The Industrial Revolution started in Great Britain in the 18th century. The precursor to the Industrial Revolution was the Enlightenment. This occurred when European scholars rediscovered Greek and Roman ideas. One outcome was the discovery of the scientific method, as well as an overall "rational" viewpoint towards scholarship, and Europeans applied it in their home countries with great results.

Great Britain seems to share many qualities with the Classical ancient societies of Greece and Rome, so I wanted to know what was specifically different about Great Britain that allowed it to develop the Industrial Revolution. The following are a few things that were the same:

1) Empires with wide trading networks

2 ) "Rational" science, technology and philosophy

3) Rome had a strong legal system. The British legal system was based on the Roman one and is an explanation for its protections of property rights.

4) "Democratic" societies (even if not everyone could actually vote)

5) Urbanization

6) Rome understood the concepts of an assembly line and specialization, which Great Britain rediscovered through Adam Smith

The following are things I believe might be dissimilar:

1) The invention of the internal combustion engine/ mechanization through steam power

I feel I am either overgeneralizing or have left things off the second list.

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    @RazieMah: Note; Steam Engines are fundamentally different, thermodynamically, from internal combustion engines as steam engines are a dual phase external combustion engine: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/External_combustion_engine Mar 22, 2014 at 14:07
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    false premise. The Roman era saw a massive industrialisation effort. Just because a lot of their technology was lost during what's now called the "dark ages" doesn't mean they never had it.
    – jwenting
    Mar 24, 2014 at 15:18
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    Not quite worthy of an answer, but there's no way the Greeks or Romans could have had an industrial revolution. Their mathematics and science was deficient. They didn't have a concept of zero. No zero means no algebra, no calculus, and without those, heat was just magic. Mar 27, 2014 at 2:27
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    They didn't have zero. The concept of zero as a number (rather than just a placeholder) originated in India the 6th century A.D. See yaleglobal.yale.edu/about/zero.jsp . Mar 28, 2014 at 1:55
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    It's not really clear to me what you would consider to be an industrial revolution and what you would not consider to be an industrial revolution. To me, an important benchmark is the steam engine. The Romans were not going to build steam engines for a lot of reasons. (1) lack of mathematical knowledge; (2) no quantitative theories of physics; (3) no steel; (4) mechanical things were not considered socially acceptable for patricians to work on.
    – user2848
    Dec 29, 2017 at 16:06

16 Answers 16


The answer is threefold:

1) Transportation costs: agricultural societies had, since the beginning, been restricted by the amount of food one could produce locally. What 'freed' the British poor from having to work the land (please note I'm not arguing that this was in their favor) was the import of large amount of cheap food, as well as the materials to start producing fabrics in factories. In the Roman world, these would both have had to be produced locally, which puts severe strains on the amount you can sell. This also means selling stuff to far away places can only happen if the product is very valuable, especially over land. There are notable examples of food being transported long distances (see Rome for example), however these are exceptions and only possible due to its special political position. (I would also argue the Romans never imported more than one-half of the free grain, and thus even less of the total amount of food from Egypt.)*

2) Competition: there are some much better candidates for the industrial revolution to happen earlier, namely China, but also the large Muslim empires. What these all have in common with Rome is a large autocratic empire with little competition and strong lone rulers. In early modern Europe, if one ruler did not want to back you, you could go to another one (which is why Columbus could go to America, after the Portuguese king said no).

3) Different kinds of city: there is a notable difference between consumer and producer cities. Roman cities were the first kind: the nobles who had become wealthy with sustained (but essentially small) surpluses of their land spent much of these surpluses on craftsmen in the cities who used it to buy the food these nobles had brought to the city. The city did not produce any wealth itself. This became obvious when the Western Roman empire's cities steadily declined after the nobles started to live on their estates. (They were expected to spend their own money on the functioning of certain institutions in the city.) Medieval and early modern cities were dependent on merchants and craftsmen, the latter creating products while the former sold them. The wealth was created in and by the city, making this a producer city, which is a lot more viable then the first kind.

*Perhaps someone with more knowledge about transportation costs in both periods, and where and how Britain imported its raw materials, could expand on this.

P.S. As a small aside, there may also have been some fundamental differences in the thought of the higher social classes between early modern western Europe and the Roman empire, because of their background. Roman elites were very reverent of their ancestors, maybe because their wealth was a consequence of their birth. The bourgeoisie was a self-made elite who was thus more interested and fond of the future.

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    An important additional point is that in the ancient empires, even skilled slave labour was very, very cheap. There was little incentive for automation as the investment was so risky. Subsequent to the late Medieval plagues that swept through Europe skilled urban labour in particular became much dearer, providing both incentive for investment in automation and spurring the growth and development of producer cities through the increase in median urban income. Mar 22, 2014 at 14:18
  • There is a very big time gap between the great plagues of mediaeval Europe and the industrial revolution of the 19th century.
    – fdb
    Mar 23, 2014 at 23:40
  • @PieterGeerkens The Romans did invest heavily in mechanisation, at least in some areas where it made sense. Ruins have been found of large water driven mills for example that would not have looked out of place in 17th century England or Holland.
    – jwenting
    Mar 25, 2014 at 7:31
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    Not sure that Britain imported all that much food back then - but prior to the Industrial Revolution was the Agricultural Revolution - improved farming techniques and technology brought massive increases in production for less labour.
    – user13123
    Aug 3, 2015 at 7:54
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    #1 isn't true. Rome imported their grain from Sicily and especially Egypt. Not all food was locally produced. Also, #2 isn't quite accurate either. For a large part of the Roman empire, they were fighting the Germans to the north and the Parthians to the east. There was more centralization among among the urban centers, though, so your point is essentially right.
    – cmw
    Oct 13, 2022 at 22:53

Wages. Labour was too cheap for an Industrial revolution. Early industrialisation must be profitable in order to be widely adopted and sustainable. With cheap labour the replacement of human labour with machines just isn't profitable. Research and development of early machines is expensive and slow, if there is no pay off, (trey making of money but cheaper machines replacing more expensive labour) this process simply will not start.

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    wrong. If you can put a dozen slaves to work milling grain using pounding stones, those same dozen slaves can be put to use filling the hoppers of a mill and extracting the flour at the bottom. They'll not only be more productive per hour, but can work more hours until exhaustion.
    – jwenting
    Mar 25, 2014 at 7:36
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    @jwenting: But what if you couldn't afford to buy a mill and a dozen slaves?
    – dan04
    Mar 28, 2014 at 2:09
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    Wages effect the risk/reward equation of the investment. The Early Industrial experiments were costly, it's only high wages that made them profitable. There are many examples of trying to start factories methods in France and failing due to wages. You have to remember early experiments are costly. The rate of repayment is largely dependent on the cost of labour.
    – pugsville
    Nov 19, 2014 at 3:54

The primary mechanisms that motivated the industrial revolution were automation and efficient utilization of natural resources to generate power to drive automation. There were certainly also social factors, but I'd prefer to focus primarily on the technical, since this seems to offer a clearer path to an answer.

The Romans did harness power from gravity (aqueducts), and the flow of water (turbines). The Romans also had a reasonable understanding of hydraulics (Hero of Alexandria). Their primary limitation was having an efficient method of extracting power from fuel to run their machinery. There was certainly mass production in the Roman world (and in China, Greece, and the rest of the ancient world at earlier time periods), but everything in the ancient world was driven primarily by human or animal labor.

The industrial revolution was not triggered by any one event or invention (most history textbooks have an unfortunate obsession with Watt's steam engine), but rather by the collective progression of scientific understanding across the human race. For this reason I wouldn't agree with the premise that the British developed the Industrial Revolution.

In a very real way the Greeks, Romans, Indians, Egyptians, Persians and Chinese contributed with the basis of mathematics and physics. The Arabs followed up by safeguarding the knowledge obtained by civilizations before them and by developing the fields of physics, chemistry and mathematics (among others including medicine and botany) into strong practical and scientific disciplines. They also made breakthroughs in water wheels, which eventually spread to medieval Europe as the basis of medieval automation. The Arab conquest, the reconquista and the crusades all helped to bring Arab and Roman knowledge into Europe where it was eagerly absorbed.

Ultimately the Dutch and the French contributed heavily to improvements in automation (Vaucanson's card automated loom, known by its reincarnation as the Jacquard Loom, is a good example). Pan-European scientific breakthroughs in physics, instrumentation and measurement, energy utilization and resource gathering, as well as materials science and manufacturing all helped to advance technology to the point where energy (initially generated from burning coal) could be efficiently used to power semi-automated machinery.

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    The Romans had access to fossil fuels. They did not think to use them. The Chinese used natural gas for cooking and heating homes, but never for machines. The fact that you're saying the Arabs were "safeguarding" knowledge is evidence it went unused for centuries. The question is why. Skirting around the question does not invalidate it.
    – Razie Mah
    Mar 22, 2014 at 13:33
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    The Arabs in no way let knowledge go "unused". They prolifically copied manuscripts and actively made discoveries and innovations. This is a simple question of threshold and access to knowledge. Unfortunately a perfect answer could be almost limitless. Simply put, it took a lot of development across various fields of knowledge to understand how to make an efficient energy generator to drive automation. I certainly didn't mean to invalidate your question or skirt around it. I think the key concept you are missing in your response is that of efficient use of energy. It's HOW you burn the fuel!
    – user39075
    Mar 22, 2014 at 14:04
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    I think you put to much emphasis on the technical part of the industrial revolution, e.g. technical advancements -> industrial revolution. The real change of the industrial revolution IMO is freeing up more people from producing food than could originally be achieved with local surpluses, getting those people to create valuable objects and then creating wealth by selling these objects everywhere.
    – Jeroen K
    Mar 22, 2014 at 14:30
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    Society is definitely important, but the market in ancient Rome was more advanced than you are giving it credit for. Grain traveled long distance, as did spice, salt, livestock, olive oil, textiles, etc. The silk road linked Rome and China, it was not all local at all. Roman leadership was autocratic but trade was very much a free market. Lastly it is true that Rome was largely a consumer city, but other cities in the empire were producers. The industrial revolution only went to cities because it was freed from having to be near water power by efficient harnessing of combustion.
    – user39075
    Mar 22, 2014 at 14:42
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    @user39075 I still disagree with your answer, but I appreciate the thought provoking answer to this very difficult question. +1
    – Razie Mah
    Mar 22, 2014 at 23:01

Everyone is missing some fundemental preconditions of industrialization. Namely, there needs to be a large class of people who must purchase the consumer goods and must sell their labor to survive. This is the basis of production and of demand.

We got a working class in England first because England, by early modern times, was a mostly yeoman (small farmer) society in decline. Other areas had serfs still (e.g. Russia) or a yeomanry in ascent (like France).

The small farmers were losing their land (indeed, made possible by technological changes but in actuality due to the enclosures) and thus their ability to re-produce themselves from their own land. They had to move to urban areas and take up crafts to make money to then buy the goods to survive which they used to be able to produce themselves.

Thus we have a basis of urban production (a proletariat) and a basis of demand (a class without the means of production to produce for themselves...a proletariat).

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    "There needs to be a large class of people who must purchase the consumer goods". Must? The industrial revolution was driven mainly by consumers of one and only one market: textile. Everything else, steam engines, steel, railroads, whatnot, developed to support textile factories directly or indirectly. So I'd say that a fundamental precondition is to have a large population able to PAY for the textiles. Not the noble 5%, but much much more people buying more and more clothes, a market nearly impossible to saturate. Then you save money by mechanizing production - and you have the Revolution.
    – kubanczyk
    Oct 26, 2015 at 10:38
  • In England's case, though, that consumer market was in Europe rather than local, as the wool was at first shipped over to the Low Countries as export.
    – Oldcat
    Oct 26, 2015 at 22:15

More people. Europe in the era of the Romans has an estimated population of 30 million people, which increased to 100 million people in 1800 and now to 700 million people.

You do not produce goods just for fun. You must also have people who need to buy the products so you make a profit from producing goods. And if you invent machines to work for you, you must first invest money. Much money. You need to build big buildings to protect your machines, you need transportation to get raw materials (port, streets, storage rooms) and move them away, you need a special workforce which are solely responsible to maintain the machines and cheap workforce to work with the machines. And you must operate the machines always at a decent capacity, if they are not needed, they cost you money. Great Britain had a population which doubled every 50 years, a social class wealthy enough to make the necessary investments and with colonies and a growing population enough demand to use machines.
If you do not have such a big demand craftsman are in fact cheaper, more adaptable and deliver higher quality (This is the reason small firms still exist now). While technologically capable of building machines, Rome had simply enough capacity for their demands so they never needed an industrial revolution.

  • @RazieMah: I do not know if a lower birth rate and a decrease in population rate was instrumental. In fact, noone knows the reason, so you asked the question in the first place ;-). I am pointing out that the absolute number of people was one order of magnitude higher than the people living during the Roman Empire. The old ways without industrial revolution were simply sufficient for the Romans/Greeks/Muslim Empire, so there was no need to proceed further. Mar 25, 2014 at 0:43
  • At a minimum, denser population helps to mitigate the transport problem - more people live close enough for you to be able to ship to them.
    – Oldcat
    Oct 26, 2015 at 22:16

Remember that "necessity is the mother of invention". The Hawaiians had fresh water, fruits, vegetable, fish and meat and drinking & cutting utensils easily at hand and had no need for heating or warm clothing. They had so much leisure time that they did need means of diversion, so they invented the surf board and underwater swim goggles. They also invented outrigger sea-going vessels when needed, as well as superior navigation instruments. What would they have done with steam engines, internal combustion engines, power looms,bicycles, wheeled carts, etc.?


IMHO availability of cheap slave labour made mechanization unnecessary and scarcity of educated mechanics would make attempts of automation prohibitively expensive. We can see that not only in ancient times but also well into modern age in the places or industries where manual labour was much cheaper than the cost of automation and that stalled development of applicable machinery.


I'll pose two alternate answers: Nothingness and Isaac Newton.

The industrial revolution occurred about 100 years after Newton. Without Newton or Leibniz (or someone of equal caliber), no calculus. Without calculus, no industrial revolution. Without a proper zero, no calculus.

Neither the Greeks nor the Romans could have had an industrial revolution. Their technology, science, and mathematics were fundamentally flawed. They did not have a concept of zero. While the ancient Babylonians did have a primitive concept of zero a placeholder, even this rudimentary knowledge was lost to the Greeks and Romans.

The concept of zero as both a placeholder and as a number in and of itself was an Indian invention, most likely by Brahmagupta (598-668). That revolutionary idea made its way from India to China and Persia, and from Persia, to western Europe. It took hundreds of years for western Europeans to fully develop those ideas (even Brahmagupta got some things wrong). It took a genius of the caliber of Newton to take that next step.

Genius of the caliber of Brahmagupta, Leibniz, Darwin, etc.: That happens once every few centuries, more frequently as of late simply because of population growth. Of the caliber of Newton? That happened but once. But even genius of Newton's caliber needs lesser giants to stand upon. Without the concept of zero Newton would have not been able to achieve all that he did.

"Why didn't the Greeks or Romans have an industrial revolution" is not quite the right question. A better question: Why didn't the Indians, Chinese, Persians, or Mayans have an industrial revolution?

  • Why can't you have an industrial revolution without calculus?
    – Jeroen K
    Mar 31, 2014 at 18:33
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    @JeroenK - F=ma. That's calculus. The world fundamentally changed after Newton published his Principia. Mar 31, 2014 at 19:07
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    I'm not asking what calculus is. You did not try to answer my question: Why can't you have an industrial revolution without calculus?
    – Jeroen K
    Mar 31, 2014 at 20:40
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    @ChrisLively - Watt's steam engine was anything but an incremental update to the Newcomen engine. The Savery patent, the first semi-usable steam engine was 1698 (Newton's time). Newcomen made it usable in 1710, and there were virtually no improvements until Watt. Watt's engine was a radical change. Look at Watt's notebooks. The Greeks or Romans could not have done that; their mathematics was deficient. Apr 10, 2014 at 0:26
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    @DavidHammen, the lack of modern notation for a concept by no means indicates the lack of the concept. I'll grant that they didn't have integration or the number 0, but everything else was known (used, for example, in approximations to pi or proofs of the irrationality of the square root of 2).
    – Mark
    Oct 26, 2015 at 18:29

Because Greek intellectual giants failed to reproduce themselves, and thus died out. The following is a quote by Bertrand Russell:

The industrial revolution might have taken place in antiquity if Greek intelligence had remained what it was at its best. To this it is customary to reply that slave labor, being cheap, removed the incentive to the invention of labor-saving devices. The facts do not bear out this view. Modern methods of production began in the cotton industry, no only in spinning and waving, which employed “free” labor, but also in the gathering of cotton, which was the work of slaves. Moreover no slaves were ever cheaper than the wretched children whom the Lancashire manufacturers employed in the factories of the early 19th Century, where they had to work 14 or 16 hours a day, for little more than board and lodging, till they died. (It must be remembered that the death of a slave was an economic loss to his owner, but the death of a wage-earner is not.) Yet it was these same ruthless employers who were the pioneers of the industrial revolution, because their heads were better than their hearts. Without intelligence, men would never have learnt to economize hand labor by the help of machines.

I do not wish to suggest that intelligence is something that arises spontaneously, in some mystical uncaused manner. Obviously it has its causes, and obviously these causes are in part to be sought in the social environment. But in part the causes are biological and individual. These are as yet little understood, though Mendelianism has made a beginning. Men of supreme ability are just as definitely congenitally different from the average as are the feeble-minded. And without supreme ability fundamental advances in methods of production cannot take place.

Russell, Bertrand. Understanding History. New York: Philosophical Library, 1957

  • Yes, yes, Rome had written record on this account. Apr 13, 2014 at 10:57
  • Roman energy and intelligence were nowhere near the Greeks. The best they could do was to spread what the Greeks had invented. Nowadays Italians are towering intellectual giants. Modern science was created single-handedly by Galileo alone. Their energy and intelligence rival the ancient Greeks. It'll be interesting to find out what happened between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance. Apr 13, 2014 at 12:26
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    I disagree here. The Greeks were ivory tower types for the most part. The Romans were better engineers and actually built things.
    – Oldcat
    Oct 26, 2015 at 22:18

People may say, what they may, but I think the fundamental precondition for the industrial revolution was the printing press. It made available to the masses cheaply obtainable knowledge, without which their intellect would have gone to waste. Archimedes had ideas about calculus, that others might have expanded on, before Newton and Leibnitz, but it is hard to do without easily accessible knowledge. And were Greeks not Romans as well? They could obtain Roman citizenship just like any other conquered nation and their part of the Roman world survived for longer than the Latin part. Give to the Romans the printing press and out of their primitive factories there would arise an industrial revolution.


The articles I've based my opinion on:

The only thing missing was persons combining this knowledge. A printing press could make this possible.

  • They could build mighty siege engines, aqueducts, monumental buildings, but not the humble printing press. As far as having all they needed to build one; they probably had. Apr 13, 2014 at 22:28
  • This obviously isn't the only factor -- population seems crucial as well, both from the point of view of demand and from the point of view of resource scarcity. And I wouldn't say just "printing press" -- rather, I would say "print culture," including the development of mass literacy and distribution networks. But given those caveats, I think there's a lot to be said for this answer.
    – senderle
    Jan 7, 2015 at 21:18
  • I'm not sure I understand your point. I'd have to be a little crazy to suggest that print culture could develop in a society without the printing press. Consider my comment with the principle of charity in mind.
    – senderle
    Jan 8, 2015 at 8:45

There are some very good answers here, but it's a mistake to look for an answer -- historical evolution is complicated and causes are many. One which seems to have been missed is the two cultures' (Classical and European) attitude towards physical work.

In Classical Greece and Rome, not only did no gentleman work with his hands, any kind of manual work, be it manual labor or craft was looked down on. (To be sure Rome had a tradition of the citizen-farmer (e.g., Cincinnatus), but by Imperial times it was gone. When Diocletian retired from being emperor to raise cabbages (in a huge imperial villa complex) this was rather scandalous. Work was something slaves did.

"High tech" did exist, but seems to have mostly been either military or devoted to the luxury trade. (The inventions to Hellenistic Alexandria seem to have been toys to impress the funders.) It rarely seems to have been developed for production of food or things.

(It's also worth noting that in the later Roman Empire, the State (which is to say the Army) directly owned and operated something like half the Empire's productive resources. This is not conducive to innovation!)

While the military aristocracy of Medieval and early Modern Europe shared many of these prejudices, much of European society did not. The Church -- the monasteries, particularly -- both preached and practiced the value of manual labor. For example, many of our modern crops were bred to much higher productivity over centuries by the Cistercians.

Looking at England in the 1500s and 1600s, we see the real power in the realm being in the military aristocracy in 1500 and by 1600 shifting decisively to the landowning gentry so that by 1700 England was effectively ruled by gentleman farmers. These people were intensely interested in their land and farming and while they did little if any of the digging themselves, they were active managers of their land.

And this is exactly the class of people (gentleman farmers, monks and clerics, well-to-do city men, merchants, craftsmen) who drove the exponential growth of European science and technology. (For example, Darwin illustrated evolution by reference to pigeon breeding which he assumed his readers would be familiar with. He saw a big part of his audience as the English gentry.)

In part, Europe took off because work was in theory (and often in practice) a high calling. And, in part, Greece and Rome did not, because in the Classical culture, working with one's hands was just not the done thing.


It got cold in England at the end of the Little Ice Age, and wood became too expensive for ordinary folks to heat their homes. Instead, they turned to coal, which Britain had in abundance. Digging coal meant draining water from the mines, which led to the development of the steam engine, replacing draft animals. The steam engine was then used to power factories and haul freight, leading to the invention of machinery and railroads. Thus was born the Industrial Revolution.

The Romans used wood for heat and industrial processes, but did not require as much and could import it to Rome as necessary or move their industrial processes such as smelting to new locations where there was an abundance of trees. They never had to resort to coal, which is an inferior fuel compared to wood in that it is smelly and dirty when burned. Instead, they used it for jewelry. The British were forced to use coal when they ran out of wood, and resisted it every step of the way, with the wealthy classes being the last to adopt it. Without an expanded demand for coal, there would have been no need to invent a steam engine or railroad, and goods would have continued to be made by hand.

For a more detailed explanation, read "Coal: A Human History" by Barbara Freese.

  • Didn't the industrial revolution start using water power (water wheels, etc)? I'd also argue that the steam engine didn't lead to the invention of machinery but machinery allowed the development of the steam engine. While the steam engine increased power levels and flexibility (of location and use), it wasn't a prerequisite for industrial production. Jun 15, 2017 at 7:45

There have been lots of reasons presented here. But no one seems to agree. Maybe I can also contributer my own bit as well(I am not a historian but a scientist).

The question could be rephrased by asking about the scientific revolution, and specifically about the rise of the empirical sciences in Britain and Europe, starting from the Renaissance in the Middle Ages, moving onto the Enlightenment and finally why Britain industrialized so strongly early on (Anglo-Saxon empiricism in combination French Revolution and its rationalism and ancillary mathematical scientific advances). Also the loss of influence of Religions, combined with Christianity nurturing sciences to some degree early on (Scholastic traditions and the university system, separation of divinities and other sciences). Maybe these are a collection of cliches, but still worth examining. This also begs the question of whether these advances would have happened if the West had been conquered by other forces or empires early on. There has been recent interest in this due to the rise of science denialism and so on to examine (or at least write about) the roots of the scientific revolution (and whether such as revolution existed in the first place).

So to me as a scientist, the scientific revolution is the key and I at least have the feeling that it was a very peculiar and maybe rare set of circumstances that produced it. Industrialization is both a by-product (early on) and later a driver of industrialization. This could also be a partial solution to the fermi paradox as well, though as always it is impossible to say to which degree.

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    Hi Pekka, and welcome to history SE. You make some very good points, but links to sources supporting your assertions would greatly improve your answer. Jul 31, 2017 at 11:31
  • AFAIK the scientific revolution only meshed with the industrial revolution after it had started. Newcomen (who invented the steam engine) was an engineer, and no contact with scientists is known AFAIK. Only many years later did Watt start to apply scientific principles to improve the steam engine. Similarly, the first machines for the textile industry were designed by people with practical backgrounds, not scientists. While science is important in the progress of industrialization, it does not explain its start.
    – JanKanis
    Apr 3, 2019 at 12:53

It is an interesting question that has no definitive answer.

The fiery destruction of The Library of Alexandria in 48 BC/BCE resulted in the estimated extinction of 400,000 scrolls; nearly 4 out of every 5 Alexandrian scrolls were (accidentally and inadvertently), set ablaze by Julius Caesar and his Legions when arriving at the Port of Alexandria. IF and HAD the Alexandrian Library survived and somehow, remained largely unaffected and unphased by the various Empires and historical events that dramatically transformed the city and Library of Alexandria over the centuries, then PERHAPS the knowledge of the Ancient Greek world would have far exceeded than what we originally inherited-(especially in Medicine, The Sciences and even...primitive industrialized technology).

By 150 AD/CE, (nearly 200 years after the fiery destruction of The Library of Alexandria), the Antykythira-(sp?) Mechanism was invented. This device is widely interpreted as the world's-(or the west's) earliest calculator and perhaps even the earliest known computer. If this device-(which is on display at The Athens Museum), was indeed, the earliest known calculator or computer, then it stands to reason that Greek and more specifically, Greco-Roman civilization, during the 150's AD/CE, was perhaps far more advanced technologically than what we originally knew. Did the Antykythera Mechanism help "pave the way" for an earlier (and previously unknown Mediterranean based) Industrial Revolution? It still remains a mystery.

The Romans had the earliest sauna and I believe had their own version of The Elevator. However, Roman saunas, primitive elevators and even The Antykythera Mechanism, were not examples of an Ancient Industrial Revolution, though they were examples of a part of the world-(1500 plus years ago), that may have been more advanced than originally known; and may have been the earliest forerunner to The Industrial Age.


There's been a lot of archaeological digging into preindustrial societies and the fact they may have had mechanization for production of goods and materials - "lost inventions" like the Aeolipile/Hero's Steam engine, and similar descriptions in the 1st century BC by Vitruvius in his treatise De architectura. But since societies are often laid waste and libraries ransacked ,there's little evidence of use.

That term "Industrial Revolution" gets used a lot, but mechanical industry predates society by centuries. Automatons, geared wheels, large saw cutters, grinding wheels, etc.

The First Industrial Revolution doesn't get its name from the power used, but from the transition of labor from guilds and crafters to manufacturers and standardization of measurements. Textiles were the dominant industry of the Industrial Revolution; the mechanization of other industries didn't occur until decades later.

History if full of examples of "lost inventions" that are rediscovered, re-invented or substituted in modern times

  • Greek fire / flame thrower
  • rockets / missiles
  • flexible glass
  • gelatinous incendiary / napalm
  • Damascus steel
  • nanotech
  • Roman concrete
  • the mechanical computer / tabulator

Why....it's no wonder..Europe never really had a renaissance or true industrial growth because European culture was based on ancient Roman culture and Greek culture and the Ancient Greeks, every scholar and academic, went to school in ancient Egypt...history has made it quite clear that the ancient Egyptians had an industrial revolution 20 thousands years earlier than the Greeks...it took thousands of years after Kemet (one of many ancient African nations and centers of advanced knowledge...later Renamed by invading Greek tribes as Egypt) had already been the center of learning in the ancient world before the Greeks could form cohesive societies...unfortunately or fortunately...the invading Greeks tribes that led multiple invasions of Kemet, eventually resulted in the disastrous but short lived ptolemaic dynasties...the sword proved mightier than the pen

  • 4
    Welcome to History:SE. Sources to support your assertions would greatly improve this answer. Dec 29, 2017 at 14:21

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