Overview It began in the 18th century in the United Kingdom and spread like an epidemic through Europe, North America, and then the rest of the world. Known as the Industrial Revolution, it changed the face of the planet through substantial industries like mining, agriculture, transportation, manufacturing, and technology.
The revolution ran from the 18th century through to the 19th century during which it had tremendous effects on cultural conditions and socioeconomic situations of those times. Till today we can still see clear results of what happened during that period of the planet’s development. The focus of this research paper is to address the following questions: (1) What are some of the energy use patterns and technological changes associated with industrial societies? (2) How did the industrial revolution influence the status and role of (a) family, (b) gender and (c) age?
What are some of the energy use patterns and technological changes associated with industrial societies? According to social scientists, a society is referred to as an industrial society when the society is driven by the use of technology. This drive then enables the opportunity for mass production, supporting large populations with a high capacity for the division of labor. Crucial to the use of all technology is energy and how it is distributed. Once into motion the energy is able to further manipulate technology into what we believe our needs are.
Energy Use Patterns Up until the 1890’s a major source of energy came from wood. It was burned to produced heat energy that was then used to cook food, heat houses, and for basic molding and primitive metallurgy.
The main source for transportation was either human or animal power. Till today, countries like India still use carts pulled by cows and oxen to transport goods in many rural areas for long or short distances. During the Industrial Revolution, the main source of energy changed to coal which proved much more effective and efficient. The use of coal as opposed to wood also provided hotter temperatures ideal for more advanced metallurgy and the development of machinery.
Coal then was used as energy in transportation as well as to fuel the movement of the first trains and ships. Steam engines became the most popular source for heat energy, which was then converted into forward motion. This was a major key to the progress of the Industrial Revolution. However, this also created a problem. Regions of the world that did not have large deposits of coal would soon become left behind while others progressed substantially. Some of the countries that were left behind during the industrial revolution due to a lack of coal would never recover and are still today’s third world countries.
Another issue that rose due to the industrial revolution and movement towards the use of fossil fuels was the increase of pollution levels around the world. This is still evident today as well. In an effort to make progresses in technology and advancing the world to make life easier for humans the planet has been left scarred. Aside from coal, the Industrial Revolution also initiated a movement towards using oil as fuel. This did not catch on as fast as coal as the heat produced from coal and steam was easier to harness and convert into motion for engines. Of course, as new energies were discovered and harnessed, new technologies were built to become more adaptable to this. Technological Changes
To put it simply, the industrial revolution made substantial advances in technology. So much so that goods that were often produced privately in people homes by humans were now being manufactured on a mass scale in factories by machines. This meant that there was a drastic increase in production potential and capacity.
The two most significant innovations of the Industrial Revolution were the steam engine and machines for cloth production. This meant that textile manufacturing and the engineering industry went through a massive expansion during this period. Other industries that also went through rapid growth during this time were iron, printing, and paper-making. The iron industry was able to go through a growth due to the use of coal in place of wood.
This was able to provide the much higher temperatures need to bend iron into desired design for other machinery as well as structural purposes. Technological changes also resulted in a change in the ways of life. This was because prior to the revolution, the majority of manufacturing happened in house by families. In textiles, for example, businessmen would hire families along the countryside who would spin and weave cloth for him. He would then market it to others.
With the introduction of machinery that was able to produce textiles at a much greater rate, factories were built so that all manufacturing could happen in one place. This proved more cost effective for businessmen as it would lower transportation costs as well as increase output greatly. People would work at these factories rather than working at home. This also created a division of labor, which meant that individuals would focus on certain parts of the manufacturing process rather than having to make the entire product themselves. This proved a lot more efficient than prior times.
How did the industrial revolution influence the status and role of (a) family, (b) gender and (c) age?
The industrial expansion altered the social structure of industrial societies. While kinship used to be the most important determinant of status in the past, occupation has soon replaced it. For families, the nuclear family replaced the extended family. For gender, the majority of women entered the workforce, causing gender relations to become more egalitarian.
Although so, patriarchal and male supremacy continued to influence the female status and the division of labor. Severe changes in methods of acquiring and storing knowledge were a result of rapid technological change. This, however, also had a negative impact on the lives of the elderly in industrial society as their status and needs diminished over time. The role of Family
Although beneficial to the world as a whole with many technological advances, the Industrial Revolution also severed ties with in the family. Prior to the revolution, families lived together. This was due to an absence of factories for them to work at so most worked out of their own homes.
However, when machinery advanced, factories were built where people went to work. This meant that they spent less and less time at home with each other. Nicole Smith’s article on families during the revolution states that they grew further apart and a person’s status began to depend on career rather than family ties. “The household was not only the industrial center but also the social center, for its members derived social satisfaction from working together and from rustic amusements enjoyed at home or on the village green” (Gray 1992).
This was changed with the introduction of factories and offices. On the other hand, the revolution also proved beneficial for families in certain ways. There were now greater job opportunities for men, women, and children. It also meant that there was increased financial stability for people. This made families more independent of each other, large extended families separated and only direct family members started to live with each other. The need for staying in large groups to support each other declined.
“The industrial revolution spawned great changes in family structure. Industrialization and urbanization prompted a marked change in life and working styles. Many people, especially the young, left the farms to work in factories; this process led to the dissolution of many extended families” (Finneran, 1994). Family pride rose as status depended on job positioning. But, this was restricted to the posting that the male had received.
The role of Gender Gender status didn’t change much during the Industrial Revolution. Although more females were able to get jobs due to factories opening, they still did not achieve the same status as men. Prior to the revolution, women did not have many job opportunities. They were mostly restricted to being housewives where they would maintain the household, or gave their husbands a helping hand for those who worked on textiles and weaving from home. The revolution brought about a wave of jobs that could be handled by women.
Many factories hired women to handle simpler repetitive tasks along the production line. This meant that women had a higher social status than before, but this could still not be compared to that of men. Although there was more equality in the work place with regards to the ratio of men to women, there was an evident differentiation between wages and growth opportunities. Women were more content than before as they were now able to work and lower the pressure on men, who previously had to be the sole breadwinners of the household. Age segregation
Prior to the revolution, age barriers restricted youngsters from working. It meant that they were entirely dependent on their parents to provide them with money as well as keeping the house running. For parents, prior to the revolution, there was a larger financial burden as extended families lived together so there were more children to provide for. Not to mention that the children were not able to get jobs to provide a helping hand and lighten the load. The Industrial Revolution brought around many factories and manufacturing plants which helped the situation.
Similar to the happenings with regards to the role of gender, simple and basic tasks along the production line or other ad-hoc duties were then able to be assigned to children and youth. Children were now able to assist their parents by providing financial support as well as becoming overall more independent. Exposed to a working way of life from an earlier age they were able to mature faster and take care of ailing parents sooner.
There were 2 problems that arose out of children working in the factories. Firstly, they were being used as child labor and secondly, the working conditions were unsafe for these young children. During the initial stages of the revolution when children first started working, their wages were meager however this improved over time. But safety was still an issue in many factories, enforcing safe working environments did not take place till much later so children were exposed to many dangerous situations. Conclusion
From wood to coal and from working at home to working in factories and manufacturing plants, the Industrial Revolution benefitted the world in many ways. Although it also caused a few small problems along the way, the revolution was much need by the people to improve the working and living conditions around the world. The revolution was able to bring about substantial advancements in energy use and technology. It changed the production line and manufacturing process forever.
People only had to focus and specialize on one aspect of production now rather than making entire products themselves. Things became much more efficient and product out increased drastically. This meant that chances of trade grew simultaneously as there were more products in the market to go around. As factories came about and people starting working in them rather than from home, it also meant that lifestyles and trends had to change. The industrial revolution paved the way for women to work and earn money. It also permitted children to work in these factories.
Both women and children did not have the same standing as men, but still saw improvements from not being able to work and staying at home depending on men to be the sole breadwinners for their family. The changes brought about by the revolution are still in effect today, women and children still do work now, and factories are still mass producing. This has increased employment opportunities.
The machines invented during the revolution paved the way for the machines of today. The majority of the machines we use today are in fact improvements made to the machines of that time. The revolution was more than just a symbol of change in technology; it was a symbol of change from a more primitive way of life to a more advanced way of life.
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