The Industrial Revolution can be defined as the process of change from an agrarian economy to one dominated by industry and machine manufacture. This era, which took place from the 18th to the 19th centuries, not only marked a turning point in agriculture, society, transportation, and economic policies in England but also perceived a booming growing industry.
The replacement of traditional farming techniques for large-scale mechanized manufacturing resulted in migration of people from rural to urban areas. These modifications led to the creation of canals, roads and railways. Consequently, England drastically changed.
The Industrial Revolution (see Appendix 1, picture 1) brought significant changes to the society of England and to the world (Schultz, 1968). In 1714 several products, such as clothes and buttons, were homemade. This process was done in cottages and involved all the members of the families living there. The process of buying and selling clothes in houses was referred to as cottage industry or, otherwise named, domestic system (see Appendix 1, picture 2) (Aylett, 1985).
Those goods firstly produced at home workshops were now made in factories by means of manpower instead of horsepower. Due to the increase in productivity, affluent factory owners became more prosperous, while factory workers suffered not only poverty, but also inequality (Schultz, 1968). Additionally, labourers worked in inhumane conditions (see Appendix 1, picture 3) (Lay, 1960).
"The workers suffered from ill- health and often from dreadful diseases, which were contracted from the dust of the cotton mills, the powdered steel from the grinding shops, or the lead form the earthenware factories; the change too, form the close heated factories to the cold air helped to bring on that frightful disease of consumption" (Lay, 1960, p. 101).
During the eighteenth century modern machinery was designed and produced to do simple jobs. These inventions marked the beginning of the mass production in England and allowed the creation of numerous goods, resulting in an immediate and reasonably priced production. On the other hand, new machines gradually replaced workers, thus leaving many of them unemployed (Dowall, 1989).
_Increase in population_
The Industrial Revolution brought with it an increase not only in population, but also in urbanization (Schultz, 1968). What is more, the workers settled around the factories (see Appendix 1, picture 4).
This fact led to a shift in population as towns were inhabited mainly by unemployed people who were in search of a job which had been lost due to land enclosure. The Midlands was the place where factories grew and expanded rapidly; even producing dishes and cutlery, changing from metal to China (Dowall, 1989). Besides, as the population grew, so did the need for food and diverse goods such as clothes and houses. The availability of these objects allowed the country to support a constantly growing population (Richards & Hunt, 1950).
In 1660, more specifically, on November 24th, The Royal Society was established. This institution had its origins in meetings organized by various philosophers with the purpose of investigating and sharing information about what is actually referred to as science ("The Royal Society", 2014). The foundation of this society, not only allowed technological inventions to take place, but also hastened the invention of the steam-engine (see Appendix 1, picture 5 & 6), one of the most remarkable pieces of machinery developed during the era of the Industrial Revolution (Richards & Hunt, 1950).
Coal and iron were considered to be the most important natural resources used during the Industrial Revolution. Steam was produced by burning coal, a black mineral. Factories used steam in order to function. While the demand for this mineral increased, the difficulties for miners to find it also multiplied. Digging deep the ground was extremely dangerous and coal was often scarce. To make matters worse, the deeper mines (see Appendix 1, picture 7) frequently became covered with water or contained harmful gases (Aylett, 1985).
One of the main obstacles preventing Industrial development, in 1740 in England, was fuel. There was a shortage of wood to make the heat needed to produce iron. This need led to the transformation of iron ore into high-quality iron by using coal. When this process was completed, Britain went on to be the major iron producer all over Europe (Dowall, 1989).
One important reason which led to the Industrial Revolution was that Britain was plenty of iron ore to make tools, machinery and coal for steam engines. Since these materials had to be transported to customers, changes in transport were urgently needed. Therefore, roads were improved and canals (see Appendix 1, picture 8) built so that industrial goods could be moved easily. During the 18th century, roads were in deplorable conditions.
Hence, Parliament decided to pass the Turnpike Act. This act gave magistrates the power of charging travellers who travelled along their roads. The money gathered by the toll-keepers was spent on building better means of transportations. Nevertheless, the way by which factory owners carried their goods to their customers took a long time.
Consequently, more efficient means of transport were needed. The Duke of Bridgewater, who owned coal mines in Lancashire estate, had the need of getting his coal to Manchester in a fast and inexpensive way. If he managed to do it, he would become a rich man. So, he came up with the bright idea of building a canal (Aylett, 1985).
As a result, in 1759, an act was passed by Parliament giving the Duke of Bridgewater the permission to dig an 11-kilometre canal. James Brindley (see Appendix 1, picture 9) was the engineer in charge of designing the canal. As a consequence, the Duke became wealthy and Brindley met huge demands as an engineer. Moreover, the price of coal decreased in Manchester and different people followed his idea (Aylett, 1985).
In the Cottage Industry, families produced home-made goods and made many materials like buttons, gloves and glace (Aylett, 1985). Furthermore, within the textile industry there were many materials in use such as silk, cotton, linen and wool (Richards & Hunt, 1950).
In the 18th Century, merchants -clothiers- (see Appendix 1, picture 10) realized that they would earn more money by selling the finished cloth. As a consequence, raw wool was given to the peasants so that they make the fabric, which was later collected by merchants. This system had its benefits like having the final product regularly available and the possibility to do this job at home (see Appendix 1, picture 11).
Nevertheless, it had some negative points as the clothiers not only were required to spend time travelling but also they had to trust that the peasants used the whole amount of raw- material that was given to them. All in all, the most important problem was that spinning was a time- consuming process. As a result, new inventions appeared (Richards & Hunt, 1950).
The Fying Shuttle (see Appendix 1, picture 12), which was invented by John Kay (see Appendix 1, picture 13) came out in 1733. With this invention, people could produce more pieces of cloth and time was more effectively used (Aylett, 1985). Consequently, in 1764 a new machine was designed by James Hargreaves; spinning Jenny (see Appendix 1, picture 14) was called. Despite the fact that this invention allowed producing eight threads at the same time, it was not strong enough (Richards & Hunt, 1950).
In 1769 a new creator named Richard Arkwright (see Appendix 1, picture 15) appeared. He was responsible for the creation of the spinning frame (see Appendix 1, picture 16). This invention was characterized by the kind of energy it used: water. For this reason, it was named the water frame (Aylett, 1985). Sir Richard Arkwright, who was a relevant figure along the Industrial Revolution, died in 1792. By 1820, the old domestic system was completely abandoned and the factory system was established (Richards & Hunt, 1950).
_The Coal and Iron Industry_
Factories in the 19th century implemented a new type of energy. The use of water power was replaced by steam power (Aylett, 1985). England was rich in coal and iron as many deposits of those materials were found in the north, middle and west of the country (Lay, 1960).
Colliers followed a serie of actions in order to get iron. First, they excavated the land to obtain iron ore, which was later melted to get iron. This process was named _smelting_ and consisted on burning charcoal; which provided the necessary heat to dissolve the iron ore. Charcoal was obtained from timber and timber from the forest. They were without supplies. So a possible solution for this problem was to bring iron from Russia, Germany and Sweden.
The inconvenient was solved by an ironworker, whose name was Abraham Darby (see Appendix 1, picture 17). Firstly, he intended to use coal, another type of fuel. However, this first attempt was not successful due to the presence of sulphur, which made iron difficult to work with. Later on, the process was ameliorated by his son Abraham Darby II who discovered that coke could be used to make pig iron. In 1783, Henry Court of Hampshire created a machine that permitted to shape the metal (Aylett, 1985). This device was called the _Rolling Mill_ (Richards & Hunt, 1950).
One of the most significant people was the iron master Wilkinson. As he was a follower of the already mentioned technique, he built the first iron bridge (see Appendix 1, picture 18) with the third Abraham Darby. Furthermore, the boat, the system of pipes and the cylinders necessary for future inventions were other examples of Wilkinson's innovations (Richards & Hunt, 1950).
Some important people were: John Guest, who set up the iron industry in the south of England, the Scottish John Roebuck who made guns known as _corranades_ and John Watt (see Appendix 1, picture 19) whose invention, the _steam-engine,_ proved to be extremely useful to control the temperature. Without doubt, this appliance revolutionized the industry around the world (Richards & Hunt, 1950).
The most important result of the Industrial Revolution was a huge increase not only in production but also in the national wealth. All these factors enabled Britain to gain a dominant position in the world as an industrial producer. If Britain had not had this industrial supremacy, she would not have been able to supply its growing population with food, education and full employment. Due to the increase in production, the distribution of population completely changed. People began to move and settle around the new industries (Richards & Hunt, 1950).
Another significant outcome of the Industrial Revolution was the creation of new industries, like the engineering industry (see Appendix 1, picture 20), which helped to standardize products and also an increase in production (Richards & Hunt, 1950).
Unfortunately, this revolution had some drawbacks. For instance, beautiful landscapes became unattractive with smoke and waste material from factories and mines. Moreover, people worked under deplorable conditions, such as long hours per day, severe discipline and also physical punishment. Not only parents but also children were employed and forced to work from the beginning of the day until late at night due to their poverty (Richards & Hunt, 1950).
The Industrial Revolution had many advantages as well as disadvantages. On the one hand, there were important improvements in iron, textile and coal industries which helped the economy of the country and made Britain the most powerful nation in the world. On the other hand, not everyone shared the benefits of industrialization equally. What is more, landscapes in Britain were negatively modified.
To make matters worse, working conditions were cruel and child´s labor was common. Nevertheless, it is true to say that the Industrial Revolution had positive effects but it cannot be denied that several aspects related to the way laborers were brutally treated were still in need of improvement.
Aylett, J.F. (1985). In Search of History. 1714-1900. London: Hodder Murray.
Lay, E. J. S. (1960). The Pupil´s Classbook of English History. _Book IV_ (2nd ed.).New York: Macmillan.
Mc Dowall (1989). An Illustrated History of Britain. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.
Richards, D. and Hunt, J. W. (1950). An Illustrated History of Modern Britain 1783- 1980 (3rd ed.). Essex: Longman Group Ltd.
Schultz, Harold J. (1968). History of England. (3rd ed.). (1980). New York: Barnes & Noble Books.
"The Royal Society", 2014. June 17th, 2014. Available: