Why did Great Britain Industrialize Before France and Germany?
The Industrial Revolution caused several European nations to expand their economies and create new job opportunities. While some European countries, such as France and Germany, eventually did catch on to aspects of the growing Industrial World, the nation of Great Britain industrialized much faster than the rest of them and stood above the rest in industrial growth. Great Britain had several reasons that helped them succeed and industrialize faster than other nations, such as the fact that their population and middle class grew substantially, their coal and iron ore deposits were large and bunched in a close proximity of each other, and that their political policies on loans made it easy for enthusiastic merchants to begin a business.
First, it is obvious to compare Great Britain’s success during the Industrial Revolution to Europe’s silver medal country, France. Britain began basing their society on industrial foundations, but France stayed an agrarian society. This means while Britain began farming with newer technology and less human labor to collect profit, France continued to have family farms that farmed not for profit, but for personal use. Also, Britain was lucky enough to have massive amounts of iron and coal deposits bunched up in one area; France had these deposits, but most were far away from each other, making transportation rates higher and less efficient. Another major reason why Britain industrialized faster than France would have to be that there was a major demographic boom in Europe that was primarily focused in Great Britain.
France’s population only grew about thirty percent in a timespan of about fifty years; Britain’s grew an astonishing one hundred percent. But perhaps one of the biggest reasons would have to be how the two countries’ governments worked with loans. Britain’s government regulations on business were little to none, and the government itself did not fund things like railroads (a major influence that continued the industrial revolution); the bank of Britain also made it extremely easy to receive a loan to start businesses and encourage private investors to fund railways. France, on the other hand, did not give the Bank of France, established in 1800 by Napoleon, permission to give loans out to individuals — making it harder for railroads to be established by private investors who could not receive loans.
Then there are countries such as Germany, who at this point in history was not a “country”, but a collection of independent states. Since Germany was not a single country with a single government making regulations, it made it harder for these unorganized states to work in unison and progress faster during the Industrial Revolution. Germany’s independent states also had extensive toll systems, which irritated and discouraged enterprisers to open markets due to the fact that they’d have to pay tolls to enter each area. Britain, on the other hand, had a single government that encouraged private investors and merchants to fund projects and open markets. And yet another reason why Germany couldn’t catch up as fast would be the fact that the independent states of Germany had guilds that controlled and monopolized all businesses. It was no use to rival the guilds and companies, therefore it further discouraged development of free enterprise.
Eastern Europe, which would in this case be Russia, industrialized even less than the other countries, let alone compared to Great Britain. While the demographic boom in Britain launched the population upwards, it increased their middle class. Russia was not as lucky, and had a very small middle class even after the demographic boom in population. In a population of fifty-seven million, Russia only had around one hundred and sixty thousand merchants to make up their middle class. Another important reason keeping Russia behind during the revolution would have to be the fact that serfs, the lower class, were bound to the property they were at — meaning they could not be hired or recruited to a new business. Britain did the most they could to encourage new business, but Russia failed to hold a grasp on the attention of new entrepreneurs. Railways were all over Britain due to private investors, but in Russia they developed new transportation much, much slower than other European nations.
Great Britain industrialized faster than any other European nation for several reasons. Britain’s government policies allowed private investors and merchants to propel the growth of industry, and other countries straggled in the dirt to catch up to the demographic boom that was focused in Britain. Britain had a large supply of natural resources to, literally, fuel the revolution itself at a low cost due to the fact that they were all in the same area – allowing transportation rates to decrease. While it is obvious that most European countries eventually did join the bandwagon of industrialization, they all did so much slower than Great Britain, the country with the most resources and population.