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Czech industry

Czech industry

The population in the Czech provinces rose from 4.8 million to 6.8 million between 1815 and 1850. Such population growth required radical changes, and not only in the agricultural methods used. The original three-field system was gradually replaced by alternative cultivation. Fields were no longer left fallow; they were cultivated by growing technical crops, primarily clover and alfalfa. This positively affected not only the soil quality but in effect the overall effectiveness of agricultural cultivation. Due to the growing use of agricultural land, a portion of which was still used as pasture for sheep (sources of yarn for textile factories), some less productive ponds, which were established long before in the Middle Ages, were drained at that time.

The actual beginning of the industrial revolution is closely connected to the growing use of steam engines, and with the transfer from production in manufactories, with primarily manual work, to machine production, which multiplied production quantities several times over. The year 1800 is most often mentioned as the breakpoint in the Czech provinces. The dominant industries of course included textiles. One reason was that the textile industry simply continued the tradition of former manufactories, and another one was the fact that many specialists from England, who had the most experience in this field, were in the country. They brought their know-how as well as the necessary technologies. Textile production, in particular machine spinning and weaving of cotton and wool, was followed in the '30s by food processing, in particular sugar production. The introduction of railways and steam transportation means initiated a revolution in transportation.

In 1832, Ceske Budejovice and Linz in Austria were connected by the first horse-drawn railway on the European Continent. This unique piece of engineering, which could only be compared to a single similar railway in England, pioneered a great boom in railway transportation in the Czech provinces. The oldest railway track built for steam locomotives was launched in 1847, connecting Vienna with the iron works and coal mines in North Moravia, and later on with the salt mines in Halič. In 1839, the first train arrived in Brno, and in Prague six years later.

Czech Technical Glass Traditional procedures were still prevalent in glass production; only the glass works of J. Kavalier in Sazava from their founding in 1837 specialized exclusively in technical glass. It was the first glass manufacturer in the world to do so and it gained wide acknowledgement in this field. In 1842, the first brewery that was managed in a modern manner was established in Pilsen. The light Pilsner lager soon became so popular that its name has to date been used to refer to this type of beer (pilsner). In the early half of the 19th century, industrial businessmen began to take over the active role from traders. We can mention the textile factory owner J. Liebig of Liberec, the Klein brothers in the railway business, and Lämmel and Pecka, founders of major banks.

If until then the states of the Austrian monarchy were rather on the periphery of modern industrial civilization, during the period we are discussing they were already among the regions with the most developed economic systems in Europe. Considerable natural resources, in particular abundant black coal deposits, a high population density and probably the densest railway network in Europe were the decisive factors that made the Czech provinces the industrially most interesting region of the monarchy. Its production volume and quality were comparable with the most developed countries of Western Europe.

For instance, 60-70% of the entire industrial production of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy was concentrated in the Czech provinces at that time. A typical representative of the new economic elite of that time was an entrepreneur of Austrian origin, Emil Škoda. In 1869, he purchased a small factory in Pilsen from Count Wallenstein, and in a few years he turned it into a first-class machine factory, the products of which successfully competed on the demanding markets of Western Europe. Škoda thus founded a company that, despite various political tumults, multiple changes of ownership, nationalization and then privatization, has survived to date, keeping up with state-of-the-art technologies in its field. (today's Skoda holding).

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