Industrializing production

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Manufacturing Bessemer Steel, 1914-1918

From the mid-nineteenth century, new mechanized processes revolutionized steel production and became transferred across Europe. First, Henry Bessemer from Britain invented and took out a patent on the Bessemer process in 1855. This process involved refining molten pig iron in a pear-shaped converter by blowing air through it.

In the late nineteenth century, the technological leadership in the iron and steel industry passed from Europe to the rapidly industrializing United States. The Taylor-White process, which was developed in the US, enabled high-speed steel-making that revolutionized machine tool production.

Other innovations helped integrate, rationalize, and standardize production processes. These innovations are closely associated with the ideas and works of Frederick W. Taylor, an American mechanical engineer and consultant who focused on increasing industrial efficiency and productivity. He summarized his ideas in his most influential work, Principles of Scientific Management, which was first published in English in 1911 and soon translated into other European languages.

How to cite this page


Wolfram Kaiser, 'Industrializing production', Inventing Europe,


  1. Fremdling, Rainer. Technologischer Wandel und internationaler Handel im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert. Die Eisenindustrien in Großbritannien, Belgien, Frankreich und Deutschland. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot 1986.

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Building Europe on Steel

Europe invented steel and dominated its production, before becoming more marginal in an increasingly globalized sector. Workers, engineers, entrepreneurs, steel companies, and research institutes freely transferred technological know-how. However, low growth and the substitution of steel with other materials caused a severe structural crisis after 1974. This crisis saw reduced demand for steel and a shift of production to Asia.

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