In contrast to the way economic history is often presented, our aim is to provide a concise coverage of economic growth in the UK in four short essays that are written for a general audience of non-economists. In this first essay, we explore the drastic change Britain underwent in the mid-18th century, as agriculture and traditional production methods began to mechanise, increasing productivity to exceed the limits of the land and human strength. For the first time, people witnessed increases in the standard of living within a generation as national wealth soared. It ended centuries of subsistence living in which growth was negligible. As the 19th century dawned, Britain welcomed the steam era, an ignition of modernity, transforming travel, trade and production. We shed light on the wider repercussions of Britain’s economic dominance, highlighting the consequences of rapid urbanisation and assessing the implications of the era of Imperial strength.