produced coarse cotton yarn rather than fabric, as yarn imports were of superior quality.
- The yarn produced in Indian spinning mills was either used by handloom weavers in India or exported to China.
- In the early 20th century, industrialization patterns changed due to the Swadeshi movement and the growing nationalist sentiment. they boycott foreign cloth. Industrial groups pushed for increased tariff protection and concessions from the government.
- From 1906, the export of Indian yarn to China declined due to competition from Chinese and Japanese mills in the Chinese market.
- Indian industrialists began shifting from yarn to cloth production, and cotton piece-goods production doubled between 1900 and 1912.
- The First World War created a new situation for Indian mills. With British mills occupied with war production, imports of Manchester goods into India declined, providing a vast home market for Indian mills.
- Indian factories were called upon to supply war needs, leading to the establishment of new factories and increased employment.
- After the war, Manchester could not get its previous position in the Indian market. The British economy struggled to compete with the US, Germany, and Japan, leading to a collapse in cotton production and exports of cotton cloth from Britain.
- Local Indian industrialists gradually consolidated their position, substituting foreign manufacturers and capturing the home market.
5.1 Small-scale Industries Predominate
- After the First World War, factory industries in India experienced steady growth, but they formed only a small segment of the overall economy.
- In 1911, approximately 67% of large industries were concentrated in Bengal and Bombay.
- Small-scale production continued to predominate in the rest of the country, with a small proportion of the total industrial labour force working in registered factories is 5%nin 1911 and 10 5 in 1931. These were often hidden in alleys and bylanes, unnoticed by the general public.
- Interestingly, some handicraft production actually expanded in the 20th century, including the handloom sector. While cheap machine-made thread wiped out the spinning industry in the 19th century, handloom weavers managed to survive.
- Handloom cloth production steadily increased in the 20th century, nearly tripling between 1900 and 1940.
- Technological changes played a role in the expansion of handicraft production in the 20th century.
- Handicraft artisans adopted new technologies, such as looms with a fly shuttle, which increased productivity, speeded up production, and reduced labour demand.
- By 1941, over 35% of handlooms in India were fitted with fly shuttles, with higher proportions in regions like Travancore, Madras, Mysore, Cochin, and Bengal (70-80%).
- Weavers utilized other small innovations to improve productivity and compete with the mill sector.
- Certain groups of weavers were better positioned to survive the competition with mills industries based on the types of cloth they produced. Coarser cloth was bought by the poor, and had fluctuating demand, while finer varieties had more stable demand from the well-to-do.
- Weavers specialized in unique weaves, such as saris with woven borders, lungis, and handkerchiefs, which could not be easily replicated by mills.
- Despite expanding production, weavers and other craftspeople did not necessarily prosper. They lived hard lives and worked long hours, and often involved their entire households, including women and children, in the production process.
- However, their contribution to industrialization was integral, as they continued to play a significant role in the production landscape alongside the emerging factory industries.
6. Market for Goods
- British manufacturers attempted to take over the Indian market, but Indian weavers and craftsmen, traders, and industrialists resisted colonial controls, demanded tariff protection, created their own spaces, and tried to extend the market for their produce.
- Advertisements played a significant role in expanding markets for new products and shaping consumer culture during the industrial age.
- Manchester industrialists selling cloth in India used labels on cloth bundles to make the place of manufacture and the company name familiar and to establish a mark of quality. They put a label “ MADE IN MANCHESTER”.
- Labels often carried beautifully illustrated images, including those of Indian gods and goddesses, to associate divine approval with the goods being sold and make them appear familiar to Indian people.
- Manufacturers started printing calendars to popularize their products, which were used by both literate and illiterate individuals. Calendars prominently displayed advertisements, including images of gods, and important personages like emperors and nawabs, conveying messages of divine approval and quality.
- Indian manufacturers used advertisements to promote a nationalist message, urging people to buy products produced by Indians as an act of caring for the nation. Advertisements became a platform for the swadeshi (nationalist) message.
- Advertisements played a crucial role in shaping consumer preferences, creating new needs, and influencing purchasing decisions by making products desirable and necessary.
- The age of industries brought about significant technological changes, the growth of factories, and the emergence of a new industrial labor force.
- However, hand technology and small-scale production continued to be crucial component of the industrial landscape.
- Handicrafts and small workshops remained prevalent, especially in regions where large industries were less dominant.
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