Old England! Isn’t she a beauty? We’ve got more people in one city than most nations have in their entire country! And plus, we are the heart, the soul, and the capital of the biggest and most powerful empire on the face of the planet. So considering that, it’s no wonder why such a wondrous kingdom is also the center of the period we are currently experiencing, a time we refer to as the “Industrial Revolution”.
It all started somewhere in the middle of the 18th century. As a series of new inventions began to appear, the old cloth making system (the cottage system) began to disappear. Hand equipment could not compete with the costly new machines, which were power-operated and had to be installed in large buildings, called factories. Spinners and weavers were hired to work in factories instead of at home. The economic system of capitalism was thus developing, with the means of production owned by persons who hired workers.
However, I’m writing to tell you what you may not have already known. On the one hand, the industrial revolution brought with it hundreds of thousands of people from rural areas into the cities. This is most commonly referred to as urbanization. With so many inexpensive manufactured goods on the market, urbanization allowed for higher standards of living. On the other hand, the revolution also brought with it an exploitation of workers. This soon became apparent as slums, great suffering and periodic unemployment became rampant.
Lets take a look at the numerous beneficial outcomes of this revolution. Textiles were one of the very first machine products. Invented by John Kay in 1733, the flying shuttle was a mechanism on a loom that projected the shuttle carrying the wool back and forth across the warp. Weaving was so much faster on looms with flying shuttles that a yarn shortage soon developed. After that came canals.
Scarce or dangerous waterways soon led to the invention of artificial streams. By 1830 there were some 4,000 miles of canals and improved rivers in the entire country. Last but not least, and probably one of the most important inventions of the early revolution was the steam locomotive. Invented by George Stephenson in 1814, he helped establish the first two English railways in 1825 and 1830. Trains soon replaced canal boats in the transportation of many goods. It was an instant marvel.
Profits became very easy to come by for many entrepreneurs. An overwhelming demand for manufacturing and delivering machine made goods led many businessmen to become far wealthier than their working class counterparts. This was seen in the creation of a new social order, with the nobility and the successful entrepreneurs forming the upper class, lower-level business people, merchants and teachers forming the middle class, and the workers and peasants forming the lower class.
With the rise of the newly formed middle class, came new styles of living. This class contained all the people that were not too rich but not too poor. Due to the abundance of now cheaply made goods, these people had large, well-furnished homes. Some could even afford servants.
However, all this money did not simply just fall out of a tree. The men in the family, even with their new-found wealth, had to work long and arduous shifts in the factories. Thus, the women were forced to stay at home. No doubt this put several barriers concerning their rights. Amongst them was the lack of a right to vote. The logic was, since they don’t contribute to society, they can’t have a say in its government. Such problems can easily be fixed by allowing more women in the workforce, therefore doubling their productivity and allowing them to be full contributing members to society. This would also earn them more rights.
With a more huddled and tight-nit environment, public education also began to rise. Many laws began to form concerning mandatory school hours for children. Knowledge became much easier to spread once there was so many students available in one place. Along with public schools, colleges and universities also began to expand.
As schools took a new step forward, so did science right behind it. Scientists, thanks to new instruments and methods of experimentations, began to discover new and improved theories to describe the world around us. Atomic theory and geologic evidence of age and formation of the earth thru geology were just one of the few examples. Fossils were also discovered, shedding never-before-seen light on prehistoric humans and animals.
Along with these theories was the emergence of thoughts of Charles Darwin, and his theories of Darwinism. In short, it described the concepts of a key idea, known widely as evolution, through the process of natural selection, were the only the fittest of all species survive and live long enough to pass on their genes unto the next generation.
However, even with all this amazing advancements, major problems developed in several areas. One of them was child labor problems. Even though the Industrial Revolution led to a population increase, childhood mortality ratings did not improve at all. Employers could pay a child less than an adult even though their productivity was comparable; there was no need for strength to operate an industrial machine, and since the industrial system was completely new there were no experienced adult labourers. This made child labour the labour of choice for manufacturing in the early phases of the Revolution.
This problem can easily be fixed by passing laws banning the hire of children under a specific age. Along with that, rules and regulations should be created concerning health and safety codes in factories that do hire children. Furthermore, these children should by large by paid equal to their adult counterparts; if they put in the same work, they should get the same salary. Period! -----------------------
World’s First Steam Locomotive