(overview)

The "Industrial Revolution", was a term used to refer to the many changes in the social, economical, technological and structural changes that happened in Britain around the period 1780 to 1840. (a dictionary of 18th century history, John Belchem et al, penguin books.)

If Britain was the workshop of the world then Scotland was its furnace. The impact of this educated and inventive populace is barely mentioned in the annals of history, with the possible exception of James Watt, whose improvements to the steam engine allowed it to power many of the machines of the Industrial Revolution.

Much of the West Coast of Scotland, with its perfectly placed access for shipping from America was transformed from a region of small communities to a thriving, bustling epicentre of economy. Greenock, Paisley, Falkirk, Kilmarnock and Glasgow are all names associated with the boom at this time. Ship-building, weaving, mining coal , steel and engineering, the industries of the industrial revolution, were all present in Scotland, supported by the growing transport infrastructure of railways and canals.

Glasgow alone was accountable for a half of all British shipping engines, one third of railway locomotives, one third of shipping tonnage and one fifth of steel production in Britain. (The Scottish Nation, T.M.Devine )

Such industries led Scotland, which was almost as far ahead as its English neighbour, to be one of the largest exporters in the world. Indeed, a small country with a population of less than 5 million became, for a time, one of the world's top economies.

Urbanisation was one of the largest factors affected by industrialisation in Scotland, with the populations of some small towns such as the aforementioned Greenock and Kilmarnock exploding in size and sending them catapulting into city status. Although immigration, nuptuality and highland clearances were also factors of urbanisation in Scotland, it was the need for a workforce close to the means of production that caused the biggest shift of the populus. Devine argued this using the fact that the five of the thirteen largest towns had trebled in size during the industrialisation process. (The Scottish Nation,T.M.Devine)

Politically, this period in Scotland's history was relatively quiet. The earlier Radicals who had risen to the tune of Thomas Payne's Rights Of Man and Rabbie Burns poetry in the late 1700's died off until the Radical Wars of the 1820's and these, too, died quickly. Scottish and English politics ran together at this time, with all of the legislation which was passed in Westminster being applied both North and South of the border.

Scotland was also at this time a mass exporter of people and their ideas. Emigration was on a high in the industrial revolution, with many Scots who did not get paid enough or had no place to move to going to places such as Canada and America. They took with them their education (something which Scots had been getting well before the English, Welsh and Irish).

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