Clio Edition 4 - page 22

The dictionary tells us that revolution – in
the sense of political or social change -
means “dramatic and wide-reaching change
in conditions, attitudes, or operation”.
Often “revolution” is associated with a
change of government by force. The French
Revolution of 1789, for example, involved
the destruction of an old regime and the
overthrowing of the
monarchy. But revolutions
aren’t always about mutiny
or the seizing of power.
A revolution can just be
‘dramatic and wide-reaching
change’, a description
that is a perfect fit for the
industrial and agricultural revolutions in
Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The term ‘Agricultural Revolution’ was first
used by the historian Arnold Toynbee and
it refers to the period in Britain from the
early 1700s to the later part of the century
when new ways of farming were adopted
that led to an increase in food production.
Not all historians agree with Toynbee’s view
of what happened during this revolution or
when it started, but the changes included the
adopting of new crops, new farming ideas
and breeding better quality animals. There
was also an increase in the size of farms, as
farmers began enclosing more fields that
surrounded their farms. The products of
having larger farms increased wealth and
encouraged more farmers to do the same.
The huge increase in farm production was
a driving force in propelling the industry
and population growth. This population
growth of around 260 per cent between 1750
and 1900 - was a vital part of the industrial
The Industrial Revolution had an even
greater impact on people’s lives and in
shaping the modern world. At the very
heart of this revolution was the invention
of new machinery which sped up the ability
to manufacture goods and helped to create
new types of tools. Moreover, as steam
power replaced human and animal power,
industry expanded enormously. It led to
the creation of factories and ultimately to
the establishment of a proper formal school
During this revolution, Britain transformed
from being an agricultural society to an
affluent industrialised one where people
moved away from the rural locations to live
in urban areas and cities. Engineers came up
with new ways of moving goods and people
faster. Roads were improved and canals were
The British Way
How Revolutionary changes
in Britain shaped the modern
An etching of work
in an iron factory,
workers using
industrial equipment
By Claudia Whiterow
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