The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes that occurred in the period from about 1760 to some time between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, improved efficiency of water power, the increasing use of steam power and development of machine tools. The transition also included the change from wood and other bio-fuels to coal. The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain and within a few decades had spread to Western Europe and the United States.
The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in history; almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. Most notably, average income and population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth. In the words of Nobel Prize winner Robert E. Lucas, Jr., "For the first time in history, the living standards of the masses of ordinary people have begun to undergo sustained growth ... Nothing remotely like this economic behavior is mentioned by the classical economists, even as a theoretical possibility."
The period of time covered by the Industrial Revolution varies with different historians. Eric Hobsbawm held that it 'broke out' in Britain in the 1780s and was not fully felt until the 1830s or 1840s, while T. S. Ashton held that it occurred roughly between 1760 and 1830.
Some 20th-century historians such as John Clapham and Nicholas Crafts have argued that the process of economic and social change took place gradually and the term revolution is a misnomer. This is still a subject of debate among historians. GDP per capita was broadly stable before the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the modern capitalist economy. The Industrial Revolution began an era of per-capita economic growth in capitalist economies. Economic historians are in agreement that the onset of the Industrial Revolution is the most important event in the history of humanity since the domestication of animals and plants.
A traction engine is a self-propelled steam engine used to move heavy loads on roads, plough ground or to provide power at a chosen location. The name derives from the Latin tractus, meaning 'drawn', since the prime function of any traction engine is to draw a load behind it. They are sometimes called road locomotives to distinguish them from railway locomotives – that is, steam engines that run on rails.
Traction engines tend to be large, robust and powerful, but heavy, slow, and have poor manoeuvrability. Nevertheless, they revolutionized agriculture and road haulage at a time when the only alternative prime mover was the draught horse.
They became popular in industrialised countries from around 1850, when the first self-propelled portable steam engines for agricultural use were developed. Production continued well into the early part of the 20th century, when competition from internal combustion engine–powered tractors saw them fall out of favour, although some continued in commercial use in the UK into the 1950s and later. All types of traction engines have now been superseded, in commercial use. However, several thousand examples have been preserved worldwide, many in working order. Steam fairs are held throughout the year in the UK, and in other countries, where visitors can experience working traction engines at close hand.
Traction engines were cumbersome and ill-suited to crossing soft or heavy ground, so their agricultural use was usually either "on the belt" – powering farm machinery by means of a continuous leather belt driven by the flywheel – or in pairs, dragging an implement on a cable from one side of a field to another. However, where soil conditions permitted, direct hauling of implements ("off the drawbar") was preferred – in the US, this led to the divergent development of the steam tractor.