The Role of Transportation in the Industrial Revolution: A Comparison of England and France

By Rick Szostak | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE

Introduction

My contention in this work is that a modern system of transportation was necessary for the Industrial Revolution to occur in England. While transport is discussed in many works on the Industrial Revolution, none have provided a comprehensive discussion of the various effects of England's superior transport system on the process of industrialization; nor, especially, have they described the links between transport improvement and technological innovation. Thus, transport has not been given the prominent position it deserves in the literature on the Industrial Revolution. 1 In this introductory chapter, I first define what is meant by the terms Industrial Revolution, necessary, and modern transportation. Next, since it is important to explain at an early stage how my analysis of the eighteenth century relates to what happened before and after that period, I place this work briefly within a broader historical context. Having done that, I sketch some theoretical arguments that explain how transportation could affect the phenomena that comprise the Industrial Revolution. My work is then discussed in relation to a number of important works on the Industrial Revolution and on the role of transport in history. The chapter ends with a brief outline of the rest of the book.

The Industrial Revolution involves four phenomena: regional specialization, the emergence of new industries, an increase in the scale of production, and a dramatic increase in the rate of technological innovation. The fourth of these, as I shall show, is caused in large part by the other three. It is also the most important in the view of most historians and will be my primary focus as well. Any attempt to describe the Industrial Revolution without devoting considerable attention to the question of technological innovation would be highly suspect. The Industrial Revolution is so important, in fact, precisely because it is the starting point of a new era in which economic growth has largely been

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