The Industrial Revolution was a slow process that spanned out over the course of at least 200 years and was pushed into effect by the many perfect circumstances in Great Britain at the time it began. The Agricultural Revolution had begun and this brought changes in the methods of farming and stock breeding to create more efficient systems that inevitably created a mass increase in food production.
With this increase in food production, Britain managed to now feed more people at drastically lower prices. Less labor was also required in the new system of food production, which created a surplus of capital that Great Britain invested in the new industrial machines of the day.
The country also had many entrepreneurs willing to take serious financial risks for the opportunity to make money. Great Britain had an ample supply of coal and iron, a natural resource that before had little use, that were required in the manufacturing business and with the country was so small that supplies could be transported in short amounts of time, and much cheaper than other countries.
With machines now leading the way, the Industrial Revolution was the beginning of the transition of old to new manufacturing techniques. It changed from water or muscle powered artisans working alone to organized groups of people working in factories powered by steam. With industrialization, food, medicine housing and clothing all saw an increase in production capacity. Unfortunately, society became so caught up with this new manufacturing system that they began to over-use the natural resources that were needed. What was once readily available in excess is now depleting quickly in today’s age.
The social impacts of industrialization were just as profound, although these impacts were seen much more quickly and demonstrated quite harshly. Owners of newly opened factories were presented with the daunting task of finding a way to impress upon their workers a new work ethic, one that varied drastically from that of pre-factory times.
Factory owners were forced to create a system of time-work discipline and would accustom workers to working regular unvarying hours during which they performed a sat number of tasks over and over again as efficiently as possible. Owners had to resort to tough methods to discipline the unskilled workers being exploited in the hot, dirty and dangerous conditions of the factory. Workers were simply paid wages to run machines instead of actually performing the work themselves.
Machines could not be left idle which meant that now factory workers worked in shifts and regular hours. Workers were used to working harder for shorter periods of time and then working leisurely the rest of the time. Such work became repetitive and boring. Men, women and children made up the work force, and were plagued by the fact that they were tied to the clock and lived by dull repetition of the same functions every single day. Some referred to these workers as “wage slaves.”
Workers were fined for small misdemeanors and fired for serious infractions such as drunkenness. Adult workers had many rules, including: Anyone who is more than two minutes late for work loses their wages until the next break, no worker can leave before the end of the work day unless cleared by two different people, otherwise they must pay a fine, repeated lateness to work is grounds for dismissal, and no worker may leave his place of work unless for something connected to work.
They also were faced with other rules such as: All conversation with fellow workers is prohibited, smoking in the workshops or yard is prohibited, all bodily functions and cleanliness needs to be done in the appropriate places or fined, all those in charge must be obeyed without question or that is grounds for termination and if found drunk it is also immediate grounds for termination.
Another new idea introduced was that all workers must report acts of dishonesty or they can be held accountable as accessories and their wages can be withheld. Children were disciplined by beatings because they were less likely to understand the consequences of their actions.
Many of these drastic changes in working conditions were extremely harsh and throughout time they were modified, although these changes in work ethic can still be seen in today’s work force. The Industrial Revolution paved the way for the world that we know today, and society still relies heavily and almost completely on machines. Without the revolution, the amount of progress that the human race has made in so little time would not have been possible. Unfortunately, with every success there is a mirrored failure.
Although society has made leaps and bounds thanks to the industrialization and modernization of the world, the environment itself is suffering greatly (a problem that society has only just now become fully aware of). The once overly abundant supply of natural resources is now becoming dangerously depleted, and the world is faced with the task of replacing old resources for new ones.
Also, the environment is feeling the effects of these constantly burning resources and society is seeing the effects in such catastrophic events such as global warming. Mankind seems to have the habit of taking things one step too far, and that is what appears to have happened in regards to the Industrial Revolution. Yes, society owes its growth and advancement to the revolution, but it is time to truly explore alternatives to depleting natural resources and destroying Earth’s atmosphere.