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Industrialization in the Colonies

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Proto-industrialization is the period before the establishment of factories in the UK and Europe. There was large-scale industrial manufacturing for a non-factory-based international market. European merchants rushed to the countryside in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, providing money and kinds to peasants and artisans in exchange for their products to sell on the international market.

Merchants were constrained in their ability to expand their output inside cities because kings granted distinct guilds the monopolistic right to make and sell specific products. Peasants and artisans in the countryside agreed to stay in the countryside and cultivate their little plots. Thus, the proto-industrial system was connected to a network of merchant-run commercial exchanges.

Industrial Change

  • The most dynamic sectors in the UK were cotton and metals like iron. Till the 1840s, cotton dominated the initial phase of industrialization. It was later followed by the iron and steel industries.
  • It was difficult for emerging sectors to supplant old industries. 
  • Traditional industries did not change with time compared to steam-powered cotton or metal industries, but they did not remain completely stagnant either. 
  • Technological progress was slow but it was improved by James Watt on Newcomen’s steam engine. He patented the new engine in 1781. 
  • Matthew Boulton designed the new model. Until much later in the century, steam engines were not utilised in any of the other industries.

Hand Labour and Steam Power

In Victorian Britain, human labour was in surplus. Industrialists faced a surplus of labour or high wage prices and they needed a huge capital investment instead of machinery. Demand for labour was seasonal in many industries. In all such businesses whose output changed with the seasons, industrialists often choose hand labour, hiring people for the season.

Industrialisation in the Colonies

The process of industrialisation in the colonies can be understood in the following ways:

Characteristics of the revolution

 The technological changes included the following:

  1. New fundamental materials, namely iron and steel, are being used.
  2. Coal, the steam engine, electricity, petroleum, and the internal combustion engine are examples of novel energy sources, which include both fuels and motive power.
  3. the advent of new machinery such as the spinning jenny and the power loom, which allowed for more output with less human effort.
  4. The factory system was a new work organization that included the increasing division of labour and function specialization.
  5. The steam locomotive, steamer, automobile, aeroplanes, telegram, and radio were all significant advancements in transportation and communication.
  6. Science’s rising application in industry

Indian Textiles

Prior to the rise of machine industries, India’s global textile market was dominated by silk and cotton. This export trade network included a diverse group of Indian merchants and bankers who were responsible for funding production, shipping commodities, and supplying exporters. This network, which was dominated by Indian merchants, was crumbling by the 1750s. The European firms rose to prominence by gaining a series of concessions from local courts, followed by monopoly trading rights. The rise of colonial power was reflected in the move from old to new ports. Trade through the new ports was dominated by European corporations, and goods were conveyed on European ships.


After the 1760s, the consolidation of the East India Company had no effect on Indian textile exports. The East India Company failed to offer a steady supply of goods for export prior to gaining governmental control in Bengal and Carnatic in the 1760s and 1770s. The East India Company built a management and control system after establishing political power in order to limit competitors, control costs, and secure continuous supplies of cotton and silk commodities. It was established in a series of steps.

  1. By removing existing dealers and brokers from the cloth trade and gaining more direct control over the weaver.
  2. By forbidding Company weavers from negotiating with other purchasers.

Once an order was placed, the weavers were given a loan to purchase raw materials. Weavers who borrowed fabric were obligated to return it to the gomastha. Weaving needed the participation of the entire family, with children and women participating at different stages.

Manchester and India

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, India’s textile exports had declined. The export of British cotton items increased significantly in the early nineteenth century. By the end of the eighteenth century, imports of cotton-piece goods into India were prohibited. Cotton weavers in India had to deal with the following issues:

  1. Their export market had been obliterated.
  2. Manchester imports oversaturated the local market, which shrank.

Weavers were facing a new challenge by the 1860s. They were unable to obtain sufficient quantities of high-quality raw cotton. India’s raw cotton exports grew as well, driving up the price. Other craftspeople confronted a new problem by the end of the nineteenth century. Machine parts began to flood the market as a result of India’s companies creating them.

New Factories

Bombay’s first cotton mill was established in 1854, and it began operations two years later. By 1862, four more mills had been completed, and jute mills in Bengal had been built at the same time. The first jute mill was established in 1855. The Elgin Mill opened in Kanpur, north India, in the 1860s, while the first cotton mill was built in Ahmedabad a year later. Madras’ first spinning and weaving industry was established in 1874.


Commerce dates back to the late 18th century when the British in India began selling opium to China and receiving tea from the Chinese. In 1917, Seth Hukumchand established the first Indian jute factory in Calcutta. Opportunities for industrial investment arose, and some of them set up shop. Because of colonial rule, Indians were unable to trade in manufactured items with Europe and were forced to export raw materials and food grains, which the British needed.

Industrial Growth

Tea and coffee plantations, as well as mining, indigo, and jute industries, were established by European Managing Agencies. These articles were primarily intended for export. The yarn generated by Indian spinning mills was utilised by handloom weavers in India, and it was also shipped to China. A variety of factors influenced the pattern of industrialization. Nationalists began to reject imported textiles after the Swadeshi movement gained prominence.

Since 1906, when Chinese and Japanese mills dominated the Chinese market, Indian yarn exports to China have declined. Industrial progress was slow until the end of World War I. The war radically changed the situation, and Indian mills took advantage of the chance.

Market for Goods

When new products were introduced, marketing assisted in convincing consumers that they were desirable and required. The fabric bundles were labelled by Manchester firms to indicate their quality. Some of the labels had attractive artwork. These labels were embellished with images of Indian gods and goddesses. Calendars were created by manufacturers to promote their products. God figures were utilised to sell new products in these calendars.

Innovations in Transportations

The Industrial Revolution improved Britain’s road network, which was in poor condition before industrialization. By 1815, new transportation inventions, such as steam-powered locomotives, had ushered in a new era in transportation, with efficient freight and passenger movement throughout the United Kingdom. These advancements also made it possible for things to be carried across the Atlantic Ocean and beyond.

FAQs on Industrialization in the Colonies

Question 1: Why did technological progress in the United Kingdom take so long? Give only one explanation.


Because technology was expensive and merchants and manufacturers were reticent to use it, technical advancements in the United Kingdom were slowed.

Question 2: Why did certain nineteenth-century European entrepreneurs prefer manual labour to machines?


In companies such as gas plants and breweries, whose production fluctuated with the seasons, hand labour was typically preferred over equipment.

Question 3: What was the advantage of Spinning Jenny?


Spinning Jenny speed up the spinning process while decreasing labour requirements. A worker may activate several spindles and spin multiple threads at the same time by rotating a single wheel.

Question 4: Mention just one cause of conflict between weavers and gomasthas.


The gomasthas were social misfits with no long-term links to the village. They acted arrogantly, marched into villages with sepoys and peons, and punished weavers for supply delays, lashing and flogging them often.

Question 5: Where did the workers come from in general to work in factories?


The bulk of industrial regions recruited labour from nearby districts; for example, the Kanpur mills drew the majority of their textile employees from villages inside the Kanpur district.

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Last Updated : 29 Mar, 2023
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