Who would think that at the beginning of the 18th Century that either America or Great Britain would take the lead in industrializing the world? Yet, during the 1700s and 1800s, it was those two nations which sprang forward to claim the roles of leaders. Some authorities believe that Britain was able to achieve what most Europe could not because the feudal system was more entrenched on the Continent than it was in Britain. Others hold with the idea that the geographical locations of the England and the United States created natural lines of transportation. Needless to say, neither the U.S. or Britain was marked by the devastation of war that we found upon the Continent. More believe the two countries had a jump start on France and other European countries with the smelting of iron ore in America and Britain’s coal metallurgy. Perhaps it is a bit of each reason listed above.
In Great Britain, there is the idea that the mechanization of textile manufacturing created an atmosphere conducive to general industrialization. Yet, history shows us that many other countries mechanized textile manufacturing and then went nowhere fast. The spinning jenny (patented by James Hargreaves in 1770) was a machine for spinning more than one spindle at a time an well used in both America and Britain. While Britain used steam power, in the United States, the mills were located closer to rivers to take advantage of much cheaper water power.
Yet, it was the prevailing idea in both Britain and the northern coastal states of the U.S. that there was strong traditions shared by both countries and a customary acceptance of innovation in craftsmanship that likely fueled the progress of both countries. “In addition, the necessities of the developing colonies and states enforced a continued emphasis on utilitarian ways of ‘organizing and interpreting…experience,’ one generation after another.” [Thomas C. Cochran, Frontiers of Change, Oxford University Press, 1981]
have been crucial. The technological innovations that started the upsurge of industrialization, that is, were congenial to the existing culture and not, as in the case of less-developed nations, exotic imports. While the later Japanese experience might argue that ‘high technology’ industries can be introduced by experienced artisans who have studied foreign machinery, this observation merely adds the corollary that, even if rapidly enlarged, a traditional, indigenous metalworking industry, like Japan’s, was essential to bringing in the age of iron and steel. Since later industrial machines continued to be made of metal, history assures us by hindsight that the metalworking industry was the essential of advanced technology in 1800. The particular needs of future development in an age of chemistry and electronics may not be so clear. Furthermore, the early industrial nations progressed chiefly in response to consumer demands, not by government acquisition of exotic equipment belonging to more developed societies.” [Cochran, page 8]