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The Industrial Revolution In the last part of the 18 th century, a new revolution gripped the world that we were not ready for. This revolution was not a political one, but it would lead to many implications later in its existence. Neither was this a social or cultural revolution. This revolution was an economic one. The Industrial revolution, as historians call it, began the modern world.
It began the world we live in today and our way of life in that world. It is called a revolution because the changes it made were so great. They were also sudden, although the preparation for these changes took many years. It is called industrial because it had to do with manufacture. Manufacture means the making of every kind of useful article, from cotton cloth to brass pins. The Industrial Revolution changed the ways by how the world produced its goods and also changed our societies from a mainly agricultural society to one that in which industry and manufacturing was in control.
The Industrial revolution began in England in the middle of the 18 th century (Burlingame 239). This was about the time the English throne passed from George II (1683 - 1760) to George III (1738 - 1820). It was in full swing at the time of the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. England at the time was the most powerful empire on the planet. So, it was inevitable that the country with the most wealth would be a leader in this revolution. This revolution changed the entire life of the people.
It completely changed the habits of workers-the men and women who produced the goods. It brought down prices, so that people were able to buy things they could not buy before (Derry 36). It made some men rich, but it reduced the earning power of others. It gave work to many that had been unemployed. At the same time it took jobs away from many skilled workers. Because British entrepreneurs were unable to meet the increased demand for goods by traditional methods of production, the domestic handicraft system of manufacturing gave way beginning in the late 18 th century to factory-based mechanization (Williams 24).
The cotton industry was the first to be fully mechanized. The crucial inventions were John Jay s flying shuttle (invented in 1733 but not widely used until the 1760 s), James Hargreaves s spinning jenny (1765), Richard Arkwright s water frame (1769), Samuel Crompton s mule (1779), and Edmund Cartwright s machine loom (1765, but delayed in its general use) (Clarke 13). The first factories were driven by water, but James Watt s steam engine (1769; especially his sun and planet adaptation converting linear into circular motion) made steam-driven machinery and modern factories possible from the 1780 s (Clarke 13). This use of steam power led, in turn, to increased demand for coal and iron.
Each development spawned new technological breakthroughs, as for example, Sir Henry Bessemer s process for making steel (1856) (Clarke 13). Other industries such as chemicals and mining and the engineering professions also developed rapidly. The changes brought by the industrial revolution at first brought tragedies. With the sudden introduction of machines powered by waterwheels or steam engines manufacturing had to be done in hot, crowded factories and the work became harder for the workers. It could no longer be done in comfortable homes-with spinning wheels, for example, or hand looms (Light 2).
The textile factories became hotter and damper than ever. Furthermore, the machines in the factories could be operated by completely unskilled labor. Women and children were employed to tend the machines. Children as young as 6 years old were set to work and kept at it for more than 12 hours a day (Burlingame 239).
The poorly paid workers lived around the factories in crowded, dirty, and unsanitary districts of a town or city (Light 2). These and a number of other bad practices were common for many years. Then the law caught up with factory owners, and the tragic conditions were done away with through Bills that were being introduced in the parliament to limit the hours and to forbid the employment of very young children. (Light 3). The Industrial Revolution affected many other kinds of manufacture besides textiles.
For the making of machines, tools, and engines, huge ironworks became necessary, and these used new methods (Derry 39). When the railways came, rolling mills for iron and steel rails did a large business (Williams 27). Pottery became an important English industry. The potteries that had long been owned by the Wedgwood family introduced new variety into tableware (Clarke 19).
As more and more machines, too, were invented, there were shops for everything from nails to the rigging of ships. But all of these industries came more or less under the factory system (Burlingame 240). Not very much of the domestic, cottage, or small-shop industry was left. It is easy to see how the Industrial Revolution changed more than the geography of England. It changed the living habits and economic conditions of almost all the English people as well (Williams 29). Families everywhere moved to cities to get employment.
Country villages were deserted. The cities grew by leaps and bounds. Now that waterpower was no longer necessary, towns grew up far from rivers (Derry 42). Under the new industrial ownership men grew enormously rich in a short time. When labor was paid almost starvation wages, there was an immense gap between the rich and the poor. The nation was no longer self-supporting in food as agriculture became less important.
More and more food, raw cotton, bar iron, flax and other raw materials were imported. All the time the British Empire grew in size and activity (Light 4). Britain had certain natural advantages that help to explain why the Industrial Revolution began there. It was richly endowed with coal and iron ore, easily navigable waterways, and easily negotiated coasts (Burlingame 240). It was favorably placed at the crossroads of international trade, and the largest free-trade area in Europe (Light 4). As Roger Burlingame, author of Industrial Revolution from The New Book of Knowledge, has stated, Political liberty was guaranteed and relatively open social structure made upward social mobility common, giving an incentive to the accumulation of wealth.
He also states that the principles of the Protestant Nonconformists, who were to form the backbone of the new middle class, encouraged industry and thrift, plus new knowledge, especially in science, was freely disseminated, breeding an inventiveness and a willingness to accept change. In short, 18 th-century British society provided the framework within, which could interact the effects of five fundamental sorts of change in agriculture, population technology, commerce, and transportation (Light 4). The last part of the 18 th century was perhaps the world s greatest economic time. The Industrial Revolution began the movement of the world.
The historical term Industrial Revolution can be applied to specific countries and periods of the past. The process known as industrialization is still going on, particularly in developing countries (Williams 39). This process has changed the entire life of people. It has made many rich and many poor. It has brought out the inventiveness and creativeness of people. It has given people the will to achieve.
It has caused happiness but also has caused tragedies. However, without the occurrence of the Industrial Revolution, society would be uncivilized. People and life in general would be slow and repetitive. It would also make life unfulfilling. The story of what people can do if they are left alone to think, work, invest and employ their energies is the story that is being related here. Civilization is the story of human freedom if anything (Boorstin 56).
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