Weaving cloth with power looms in a cotton mill, 1840. Would the construction of these new, highly mechanised factories have been possible without steam power?

Impact: Opinions of steam power

Steam power helped Britain's industries grow quickly.

Steam provided flexibility. No longer reliant on uncertain wind or water power, factories moved from river banks to expanding industrial towns. Above all, steam power could be expanded at will. In 1827 writer John Farey saw steam as a force for good:

'The high state of wealth... which the English people have attained within the last half century, has been... promoted by the application of the... steam-engine.'

What did others think of steam power?