Alternate History

Industrial Revolution (The Kalmar Union)

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The Industrial Revolution was socioeconomic process that completely altered the economy and society of Europe from primarily agriculture based to manufacturing. It primarily was a wave of innovation in the production of textiles, iron and steel plus the harnessing of steam power to drive machines. Denmark and Anglia are generally recognised as the first industralised nations. Svealand, Gothenland, Man, Luxembourg and Wessex and various German states following not far behind.


Since the 13th century Anglia had had a near monopoly on woollen cloth which it went to great lengths to protect. Even the loss of its Low Countries workshops in the early 1500s did little to dent this. Most nations produced quality woollen products of their own alongside flax and other materials they could not complete on a European scale with the sheer size of the Anglian wool industry. As trade with the Indias expanded in the 17th and 18th centuries many Kalmar and Imperial nations began to import large amounts of finished cotton products. In turn, Danish and North German farmers complained that entire families were becoming destitute as localised processing declined. Cloth had traditionally been a cottage industry. Wool and flax was farmed and then labourishly carded into weft by the farmers household, spun on spinning wheels and then sold to local weavers.

The answer was to import more raw cotton. Instead of the farmers producing tiny amounts from what they could farm themselves they were supplied with good-quality Indian cotton from middle-men who would return a week later for the finished weft to give to weavers. This template was slowly copied throughout Europe wherever Indian imports could be favourably supplied to the cottage industries, i.e. the Kalmar Union, the countries of Britannia, Luxembourg, North Germany. This also fed into the drive to secure good trading positions in India and Africa, favouring those with good merchant fleets.

Cotton Mill (The Kalmar Union)
However the entire process was still desperately slow. Improved looms that effectively doubled weaving outputs appeared around 1785, however the cottage carding and spinning industries could no longer keep up. The answer was provided by the Münster based entrepreneur John Lewe in 1803. His secretive machine the Spinning 'Jenny' meant a single worker could produce 8 sets of spooled yarn in the same time as it took them to produce one with a traditional spinning wheel. He was soon driven out of Münster by weavers angry at the way his success was damaging their profits. His machine was destroyed . By 1810 he had relocated to the Danish town of Flensborg, improved his designs with the help of his young wife Maren Hansen, and protected the design with the Danish patent office that had been virtually setup with his machine in mind. It was still reliant on hand carded yarn until Langgaard's hand cranked machine appeared in 1814. When both were hitched to a water wheel, the new carders and 'Æsels' could run day and night and soon versions capable of producing 120 sets of spooled yarn were being debuted. Powered looms took longer to appear.

Soon the new factories were producing large quantities of cheap materials for weavers to work with and their development kick-started other parallel endeavours such as the growth in towns. Previously small towns such as Ribe were turned into huge cities as the cotton mills drew in farmers and their families whose cottage industries the mills had made obsolete. The mill owners built large estates close to their factories for their workers along with schools, churches and grand new civic buildings. The Danish mill towns of Jutland and Skane were soon absorbing Germans and Gothenlanders eager to earn the steady wages available. However this was coupled with occasional riots. In the early years disgruntled workers broke into mills and destroyed machinery while later on whole cities rose up in revolt over their wages and working conditions. Scandals over child labour rocked the Danish government in the 1930s and led to a comprehensive charter of workers rights.


The new cotton mills appearing in Denmark and the growing towns associated with them required big buildings. Wooden buildings were not strong enough to hold the heavy machinery and posed a fire risk. Cast iron, in ever increasing quantities was needed. Wessexian inventors had made great strides to improve iron forge techniques in the late 17th and early 18th centuries but purges against the protestants in the North of Wessex had driven many of the innovators into Anglia where their efforts were met with government support. Good quality cast iron was soon widely available, even being used for building bridges and large open buildings perfect for holding the new machines. Denmark soon had Anglian-style cutting-edge foundries springing up along its coasts and even began to outstrip Anglia in steel production. The raw iron could be barged in from Gothenland and Svealand easy enough but the high temperatures required to turn it into steel needed large amounts of coal. Anglia had coal capacity to spare and soon coal laden ships crossing the North Sea eclipsed those carrying wool.

German coal from the Ruhr soon was also exported northwards and led to the rapid growth of cities like Dortmund and a network of canals joining the coalfields to the North Sea and the Baltic. In time the German cities would have iron and steel industries of their own.

The stabilisation of the Kalmar Union that occurred in the aftermath of the Great Baltic War did much to encourage trading of materials and ideas. It also began to show itself in grand projects. Whether the aim was to rebuild Svealand's defenses in Finland or build a united ironclad navy, the result was the same. The rise of Danish (and Anglian) industrial might dragged the entire alliance with it as it drew in resources from across Scandinavia.


The problem of how to power the growing textile industry led to another wave of innovation. Denmark's rivers were barely fast enough on their own to turn the mill wheels. The power of steam had long been recognised and steam powered pumps for draining mines had been in use since the early 1600s. Again Anglia led the way in development but the potential was not appreciated and many good systems went unnoticed. The Danish physicist Peter Ditlevsen had seen one of these abandoned 'relics' in Anglia and back home he worked to improved the design. By 1729 Ditlevsen's machine was draining mines in Skane. It was however extremely inefficient and prone to explode. In 1750 Kierkegaard debuted his improved version and although more reliable it too was inefficient. Christensen's engine of 1805 solved many of the problems of those that came before and was soon replacing Kierkegaard's engine all over Scandinavia. And with the improvement of a rotary beam the engines could be used for raising water to power mills. They could not power mills directly however until a speed regulated engine was invented. Christensen's patent and influential friends in the Rikstag prevented any further innovation into high pressure steam engines within the Kalmar Union but over in Leifia smaller high pressure engines were being developed to power ships on the Fraeburt Votnum.

Freya (The Kalmar Union)

Ole Hansen's Sleipnir

In 1862 Hjalmar Troell installed the first working steam locomotive at the Fagersta ironworks in Svealand by mounting his high pressure engine onto wheels. The iron and copper mines of Svealand became the main area of experimentation for engineers building ever more powerful locomotives. A small railway that used horses to pull wagons from Aarhus to Silkeborg had been in service since 1858 and trials to pick the best locomotive were held in 1899. It was won by Ole Hansen's engine Sleipnir. While Hansen and other raced to improve their engines a network of railways soon spread across the Kalmar states, especially in Anglia where coal could now be brought to the sea in ever increasing quantities. Purely industrial railways were quickly joined by passenger railways while increasingly elaborate bridges spanned the rivers and and shortening travelling distances and times.


As so much valuable material was now travelling by sea, the loss of even one or two ships in a storm or wreck could potentially ruin a business. Small syndicates collecting premiums to pay out in case of shipwreck had been running in various ports such as Bristol and Antwerp since the 1650s but after the Great Fire of Copenhagen ruined the city in 1725 a dedicated insurance industry sprang up. At first it was primarily interested in shipping and city buildings but soon the boom in textiles meant they were insuring factories and mills too. The Copenhagen syndicates were amalgamated as 'Jensens of Copenhagen' in 1728. Merchants from all over Europe were coming to Copenhagen to have their companies insured. Around this insurance industry grew a banking sector and stock exchange to support and encourage the fast growing industrialists. The old walled part of Copenhagen between Slotsholmen and Kastellet swelled with businesses and the city cemented its reputation as the financial capital of the world.

Further Afield

While the revolution in industry only affected Northern Europe to begin with its effects spread rapidly. In India the wealth generated by the cotton industry spurred the coastal states to slowly pull away from their Mughal overlords. Though their subjects remained poverty stricken the rulers could afford to indulge in Western luxuries, including Western education, which would slowly filter back through society in the form of government and reforms.

In Leifia the southern nations which had always produced a small amount of cotton locally were transformed into wealthy cotton producing powerhouses. The Mvskokian Ssiquoya Utiyu invented the 'Cotton Engine' in 1860 which automated the process of removing seeds from the cotton. It was intended to free up an entire underclass of workers, instead it just opened the entire South to the cotton revolution. A dozen states were soon in competition to supply the lucrative European markets. While reformers worked hard to keep the vulnerable sections of society from slipping into indentured slavery the states would be at each other's throats culminating in the so-called Cotton Wars of 1885-1920.

With Vladimir and The Caliphate monopolising Central Asia's cotton production the cotton fields of Southern Leifa have grown ever more valuable. They are now funding the construction of the Mississippi defense line and Nowych Katowice.

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