The Industrial Revolution was a time of great age throughout the world. It represented major change from 1760 to the period 1820-1840. The movement originated in Great Britain and affected everything from industrial manufacturing processes to the daily life of the average citizen. I will discuss the Industrial Revolution and the effects it had on the world as a whole.
The primary industry of the time was the textiles industry. It had the most employees, output value, and invested capital. It was the first to take on new modern production methods. The transition to machine power drastically increased productivity and efficiency. This extended to iron production and chemical production.
It started in Great Britain and soon expanded into Western Europe and to the United States. The actual effects of the revolution on different sections of society differed. They manifested themselves at different times. The ‘trickle down’ effect whereby the benefits of the revolution helped the lower classes didn’t happen until towards the 1830s and 1840s. Initially, machines like the Watt Steam Engine and the Spinning Jenny only benefited the rich industrialists.
The effects on the general population, when they did come, were major. Prior to the revolution, most cotton spinning was done with a wheel in the home. These advances allowed families to increase their productivity and output. It gave them more disposable income and enabled them to facilitate the growth of a larger consumer goods market. The lower classes were able to spend. For the first time in history, the masses had a sustained growth in living standards.
Social historians noted the change in where people lived. Industrialists wanted more workers and the new technology largely confined itself to large factories in the cities. Thousands of people who lived in the countryside migrated to the cities permanently. It led to the growth of cities across the world, including London, Manchester, and Boston. The permanent shift from rural living to city living has endured to the present day.
Trade between nations increased as they often had massive surpluses of consumer goods they couldn’t sell in the domestic market. The rate of trade increased and made nations like Great Britain and the United States richer than ever before. Naturally, this translated to military power and the ability to sustain worldwide trade networks and colonies.
On the other hand, the Industrial Revolution and migration led to the mass exploitation of workers and slums. To counter this, workers formed trade unions. They fought back against employers to win rights for themselves and their families. The formation of trade unions and the collective unity of workers across industries are still existent today. It was the first time workers could make demands of their employers. It enfranchised them and gave them rights to upset the status quo and force employers to view their workers as human beings like them.
Overall, the Industrial Revolution was one of the single biggest events in human history. It launched the modern age and drove industrial technology forward at a faster rate than ever before. Even contemporary economics experts failed to predict the extent of the revolution and its effects on world history. It shows why the Industrial Revolution played such a vital role in the building of the United States of today.
The European Industrial Revolution was a time of drastic change. In England it became a transformation from hand tools and hand made items to machined and mass-produced goods. The growth of factories replaced the cottage industries and spawned the development of cities. Growing cities and factories led to changes in transportation, labor, and working conditions. These changes generally helped workers lives, even though initially there were more negatives than positives.
Before the Industrial Revolution England’s economy was based on its cottage industry. Workers would buy raw materials from merchants, take it back to their cottages, hence the name, and produce the goods at their homes. This industry was efficient but the workers productivity was low. Subsequently, goods were high in price and exclusive to only wealthy people. The Industrial Revolution meant factories could mass-produce items at much lower costs than the cottage industries, making goods more affordable to consumers.
With the invention of the steam engine, a shift from rural waterwheels to steam engines as an industrial power source facilitated the emergence of factories and industrial cities. Factories started the process of urbanization by causing people to leave rural sectors and move to the cities looking for a better life. The increase in population in the cities caused overcrowding, pollution, and thus became a breeding ground for communicable diseases. Cities had a snowballing effect developing new business. New and improved transportation systems evolved.
The developments in transportation played an important role in industrialization. Growing cities necessitated investments to be made in improving infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and canals. This paved the way for industrialization which needed an efficient system to transport mass amounts of goods from factories to markets. As the sale of goods increased, factories’ production needed to increase causing problems for the factory worker.
Factories changed the meaning of labor. Even if the hours worked were roughly the same in the factory or in the cottage, factory wage earners lost control over the pace and methods of their work. Constant supervision was also a novel experience, at least for the head of the household. The head of the household, usually the father of the family, was the supervisor in the family run cottage. In the factories he lost his supervision power and was just a worker. Consequently men avoided factory work in the early nineteenth century.
Most cottage working families chose to stay in their homes. As factory production grew, home workers saw their earnings shrink. The next generation cottage workers would find their choice tipped much more heavily toward factories.
Life was drastically changed during the Industrial Revolution. Factory workers were living in germ infested, crowded and very unhealthful conditions, much like their place of work. Children and women labored in harsh conditions, working long hours with little pay. Much of the British working class was worse off. Real wages stagnated while workers sacrificed freedom, health and family. Government involvement was needed to change these conditions. Laws such as the Factory Act (1833) were passed to improve working conditions. The Industrial Revolution changed Europe forever and it’s social and economic changes helped guide other countries through their growth and industrialization processes.
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Filed Under: England, History, Industrial Revolution