Fascinating History of the Industrial Revolution
The fascinating history of the Industrial Revolution begins with a brief understanding of what Pre-Industrial Revolution life was like in the early 1700s. Most of the people during this time period lived in rural areas and worked on their family’s farm. Their success in farming was very weather dependent and they made everything themselves from the plots of land around them. Not only was the pace of manufacturing slow, but it was done by hand using very basic tools. Products were not produced in large numbers and were often unique. Peasants struggled to meet the basic needs of their families and were taxed considerably more than the other social classes. There was a huge difference in financial income between the peasants and the wealthy; a small percentage of the population had most of the wealth while the peasants had barely enough to survive.
All of this changed due to the Industrial Revolution. Villages became more efficient and peasants began to work in large factories, located in major cities. Poor people gravitated toward the cities because that was where the rich lived…the poor accounted for a significant segment of society. (Cipolla 22). They made goods for other people and they bought food and clothing for themselves. In addition to the urbanization of cities, people were beginning to travel by steam engines such as ships or trains. New inventions from the Industrial Revolution improved communication and productivity. The Industrial Revolution was a monumental shift in society, both economically and socially, with the rise of consumerism, urbanization, advancements in technology/resources, societal impact/solutions, and new ideas that changed life for the peasants and the middle class for the better.
The British Agricultural Revolution was the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution in 1700. The British made significant advances in agriculture output with the change in property laws, methods/inventions, and social media. Wealthy landowners bought common farming land and benefitted from farming huge tracts of land with lower costs. Inventions made manufacturing more efficient and increased productivity. The new farming techniques and the rise in productivity led to the decline of agricultural labor needed. As a result, there was more food, better nutrition, improved health, and a rapid increase in population growth. The huge advances of the British Agricultural Revolution paved the way for the Industrial Revolution to spread to Europe and eventually the United States.
With the British Agricultural Revolution setting the stage, the Industrial Revolution spanned 100 years from 1750 to 1850. This era began the most significant social and economic change in human history; it was a game changer. The Industrial Revolution could be characterized by mechanical power replacing man and animal power. There was a huge surplus of labor because of the underlying population increase and movement from living in the country to cities and towns. The rapid urbanization of Great Britain’s population also meant crowded cities and towns, new social classes, and poor living and working conditions. It appears, then, that whether a worker was employed in a textile factory or a small workshop, he suffered marked deterioration in his life at work–the obvious consequence of the quickening pace of industrialization (Hopkins).
One of the main reasons that Britain was the center of the Industrial Revolution was due to the abundance of natural resources. It had superior access to the sea because it is completely surrounded by water and its rivers were used for transportation throughout the country. There were plenty of ports for ships and navigable rivers to move materials. Britain had access to large supplies of coal and iron, which were major sources of energy, crucial to the factories. The inventors of the Industrial Revolution were also interested in harnessing new sources of power. The Steam Engine became the key power source for locomotives, steamboats, and machines in factories.
Concurrently, capitalism began to rise during the Industrial Revolution and played a key part of the economic policy. In Great Britain, Adam Smith was influential with his philosophy of
Laissez-Faire economics. People were free to invest their capital however they pleased. The middle class in Great Britain invested their money in businesses, factories, mines, and railroads. Factories were built to house large machinery. People were no longer working out of their homes but commuted to a factory for work. Entrepreneurs emerged to run and operate their own companies and assumed a great deal of risk.
The Industrial Revolution was equally a period of technological advancement and factories. As production increased, factories needed the supplies to make products. The Flying Shuttle mechanized weaving and allowed the single weaver to produce much more fabric. The Cotton Gin was important because it separated usable cotton fibers from the seeds and increased productivity. The Water Frame led to the establishment of factories because it was too large to be used in a home and needed to be near a stream or river. The Steamboat drastically increased the speed of intercontinental trade and human transportation. The Morse Telegraph Key in 1844 (Morse Code) was the most important communication invention. It allowed information to be shared across long distances in seconds.