state of society now leads so much to great accumulations of humanity
that we cannot wonder if it ferment and reek like a compost dunghill.
Nature intended that population should be diffused over the soil
in proportion to its extent. We have accumulated in huge cities
and smothering manufacturies the numbers which should be spread
over the face of a country and what wonder that they should be
corrupted? We have turned healthful and pleasant brooks into morasses
and pestiferous lakes.
Sir Walter Scotts Journal on the Industrial Revolution
life time the Industrial Revolution transformed Scotland completely.
In 1750, Scotland was a rural, agricultural economy which was
suddenly propelled into the modern, capitalist world through scientific
and technological breakthrough. The Industrial Revolution was
based upon the efficient exploitation of natures raw materials
and labour as new scientific theories developed by the Enlightenment
thinkers were quickly transformed into practical, money-making
Joseph Black (1728-99), the son of a Bordeaux wine merchant and
Professor of Chemistry at both Glasgow and Edinburgh, made one
of the most significant breakthroughs in the history of chemistry.
In 1756 he published a thesis which postulated that air contained
another gas, which he called Fixed Air, and which
extinguished candles when isolated. Black had discovered Carbon
Dioxide, one of the building blocks of commercial chemistry. His
experiments demonstrated to the scientific community that identifying
the constituent elements of any substance was the first step towards
actually producing a pure form of that substance, that people
could create these gasses for themselves. Other scientists followed
in his footsteps and soon a whole array of gases had been identified,
including Oxygen, Hydrogen, Nitrogen and Chlorine. The elements
of the Earth were being revealed and they formed the basic chemistry
which sparked the Industrial Revolution.
Rapidly the knowledge of the chemical revolution was adapted to
commercial use. Black and his fellow professor, William Cullen,
went on to develop an alkali using the newly discovered element,
Chlorine, which made the process of linen bleaching far more efficient.
linen had been an old industry which had employed mostly men working
on handlooms. However, with the greater efficiency brought through
the use of chemicals, Scottish linen became more competitive and
grew to form the backbone of a commercial revolution. Further
transformations in the industry came through a series of English
inventions which the Scots were quick to adopt: Hargreaves
Spinning Jenny, Arkwrights Waterframe and Cromptons
Mule all accelerated the weaving process and improved competitiveness.
It was boom time for the few who held the capital.
Englands financial entrepreneurs found the cheaper labour
in Scotland attractive and many moved north to make their fortunes.
One such man was Richard Arkwright (1732-92), a hairdresser by
trade, whose waterframe made cotton spinning such a profitable
business. In 1784 he went into partnership with David Dale (1739-1806),
a Scots weaver who had made his money trading linen. Arkwright,
however, lost the patent to his marvellous machines in 1785 and
the partnership was dissolved, with Dale continuing the business
using the machines patent-free. Dale needed a plentiful water
supply to power his business and in 1786 he found it at New Lanark,
near the Falls of Clyde. Water was taken from the river by tunnel
and canal to drive the massive water wheels which, in turn, powered
the spinning machines. The machines and the people composed a
brand new form of labour organisation: the factory.
The factory system used labour in a new systematic fashion. The
most common workers were often women and children, who had to
work long hours, often through the night, for very low wages.
Traditional workers like the handloom weavers couldnt compete
with such high output and were quickly put out of business. It
was ruthless capitalism
but it was profitable. Within a few years six mills were operating
at New Lanark.
Everything relied on the exploitation of natural resources, and
where water power was sufficient factories sprang up. The wealth
accumulated further when a new raw material called cotton was
imported from India or from the slave plantations of Britains
American colonies. Cotton could be worked into finer material
than the flax which made linen, and these products were shipped
to markets in Europe or back across the Atlantic as Scotlands
trade networks expanded beyond the traditional markets in the
Low Countries and France.