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Country Czech Republic

In many respects, the industrialisation of today’s Czech Republic, the historic Habsburg dominions of Bohemia and Moravia along with part of Silesia, followed a typical trajectory similar to that in Great Britain: the flourishing agricultural sector produced surpluses that were used to build factories, ... more

ON THE INDUSTRIAL HISTORY OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC

In many respects, the industrialisation of today’s Czech Republic, the historic Habsburg dominions of Bohemia and Moravia along with part of Silesia, followed a typical trajectory similar to that in Great Britain: the flourishing agricultural sector produced surpluses that were used to build factories, and population growth provided the necessary labour force. However, one notable difference was the strong influence of the nobility which was characteristic of the economy and society of the entire Habsburg Empire. In Bohemia and Moravia, the noble landowners not only modernised agricultural production but also established a considerable food industry, in particular the manufacture of sugar from beet and a brewing industry. They also invested in the textile, mining and iron industries, which were among the earliest industries to develop.

Mechanisation commenced in 1797, when Johann Josef Leitenberger commissioned the first water-powered, cotton spinning machine in Verneřice (formerly Wernstädt). The first mechanical loom followed in Varnsdorf in 1801, with the first steam engines appearing in Bohemia and Moravia just a few years later. Textile production flourished particularly in Brno (German: Brünn), which was considered the "Moravian Manchester". Once the machine tool industry became established there, the city developed into one of the empire’s most important industrial centres.

Mines and iron works were also established early on to exploit the rich deposits of coal and iron ore: centred in Bohemia on the cities of Liberec (Reichenberg) and Pilsen, in Moravia primarily in Vitkovice, where Archbishop Rudolf of Olomouc founded a steel works. The Viennese rail expert Franz Xaver Riepel built a British puddling furnace there in 1830 to manufacture high-strength iron for making rails and other products. The chemical industry also flourished in the first quarter of the century, particularly thanks to the initiative of Bohemian entrepreneur Johann David Starck. By contrast, machine-tool manufacturing in the Pilsen region was launched by the investment of a noble: Ernst Prince of Waldstein-Wartenburg founded a factory there which Emil Škoda later developed into one of Europe’s largest heavy-industry enterprises under his own name.

By the middle of the 19th century, industrialisation was firmly established: new railways linked the centres of Bohemia and Moravia with Vienna, traffic on the Elbe River grew and exports to Austria, Germany and the less-industrialised neighbouring countries to the east and southeast boomed. Czechia’s regions had achieved a level of industrialisation second to none in central Europe and held a leading position within the Habsburg Empire.

However, the social consequences were dramatic. The mechanisation of textile manufacture alone put hundreds of thousands of cottage workers out of work, and Inner Bohemia remained largely agrarian for a long time. As the population was growing faster than the expanding industries and rural poverty drove many people to the urban centres, factory owners could get away with paying what was barely a living wage. Thus, poverty-stricken ghettos inhabited by a proletariat comprising industrial workers, impoverished tradesmen, carters and servants. At the same time, national conflicts became more acute: the influx of Czech-speaking rural workers from Inner Bohemia transformed the former German-dominated centres such as Prague and Brno into Czech cities. And among the Czech middle classes, modernisation and economic success fuelled a national consciousness and a desire for freedom.

Industrialisation accelerated in the second half of the century as the strong agricultural sector made more and more capital available. In addition to cooperatives, new banks were founded, primarily in Prague. A securities exchange was established in 1871, a commodities exchange followed in 1887, and the city became a major economic centre. The first automobile built during the reign of the K.u.K. (imperial and royal) monarchy was in 1888 in the Moravian town of Adamov (Adamsthal). 1895 saw the founding of the motorcycle and automobile manufacturer Laurin & Klement, which merged with the Škoda group following the First World War. Toward the end of the century, industrialisation finally reached the rural parts of Bohemia as well.

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ERIH Anchor Points

Ostrava | Czech Republic

Not even 20 years ago Ostrava was called the ...

Dolní Vítkovice
Dolní oblast VÍTKOVICE, z.s.
Vítkovice 3004
703 00 Ostrava, Czech Republic

Ostrava-Michálkovice | Czech Republic

One might almost imagine that the smell of soap ...

Michal Mine
Důl Michal
Československè armády 95/413
715 00 Ostrava, Czech Republic

Pilsen | Czech Republic

Take some malt from specially refined Moravian ...

Pilsner Urquell Brewery and Museum
Plzensky Prazdroj
U Prazdroje 7
304 97 Pilsen, Czech Republic

Prague | Czech Republic

This historical sewage treatment plant is not ...

Stará Čistírna Old Waste Water Treatment Plant
Stará Čistírna odpadních vod v Bubenči
Papírenská 6
160 00 Prague, Czech Republic

Member Sites ERIH Association

Hejnice | Czech Republic

Hejnice is a small town on the River Smĕda in ...

Jizera Mountains Technical Museum
Jizerskohorské Technické Muzeum
Bily Potok 295
46362 Hejnice, Czech Republic

Lobeč u Mšena | Czech Republic

The Lobeč Brewery, a significant technical ...

Lobeč Brewery
Lobeč 34
27736 Lobeč u Mšena, Czech Republic

Sites

Adamov | Czech Republic

The ironworks at Adamov 15 km N of Brno ...

Old Ironworks
Stará huť u Adamova
Stará huť
679 04 Adamov, Czech Republic

Brno | Czech Republic

Brno grew from the late 18th century to be one ...

Technical Museum in Brno
Technical Museum in Brno
Purkyñova 105
612 000 Brno, Czech Republic

České Budějovice | Czech Republic

The original Bodvar (Budweiser) beer and Koh I ...

Ceske Budejovice (Budweis) horse-drawn railway
Muzeum koněspřežky
Mánesova 10
2T38 Ceské Budìjovice, Czech Republic

Ceský Krumlov | Czech Republic

Ceský Krumlov is an historic town of ...

Graphite Museum
Grafitovydul
Chvalšinská u
38101 Ceský Krumlov, Czech Republic

Chvalšiny | Czech Republic

The Schwarzenberg Navigation was a system of ...

Schwarzenberg Navigation Museum
Muzeum Schwarzenberského plavebního kanálu ve Chvalšinách
Chvalšiny 124
38208 Chvalšiny, Czech Republic

Dobrovice | Czech Republic

Dobrovická Muzea calls itself a museum of ...

Dobrovice Museum
Dobrovická Muzea
Palackého nám. 2
29441 Dobrovice, Czech Republic

Jablonec nad Nisou | Czech Republic

Jablonec, known before the Second World War as ...

Museum of Glass & Jewellery
Muzeum skla a bižuterie v Jablonci nad Nisou
U Musea 398/4
4601 Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic

Jaromĕř | Czech Republic

Jaromĕř is an historic town built around a ...

The railway museum at Jaromĕř
Železnični Muzeum Jaromĕř
Nádražni 227
55101 Jaromĕř, Czech Republic

Jaroslavice | Czech Republic

The water-powered corn mill at Slup is a ...

Water Mill Slup
Vodní mlýn ve Slupi
Slup 94
671 28 Jaroslavice, Czech Republic

Karlovy Vary | Czech Republic

Karlovy Vary, 120 km west of Prague, is ...

Moser Glass Factory & Museum
Sklárny Moser
Kapitan Jaroše 46/19
36060 Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

Kopřivnice | Czech Republic

Kopřivnice in eastern Moravia is the site of ...

Tatra Technical Museum
Technickŏ Muzeum Tatra
Záhumenni 367/1
74221 Kopřivnice, Czech Republic

Krásno | Czech Republic

The Mining Museum at Krásno in the Slavkov ...

Krásno Mining Museum
Hornické muzeum Krásno
Cinová 408
35731 Krásno, Czech Republic

Krupka | Czech Republic

The Krupka mining landscape is part of the ...

Starý Martin Visitor Mine
Štola Starý Martin
Martinka
41741 Krupka, Czech Republic

Kutna Hora | Czech Republic

Silver ores were mines and processed at Kutna ...

Czech Museum of Silver
České muzeum stříbra
Barborska 28
284 01 Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

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