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Industrial Revolution

A 19th-century industrial townA 19th-century industrial townThe Industrial Revolution is the name given to a series of changes that took place in the late 18th and 19th centuries when industry was transformed by the development of new machinery. Large factories were built where goods were manufactured on a large scale. Towns grew up around the factories and many people moved to the towns looking for work. The development of the railways made transport quicker and easier than ever. As people flocked to the cities, poverty and overcrowding became serious problems. The Industrial Revolution began in Britain, but during the 19th century it quickly spread to other European countries and to North America.

Hargreaves' spinning jennyHargreaves' spinning jenny

Spinning machines

The textile industry—the production of cloth—was the first to use modern production methods. In 1764, Englishman James Hargreaves (1720–78) invented the spinning jenny, a multi-spindle spinning frame. Enabling a person to work eight or more spools at once, the spinning jenny greatly reduced the amount of work needed to produce yarn (thread). It mean that much more yarn could be produced.

Spinning mule inside a working museumSpinning mule inside a working museum Just five years later, the spinning frame, invented by Richard Arkwright (1732–92), improved on the spinning jenny. Able to drive 128 spindles at a time, it was too large to be hand-operated, so Arkwright decided to harness the power of the water wheel instead. In 1771 he installed his new machine in a purpose-built mill on the banks of the River Derwent in Cromford, Derbyshire. Arkwright's mill was the first modern factory.

Mechanized cotton spinners, powered by steam or water, could produce 50 times more cotton in a day than a spinner working on a simple hand- or foot-powered spinning wheel.

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