Scottish society continued to be profoundly affected by economic change in the 1830s and 1840s. Neilson’s demonstration in 1828 that iron could be produced more cheaply by blowing hot air into the blast furnace gave the ironmasters the means to exploit the vast untapped coal and iron ore resources that existed in central Scotland. Hitherto, the iron industry had developed steadily, if not particularly spectacularly, in response to local demand, from 23 000 tons in 1800 to 37 500 tons in 1830 (5 per cent of total British output). The hot blast process, however, by cutting fuel production costs dramatically, now allowed the ironmasters to compete successfully in the British and overseas market just when world demand for iron was burgeoning. By 1840 they were producing 241 000 tons (25 per cent of British output), from a rapidly growing number of ironworks throughout the central belt, principally in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire. By 1851, output had soared to 775 000 tons.
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- A New Society: 1832–50
John F. McCaffrey
- Macmillan Education UK
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