The Industrial Revolution began over 200 years ago. It changed theway in which many products, including cloth and textiles, weremanufactured. It is called a “revolution” beacuse the changes it causedwere great and sudden. It greatly affected the way people lived andworked. This revolution helped to bring about the modern world weknow today in many ways.
The Industrial Revolution was a major change in the nature of production in which machines replaced tools and steam and otherenergy sources replaced human or animal power. The IndustrialRevolution began in England in the middle 1700s. During the IndustrialRevoltuion, workers became more productive, items weremanufactured, prices dropped, making hard to make items available tothe working and middle class and not only the wealthy.
Life generallyimproved, but the Industrial Revolution was also harmful. Pollutionincreased, working conditions were harmful, and capitalists employedwomen and young children, making them work long hours for lowwages. The Industrial Revolution began in England for many reasons. In 1700s,Britain’s economy was mainly an agricultural economy. Wealthylandowners bought up all the land and enclosed their land with fencesallowing them to cultivate larger fields called enclosures.
This causedthe enclosure movement, which put most small farmers out of workcausing them to move to cities. This movement to cities is known asurbanization, which gave Britain a large population of workers. Britainalso had many natural resources and an expanding economy tosupport industrialzation, or the process of developing machineproduction of goods. The resources needed to provide these goods andservices were called factors of production, which included land, labor,and capital (wealth).
New inventions and technology helped to spark the IndustrialRevolution by advancing different industries. The textile industry wasthe first industry to be reformed. Before, cloth was woven at hometaking long hours a day.
But with these new inventions, cloth was madefaster which boosted merchants’ profits. In 1733, a machinst named John Kay invented the flying shuttle which was a boat-shaped piece of wood that was attached to yarn and sped back and forth on wheels. In1764, James Hargreaves invented a spinning wheel that allowed eightspindles to be spun at once. In 1769, Richard Arkwright invented thewater frame which used waterpower to spin wheels.
SamuelCrompton’s spinning mule (1779) made thread stronger and finer, andEdmund Cartwright’s power loom (1787) sped up weaving. All of these inventions transformed the textile industry. Transportation was alsoreformed with inventions of the steam engine by James Watt(1765),the building of the 1st railroad track (1821-1825), and alocomotive called the Rocket built by George Stephenson and his son(1829).
Besides the postive effects, the Industrial Revolution also had negativeeffects. Because of urbanization, many cities, whose infrastructuresystem could not keep up with the rapid population growth, wereovercrowded with people looking for jobs. England’s cities lackeddecent housing, sanitary codes, education, and police protection. Manyworkers of the working class lived in small, dirty shelters wheresickness was widespread. With the introduction of steam, factoryconditons became worse. Machines injured workers.
Many factoryowners wanted to get the cheapest labor possible. To do this, factoryowners hired workers, mostly women and children because the werethe cheapest labor, so they could work long hours for low wages. Asthe working class saw little improvements in living and workingconditions, the middle class, made up of skilled workers, professionals,factory owners, and other well do to people, saw improvements in theirlives. The middle class was now able to afford things that the wealthyonly had acess to, such as servants.
In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution created a major gapbetween the rich and the poor. Many reformers felt that thegovernment needed to play an active role to improve the standard of living for the poor. Many ideas and philosophies were created as areaction to the Industrial Revolution. An economic system, calledsocialism, grew during the 1800s as a reaction to the IndustrialRevolution. It called for more state influence, equal rights, and an endto inhumanity, which stood strongly opposite to individualism andlaissez-fairepolitics.
Laissez-fairephilosophy (capitalism), which was first started by Adam Smith, suggested that owners of industry andbusiness set working conditons without the government intervening.
Other social movements, including communism, a form of completesocialism where all means of production would be owned by the peopleleaving a small number of manufacturers to control wealth, which wasproposed by Karl Marx, and utilitarianism, which judged ideas,institutions, and actions based on their utility and beleived governmentactions should promote the greatest good for the greatest number of people, was introduced by Jeremy Bentham but led by John Stuart Mill.
The Industrial Revolution, like the French Revolution, left a permanentmark on society. Life in the 18th century changed dramatically causingclasses to shift, wealth to increase, and nations to begin assumingnational identities. The Industrial Revolution caused the world to facemany social consequences and economic changes that still effect ustoday.