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The Industrial Revolution came throughout the globe very slowly, but it has brought technology, economics, and even sociology into contemporary society. The rapid change of events in the middle of 18th century transformed the human life forever; and undoubtedly, it was a turning point in the history. These changes from the Industrial Revolution did not emerge by themselves; many people contributed to their emergence and thus changed the world. This paper examines the most important events happened throughout Industrial Revolution.
Causes of Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution had numerous aspects, which made it to be seen as a turning point in history. First aspect was Britain having natural advantages that other nations didn’t. It was richly covered with natural resources such as ore, coal and iron and had simple access to watercourses. It was situated at the intersection of international trade flows, and domestic trade was influenced by the absence of internal taxes. Following the unification of England and Scotland in 1707, the major free-trade area in European continent, political freedom was guaranteed, and a comparatively open social structure made social mobility widespread, giving an increase to the accumulation of wealth (Stearns, 1998).
Another factor was the agricultural revolution, which began in the 1600s in Britain. New methods of farming, such as new methods of crop rotation and the use of turnips to restore exhausted soil, helped to create larger crop output. According to Asthton (1997), “In the eighteenth century most of the people of Britain earned their living by work on the land”(p.18). But, due to such advances, many people were initially not needed to work the fields, therefore leaving many out of work. A population “boom” emerged because of the agricultural revolution, people were healthier with no fear of famine, diseases such as the bubonic plague had faded away, and sanitation with improved medicate appeared.
Due to this, death rates decreased and birthrates increased. Since many men and woman were forced out of farm labor, many had to seek jobs in larger cities. Men, women, and even children had to work the mines, build factories, and run machines. In a factory, many worked twelve to sixteen hour shifts in dangerous conditions where one could even lose a life from the machines being used. Those who worked in the mine had to take in coal filled air day after day. The thought of children working in such harsh conditions was not accepted by many and later very slowly led to Parliament’s passing of laws made to regulate child labor (Stearns, 1998).
Many people debated whether or not the Industrial Revolution was a blessing or a curse. Soon enough, though, laws were passed to improve working conditions. Unions won the right to fight for better wages and the demand rose so many more factories were erected, making more and more jobs.
Britain tried to enforce laws on exporting inventions so that they would be the only advanced society of the revolution, but the spread of the Industrial Revolution was unavoidable. Like Britain, other countries had trouble in the beginning of their industrializations. Again, men, women, and children worked in harsh conditions for long periods of time. Also, more and more goods were produced at lower prices. New methods were produced, such as the assembly line, which sped up production greatly (Ashton, 1997).
Effect on Society
Many businesses grew, and entrepreneurs began making monopolies and trusts. According to Clarkson (1990), “The entrepreneur, acting either as an individual or jointly with others in an organized association, having set up his business or taken over an existing one, could confine his activities to determining major policy decisions involving, inter alia, the exploration of technical and/or organization innovations and the continuous adaptation of the firm so as most profitably to exploit his chosen market”(p.71). This was a start to how business works today.
As the industrial revolution progressed, cities changed more and more. Sidewalks were made, sewer systems helped citizens keep healthier, and architects began making towering buildings. Although these changes made the cities more appealing, the poor and unemployed still lived crowded. Conditions did not greatly increase for the poor. The lower working class began to protest for better conditions. According to Stearns (1998), “Factory workers sometimes faced an increase in poverty, as wages were kept low and prices of some goods rose. Other workers, as we have seen, won modest benefits from the industrial revolution, and certainly the tendency after the initial decades was for standards of living to improve”(p.57).
By the late 1800s most European countries gave people the right to form unions and bargain on their own behalf. The fast growth of these labor unions gave workers many reforms. Children under ten no longer could be employed, which hurt many families, but was a turning point to the end of child labor. Other laws gave workers better conditions, wages and the standards of living rose. As the industrial revolution grew, so did the western social structure. The middle class had grown into a way of life (Stearns, 1998).
Good manners were important and it controlled social behavior. Parents supervised their children so that they would not make a false impression on their parents. As many middle class families had maids and cooks, the help at home also reflected their masters and were expected to be seen and not heard. Although earlier it was accepted for the parents to prearrange marriages, it became more common for children to choose their own husband or wife. Between the husband and wife, the division of labor changed. At first husbands would be able to work so that their wives could stay home, while they would do charity work or do work for the church (Stearns, 1998).
These ideas rarely came into a lower class home. As social order shifted, women began to protest restrictions on women. Women wanted more control over property and the right to vote. Although women did not get these rights very quickly, they slowly did in country after country. Education also became more popular, industrialized societies believed they needed an educated workforce. As schooling became more and more popular, universities expanded, but at the time, only affordable by middle or upper class families. Many things happened in this period of time that it is easily seen why it is thought to have been a turning point in history (Ashton, 1997).
Many people are to be accredited for all that came out of the Industrial Revolution. According to Hindle & Lubar (1986), “Before that period of change, craft technology was dominant, depending on hand tools, simple machines, individual skills, and small shop or home productions”(p.9). Some of the first men to change the way it once was were Lord Charles Townshend and King George III who contributed to the agricultural revolution. The agricultural revolution made farms workable with less people, causing the need for more jobs. James Watt’s invention, the steam engine, needed coal to power it, so there was much employment in mining (Ashton, 1997).
Inventions like the spinning mule by Samuel Crompton and the flying shuttle by John Kay made a large industry for textiles. Henry Bessemer developed a process to purify iron and make a stronger metal, iron. Alfred Nobel invented dynamite which became widely used in warfare and construction. Many also began to experiment with electricity. For example, Michael Faraday made the dynamo. Thomas Edison later made the light bulb which worked with electric generators made possible by Faraday’s dynamo. Nikolaus Otto and Gottlied Daimler made the first internal combustion engine and the first automobile. Samuel made the telegraph which could send messages over wires. Alexander Grahm Bell made the telephone in 1876 (Clarkson, 1990).
Those like Louis Pasteur made advances in medicine. Pasteur created a link between disease and germs, developed a vaccine for rabies, and developed pasteurization, a process which killed disease carrying microbes in milk. William Morton introduced anesthetics which did wonders for the world of medicine.
Philosophy on economics and life was popular too. Adam Smith was thought of as the prophet of laissez-faire economy. He believed the hands off approach would bring success to industry. This was popular to the leaders in industry. Jeremy Bentham spread ideas of utilitarianism which was the belief that the goal of society should be the greatest happiness for the greatest number of its citizens (Ashton, 1997).
Bentham and his followers, such as John Stuart Mill, believed government should intervene in industry because of the hard lives of the working class. Socialists, such as Robert Owen, also did not like the idea of hard lives for workers, especially children. Karl Marx made Communism where struggle between employers and employees were inevitable.
Social Darwinism also arose where it was believed survival of the fittest lived in economics and society. This later led to encouragement of racism. Besides philosophy, science was very popular too. John Dalton developed the modern day atomic theory. Dmitri Mendeleyev drew up the periodic table. Charles Lyell showed proof on the formation of the Earth. Charles Darwin created his ideas on evolution and natural selection (Hindle and Lubar, 1986).
The Industrial Revolution was a giant turning point in history. According to Rempel (2004), “The Industrial Revolution brought with it an increase in population and urbanization, as well as new social classes. The increase in population was nothing short of dramatic”. And contributed to many new advancements in agriculture and natural advances like coal and iron ore.
Although there have been many improvements in technology and methods of making these advancements better, the ideas from that time paved a way for the present day methods and technology. The start of such giant industries led to a base of how our industry and business work today. Inventions such as the dynamo made it possible for electricity to power machines, make light, and make the use of telephones possible. Things like communications and roads made the world smaller (Ashton, 1997).
The invention of the first automobile also made the world smaller and paved the way for cars into the future and today’s present. Medical advances such as the use of anesthetics make painless operations possible. Operations such as open-heart surgery could be impossible without anesthetics. Interests in science help us better understand our world today.
For example, Darwin’s theory of evolution helps us see where humans come from and where they came to be. Mendeleyev’s making of the periodic table was a great contribution to the world of chemistry today. Karl Marx’s ideas on Communism still lives in today’s world – not necessarily a good thing but his ideas changed the way the world is today. The Industrial Revolution made bases for many things that are seen in the world today (Ashton, 1997).
The Industrial Revolution is seen to be the greatest turning point and reshaped world history. The Industrial Revolution began a base for many things that are seen today, such as, technology, economics, and even sociology. Many people are highly accredited for the contributions made during that time and because of them we have the pleasures that we have today. Almost everything we see was originated during the industrial revolution and it’s amazing that we’re still using them to this very day.
Ashton, T. S. (1997). The industrial revolution, 1760-1830. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Clarkson, L. (Ed.). (1990). The industrial revolution: a compendium. New Jersey: Humanities Press International, Inc.
Hindle, B., & Lubar, S. (1986). Engines of change the American industrial revolution 1790-1860. Washignton, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Rempel, G. (2007). The industrial revolution. Retrieved 2007, from http://mars.acnet.wnec.edu/~grempel/courses/wc2/lectures/industrialrev.html
Stearns, P. (1998). The industrial revolution in world history. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.