The 3 Reasons Why Coal Caused The Industrial Revolution

Further ReadingThe 5 Most Important Inventions In Human History

Coal forever changed the way in which society operates. Before the discovery of cheap coal across Britain most of the people of Europe would use wood to keep themselves warm and power their society. The discovery of coal helped pave the road to industrialization.

There are 3 reasons why coal helped to cause the industrial revolution. First, coal allowed man to build large and powerful machinery. Second, coal gave people the ability to transport food long distances before it spoiled. Third, coal replaced wood as fuel for cities and homes.

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Without further ado, here are the 3 reasons why coal helped to cause the industrial revolution.

Coal Allowed Man To Build Large And Powerful Machinery

One of the main reasons that coal caused the industrial revolution was that it allowed man to start building large and powerful machines.

These machines needed massive amounts of fuel in order to run. Up until coal became widely available across England people were forced to use either wood, horses, or wind to power their machines.

This made the production of large scale machinery almost impossible as there simply was no fuel source to power them.

This all changed with the discovery of massive amounts of coal near the surface of the British Isles. Almost overnight the consumption of coal started increasing at an alarming rate.

Coal consumption and mining from 1770-1790 increased by around 30% every year. This indicated that across England the amount of energy being used was increasing at an alarming rate.

This alone indicates one of the main reasons why coal was the primary cause of the industrial revolution of the late 17th century.

Coal Gave People The Ability To Transport Food Long Distances Without It Spoiling

One of the most important reasons that coal started the industrial revolution was because it allowed large quantities of food to be transported for the first time.

Around 1812 the first modern trains that ran on coal started to be produced. These trains could transport large quantities of food easily across vast distances.

This is important because for a majority of human history cities were limited in population by the size of the arable land around it. Cities could only get so big as more farmland would be needed to surround it to provide for the population.

You couldn’t have farms far out in the countryside. It would take too long to ship the food back to the town; it would often spoil in transit. With the advent of coal powered machines this was no longer a problem.

Now coal could be used to power large machines that could move large quantities of food vast distances with ease. A primary example of this is the locomotive train which started to be implemented during the start of the industrial revolution.

Now cities could grow to massive populations. This allowed factories to begin to find cheap labor, which further propelled the industrial revolution.

The fact that food could be transported long distances remains one of the main reasons coal caused the industrial revolution.

Coal Replaced Wood As Fuel For Cities And Homes

One of the major limiting factors of the industrial revolution was the lack of availability of wood surrounding the cities. For a majority of human history it was wood that powered the cities and homes of people.

Now cities could grow to massive sizes with the use of coal as a primary fuel source to heat and power the city. Further, it became cheaper than wood which meant that even the most poor person in London could afford enough coal to power their home.

London in particular came to be known for the massive amount of suit it built up from everyone burning coal in and around the city. However, it was in London that the Industrial Revolution started.

Starting in 1770 the British started to mine and export coal in massive amounts around the empire. We have reports of British coal being used to power machines in India during the 19th century.

Across the industrial world coal was being used to provide heat and warmth for people. This allowed cities to explode in population and start to experiment with several other means of using coal to create power, such as in the steam engine.

As such this remains one of the main reasons why coal caused the industrial revolution.


There you have it; an entire article dedicated to the 3 reasons why coal caused the industrial revolution.

The research and study of how energy consumption is correlated to the growth in society is a fascinating subject. For much of human history wood powered societies. In the 1770’s coal became the predominant method of power. In the 1880’s this turned once more to oil.

Here at The History Ace I strive to publish the best history articles on the internet. If you enjoyed this article then feel free to sign up for the free newsletter and share around the internet.

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