Aparna Sreekumar History 10 1 April 2011 THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENTS VS. SOCIAL IMPACTS The period of 1760 to 1851 was marked by huge advancements in the technological and industrial fronts of humankind and gave rise to the manufacturing powerhouses.
Such growth is in effect a by-product of numerous influences and has a profound impact on the world we now know today (Soman). This era came to be known as the Industrial Revolution. It was marked by major changes in agricultural, manufacturing, and transportation sectors, which had a wide-ranging influence on the social, economic and cultural conditions in the world.
There were a lot of technological innovations and these paved paths for various changes. “Technology…provides the direct means by which certain peoples have expanded their realms and conquered other peoples. That makes it the leading cause of history’s broadest patterns” (Diamond 241). This quote by Jared Diamond is noteworthy as technology was, and is, a stepping stone to the now-developed world.
The Industrial Revolution had a great impact on the human’s rights and conditions and it also resulted in significant technological advancements, but it can be categorically stated that the technological advancements during the Industrial Revolution were paramount when compared to the revolution’s impact upon human rights and conditions. Agriculture was the main-stay for livelihood before the era of Industrial Revolution.
Most of the people owned farmlands and workers were employed to work in the farms. Soon the land of the poorer farmers was enclosed as the landowners wanted to create larger fields that could be cultivated more efficiently.
As millions of acres were enclosed, farm outputs and profits rose. As large fields needed fewer farmers, farm laborers were thrown out of work, and small farmers were forced off their land. Thus, villages shrank as cottagers left in search of work. These jobless workers migrated to towns and cities where they formed a growing labor force that would soon tend machines of the Industrial Revolution (Gaynor and Esler 248).
This was an eye opener to the farmers as they became aware of the outside world and began understanding the operations of the machines which really helped them to do their work easily. It was due to the Industrial Revolution that many processes which were previously done manually became mechanized. The less educated started learning through their jobs by working on the machines and understanding the engineering aspects involved.
Therefore, the job itself was a source of learning for the neo- educated farmers. As people got educated and acquired skills, they got more jobs easily and thus the technological advancements helped in encouragement of education which was really an important change. Employees were to be provided with education under the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act passed in 1802 (“Impact”).
“After 1870 governments in western Europe and the United States began to pass laws making some form of education both universal-available to all children-and compulsory” (Cagniart et al. 530). As a result, the level of literacy increased rapidly as people understood the importance of education. As literacy rate improved, knowledge barrier was removed which paved the way for innovations in the industrial sector with improved designs in machineries. This in-turn reduced the manual work which led to a decrease in child labor.
Before the massive changes of the Industrial Revolution, there were very few countries with less than 30% illiterate. It was only after the massive technological advancements that the people in these countries got educated which contributed to a higher literacy rate and soon there were very few countries with over 50% illiterate (Sreekumar). Apparently, the Industrial Revolution was instrumental in getting the potential labor force educated. It is indeed true that not all children got educated despite the fact that education had become mandatory because the children who did not study had to go to work since they had to support their family income.
“For the most part, children of the lower classes attended school only as long as the law required them to attend. Then they went to work to earn money to help support their families” (Cagniart et al. 530). Even though this is true, during the Industrial Revolution, the job itself was a means of getting educated through the practical knowledge by working on the machines and by understanding the technology behind each machine. Although, the children lacked formal education in schools, this engineering exposure helped them to develop their technical acumen.
The improvements in the new generation machines came as a result of that practical experience. Thus the technological advancements of the Industrial Revolution were a prime source of education as well. Mechanization was one of the brain-child of the Industrial Revolution. As work became more mechanized, the farmers and the factory workers had it easier as the labor intensive jobs reduced and the work became more synchronized and systematic. This led to increased productivity and focused on the quality of the manufactured goods.
The seed drill, a new mechanical device invented by Jethro Tull is a good example as it aided the farmers. It deposited seeds in rows rather than scattering them wastefully over the land (Gaynor and Esler 247). The cotton gin invented by Eli Whitney is also another prominent example. It was used to remove seeds and impurities from cotton fibers and was worked by hand (History 491). These inventions really reduced the manual labor. As the working conditions shifted from manual to mechanical, safety of the workers became a matter of concern.
To overcome this situation, safety gadgets were provided. Emphasis was made on first aid and maintaining the health of the workers. In-house clinics became a part of every factory which catered for the health of every employee. In short, mechanization proved to be the driving-force of the Industrial Revolution. Even though the working conditions were improved, the hygienic conditions of the people worsened:
“Spinners and piercers go about their work generally barefoot, or with such an apology for chaussure as forcibly reminds you of the old story of the sedan chair with the bottom out. Were it not for the honor of the thing, they might as well go entirely unshod. I fear I cannot say much for the cleanliness of the workpeople.
They have an essentially greasy look, which makes me sometimes think that water would run off their skins, as it does off a duck’s back” (Readings 155). This is true but as they become more oily and greasy, the concept of hygiene and hygienic living became prominent. Every problem or health risk was a lesson learnt as far as the workers were concerned. Health and Safety concerns developed and as a result, industries started educating their workers on how to follow the habits of hygiene.
These industries provided the workers with the necessary supplies such as clothing and accommodation since the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act passed in 1802 termed it necessary (“Impact”).
Even though the working conditions of the people improved, there were still other people called The Luddites who were discontent with their working conditions. The Luddites were also a part of the rising tide of English working- class discontent in the early 19th century (“The Luddites”). These people opposed the technological advancements due to various reasons.
The initial response of the workers to the changes caused by the Industrial Revolution was resistive. Their resistance to change stemmed from the belief that they were losing jobs to the machines. This argument was pointless due to the fact that they were actually gaining more exposure on how to work in a mechanized atmosphere. Even though the manual job was replaced by machines, workers were needed to operate the machines which would not make them lose their job.
On the other hand, this would improve their technical skill and know-how. Hence, the arguments to the fact that mechanizations was indeed a bane to the society was proved worthless. The technological advancements during the Industrial Revolution helped in the inventions of various theories of physical laws which are very relevant today.
“Technology provides the eyes and ears of science-and some of the muscle, too. The electronic computer, for example, has led to substantial progress in the study of weather systems, demographic patterns, gene structure, and other complex systems that would not have been possible otherwise” (“Chapter 3”). The invention of the microscope was a very huge technological advancement. It led to the invention of many theories which carry a lot of importance in today’s research.
One such example is that of the cell theory in biology. Scientists were interested in explaining the nature of life as they were exploring the nature of non-living matter. Biologists had long been familiar with the idea of cells as tiny units of living matter and they noticed that the cells of different species are of different shapes and sizes, but did not draw any general conclusions about them. Later, the German scientist Rudolf Virchow expanded the cell theory.
He showed that the disease in living organisms were caused by changes the in cells, or their destruction, as a result of some outside force or agent. He concluded that every new cell were produced from the older and existing cells and that only existing living matter could produce new living matter. Thus the scientists accepted cell as the basic unit of life (Cagniart et al. 518). A lot of other theories evolved from this theory.
Microscopes also proved to have helped the scientists to discover new vaccinations that helped avoid diseases which killed more people than did wars, famines or natural disasters. Louis Pasteur identified small microorganisms called bacteria under his microscope. He learned that bacteria are responsible for many phenomena. Pasteur developed a process of heating liquids to kill bacteria and prevent fermentation- a process that was named pasteurization in his honor. He also determined that some bacteria cause diseases in animals and also in humans. These harmful bacteria are called germs or microbes (Cagniart et al. 520).
These inferences have gone a long way in the developments of today’s scientific world. The Industrial Revolution thus proved to be a stepping stone in the development of the field of science. Without this revolution, humankind’s life expectancy might not have lengthened and human’s general health may not have improved. Although the technological advancements lead to advancements in science, rapid industrialization led to deforestation creating an ecological imbalance.
The Industrial Revolution also took its toll by polluting the natural resources such as water, air and soil. Even though rapid deforestation and pollution took place, it created awareness in the society about preserving and protecting the environment. This led to the concept of afforestation along with deforestation. The level of pollution coming out of the industries were measured and analyzed and steps were taken to reduce the same. Recycling the industrial wastes and putting it into productive use, recycling of the waste water as well as harvesting of rainwater are the positives that came out of this awareness.
The development in the field of science thus proved to be immeasurably important in today’s modern world, thanks to the Industrial Revolution. The standard of living of the humankind was greatly influenced by the Industrial Revolution. Standardization of products took place during the Industrial Revolution and better quality products were produced. The people who moved onto cities had better living conditions. When the laborers moved into the cities, they started earning in a healthy manner and thus could afford to purchase better quality products.
Laborers on the farms were still poor while the laborers who moved to the cities became the middle class and gained prestige and political recognition (Cagniart et al. 500). Manual labor and effort reduced with mechanization. “Families started living in suburbs where there was less overcrowding, noise and dirt, but their working members journeyed each day to jobs in the city. Suburbs began to spread quickly during the 1800s, as more and more cities established transportation systems” (Cagniart et al. 529).
New methods of preservation of foods were introduced and this was a significant development. Science and technology combined to produce better methods of preserving and transporting food. New and cost-effective means of transport developed as a part of the Industrial Revolution. Pasteurization and Refrigeration were some inventions that became indispensable household feature in many industrialized countries. Refrigerated rail-road cars now came up which helped to transport meats, fruits, and vegetables. These developments helped make a balanced diet available year-round (Cagniart et al. 529).
These inventions helped reduce diseases and contributed to healthy living conditions for the people and provided more job opportunity for the society. There was another side to this story as well. When farm workers moved to towns seeking work in the new factories, they were forced to stay in densely packed, low-quality houses built for them and that soon became unhealthy slums since not everyone could afford staying in suburbs (Hills 58).
Although few farmers stayed in the densely packed, low quality houses, they had much better conditions than staying in the villages where their farms were enclosed. Since the land of the famers were enclosed, they no longer had jobs and they were eventually thrown out of the cottages they lived in as they had no enough money to survive.
Even though the workers were living in slums, they were financially better-off and could afford to have healthy food. By staying in adverse conditions in the slums, they learned how to lead a healthy life even in an unpleasant scenario. Although the working classes suffered during the Industrial Revolution, their living conditions improved significantly when inexpensive consumer goods produced in the factories became accessible to them (Cagniart et al. 500).
Thus the industrial revolution also proved to have helped in improving the living conditions of the people. The Industrial Revolution was a defining point in the history of humanity. The living conditions of the people drastically improved and people could afford better quality products at affordable prices. Engineering and education was given prominence leading to many inventions which reduced manual labor to a very large extent.
The work place itself became a source of education and the need paved the way for scientific advancement. Even though there were two schools of thought, with reference to the industrial advancements and humanity, it was more in the favor of technological advancements. This was due to the fact that the living conditions, education, scientific innovations made a positive improvement and influence in the life of humankind.
Without the growth of industrialization, there would not be the need for any of these inventions, and people would still be working manually in an inefficient manner. Technology and industry has dominated our world, improved it to a point that would have been unimaginable a hundred years ago. Despite the people’s hardships and due to the help of the sacrifice of the people, progress continues. These inventions and changes had gone a long way in developing the society and gave the humankind an exposure and experience of the technological advancements that has influenced every walk of life.
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