This article examines proto-industrialization, a precursor to the Industrial Revolution, in which goods were produced by hand in order to meet an increasing demand. Raw materials were distributed to peasants through the putting-out system. Merchants would buy back the products at a fraction of the retail rate.
For the peasants, but particularly for the merchants, this putting-out system had several advantages:
1. The peasants could supplement their agricultural income and take advantage of the winter months when farming was impossible.
2. Merchants could avoid the higher wages and often demanding regulations of urban labor; when the need arose, it was easier to reduce the number of workers.
3. Merchants could acquire capital, which would later play a part in funding industrialization itself, and peasants acquired skills for the future.
4. Young people could establish separate households earlier, thus facilitating population growth.
5. Capitalists had greater flexibility, especially when demand for their goods flagged.
As demand rose, output did not. The limit of manmade production had been reached and new solutions were necessary in order to accommodate a growing society. The article explains factors leading to and impacting the Industrial Revolution and outlines key elements definitive of such a revolution.
The Industrial Revolution was certainly not caused only by changes in trade. If trade alone had been responsible, the Netherlands (a trading powerhouse in the 17th and 18th centuries) would have been a leading contender for the location of the Industrial Revolution. As it was, Holland clearly lost ground to the pioneer industrializing nation, England . . . The Industrial Revolution, then, was not a revolution in trade or income, but in production.
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Length: 4 pages (estimated)
Recommended audience: Middle school and up