Places to visit

Industrial Revolution
in the North of France: what? when? and why?

Napoleon, protector of industry - statue
"Napoleon - Protector of Industry" - statue 1854

Late start
The industrial revolution did not really gain momentum in France until the time of

Before the French Revolution, under the ancien regime there was enormous inequality: the nobles paid virtually no tax, their lives centred around the Royal Court, they spent on mansions, art and fashion rather than risk their fortunes in trade, factories and mines.

Textile industry
In the 18th century many cotton and linen mills were opened in the Lille area. Roubaix and Tourcoing just north of Lille specialised in wool. Oil was milled from seed crops such as rape grown in the north. By the middle of the 19th century, it was like the Manchester of northern France - with equally appalling and unhealthy slums.

A large coalfield running from Belgium into France under Valenciennes and south of Lille was gradually discovered, and opened up with many mines and slag-heaps scarring the landscape.

Canals and railways
A network of canals was built, so that coal and other bulk goods could be cheaply transported by barges. Later railways.


19th century coal mine with its canal, and a new railway line in the background. The slag heaps are piling up on the other side of the canal.

Places to visit:
Centre Historique Minier - mining museum in old coal-mine, Lewarde
Lille -
Musée d'Art et d'Industrie, Roubaix (north of Lille) - collection of exhibits from local textile industry
Mills Museum - Villeneuve d'Ascq
Fourmies/Trélon: Open Air Museum ECOMUSÉE -

Related background information
Medieval cloth trade
Water-power in north France
Handmade and machine lace
Textile industry
Early canals
Early coalmines




A-Z © Copyright 1999 Invicta Media Last updated 18th November 1999