What were the main reasons that the Industrial Revolution happened in Great Britain? I know there were at least a few other European countries with some of the same advantages that Great Britain had (such as markets for their goods in their colonies). What was it that set Great Britain apart?

  • Remarkably simple, and still a propos for third-world countries today: An emphasis on learning and education for young adults, men and women both, resulting in delay of marriage and first child and reduction in total number of children for the urban middle class, raising the standard of living and financing innovation. Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 3:43

3 Answers 3


There are many reasons:

Early abolition of serfdom

Serfdom is the status of peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism. It was a condition of bondage which developed primarily during the High Middle Ages in Europe and lasted in some countries until the mid-19th century Scotland: neyfs (serfs) disappeared by late 14th century,[23] but heritable jurisdictions survived until 1747.[24] England & Wales: obsolete by 15th-16th century

Abolishing serfdom is important for creating a middle class.

An very early and well developed legal system protecting personal and property rights

First European Nation State Henry VII wins the War of the Roses in England, begins the Tudor dynasty in 1485.

Financial innovation The UK did not invent many of these things, but its strong legal system allowed them to flourish, such as contracts, equity, mortgages, joint stock and limited liability. Private companies were able to use joint stock with the permission of the monarchy to finance trade and settlements in British colonies. An example is the British East India Company.

Great Britain's successful global trade empire It could draw in raw materials it required or use as markets to sell its goods

Enclosures Act

process which ends traditional rights such as mowing meadows for hay, or grazing livestock on common land formerly held in the open field system. Once enclosed, these uses of the land become restricted to the owner, and it ceases to be land for commons. In England and Wales the term is also used for the process that ended the ancient system of arable farming in open fields. Under enclosure, such land is fenced (enclosed) and deeded or entitled to one or more owners. The process of enclosure began to be a widespread feature of the English agricultural landscape during the 16th century. By the 19th century, unenclosed commons had become largely restricted to rough pasture in mountainous areas and to relatively small parts of the lowlands.

Enclosure is one of the causes of the British Agricultural Revolution, but it causes mass unemployment. The unemployed people often sought work for low wages in the Industrializing Northern England.

British Agricultural Revolution

unprecedented increase in agricultural production in England due to increases in labor and land productivity that took place between 1750 and 1850

Fewer people were needed as farmers, so this also caused people to move to cities and seek paid employment.

Large coal and iron ore deposits This is an important natural resource for industry to create steel and steam powered machines.


You might say it started in the renaissance. Common men such as peasants found opportunities to expand their businesses and move up in status; e.g. A yeoman purchasing neighbouring land and building a large wool business. An all round richer population created opportunity for many more youngsters to have education. People moved around more than ever, and university was more accessible. That way, more great minds found their way than just clergy, nobles and the particularly wealthy. Science increased in popularity as the age of travel shared more knowledge and technology. The increased prosperity and surplus in goods encouraged developments in industry to deal with them efficiently. The other side to this was the extra jobs it created became a pull factor, resulting in a migration from country areas into cities, mining towns and ports. To specify what areas Britain prospered in: Wool was a large enterprise in Britain since early times, and with the introduction of new technology, (such as the spinning jenny, 1764) and the conversion of farmland to sheep production, a greater export market developed. Coal mining is still a significant trade activity, especially in northern England and Scotland. At first it was found to be very convenient for household fires/cooking, but soon fueled steam engines, which was a huge advancement in industry as machines took the place of human and animal workers in places like factories and transport reached a new level with trains and sea craft.

Sources: The Pictorial Encyclopedia of British History


Short Answer High Wages. The replacing of labour by machines was profitable in England, but often not so elsewhere with lower wages.

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