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The term industrial revolution (1750-1870) may be misleading for two reasons:

1) revolution evokes an image of radical rupture, while the I.R. Is a process of evolutionary and cumulative economic change and, moreover, for more than half a century the English economy presents a dual aspect, where new and old technologies coexist

2) industrial seems to exclusively limit to the field of industry a process of changes that actually affects all sectors of the economy (demography, agriculture, transport, science, ...), which do not simply play a subordinate or accompanying role with respect to the industrial sector, but their transformation is a necessary condition for the IR to eventually crystallise

The change may be mainly explained by the improvement in productivity, in turn due to 4 sets of factors.

1. Technological innovations, which spread from manufacturing to agriculture and transports = replacement of:

  1. animated power by inanimate energy engines (steam engine), of greater power and regular work
  2. fuels and energy sources with inelastic supply and difficult transportation and storage (vegetal coal, wind and hydraulic energy) by fossil or mineral energy (mineral coal)      
  3. organic raw materials (wood, natural dyes, biological fertilisers) by inorganic (bricks, artificial dyes, chemical fertilisers)

2. Productivity and efficiency gains, as a consequence of innovations, resulting in a greater capitalization of the economy (substitution of labour-intensive production functions with capital-intensive production functions) and a greater productivity, derived from 2 types of gains:

a) b)

efficiency (new machinery produces more with less inputs and in less time)

due to economies of scale (externalinfrastructures, know-how; and internal increasing returns when ↑production volume)

3. Organisational/institutional changes, moving from economic organisations characteristic of pre-industrial economies (collective or family mercantile societies such as guild workshops or trade companies) to capitalist companies (factories, farms, shipping or rail companies, banks). These also contribute to improving productivity and efficiency (factory systemprofessionalisation of work and organisational management, division or specialisation of labour, manufacturing).

4. Structural changes: society becomes more industrial, less rural and more urban. There is a transfer of productive factors (labour, capital) from agriculture to industry, from the production of consumer goods (food, clothing) to that of capital goods (machinery, infrastructures)ç

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