Industrial Revolution Synopsis

This essay has a total of 4389 words and 22 pages.

Industrial Revolution

Industrial Revolution, widespread replacement of manual labor by machines that began in
Britain in the 18th century and is still continuing in some parts of the world. The
Industrial Revolution was the result of many fundamental, interrelated changes that
transformed agricultural economies into industrial ones. The most immediate changes were
in the nature of production: what was produced, as well as where and how. Goods that had
traditionally been made in the home or in small workshops began to be manufactured in the
factory. Productivity and technical efficiency grew dramatically, in part through the
systematic application of scientific and practical knowledge to the manufacturing process.
Efficiency was also enhanced when large groups of business enterprises were located within
a limited area. The Industrial Revolution led to the growth of cities as people moved from
rural areas into urban communities in search of work.



The changes brought by the Industrial Revolution overturned not only traditional
economies, but also whole societies. Economic changes caused far-reaching social changes,
including the movement of people to cities, the availability of a greater variety of
material goods, and new ways of doing business. The Industrial Revolution was the first
step in modern economic growth and development. Economic development was combined with
superior military technology to make the nations of Europe and their cultural offshoots,
such as the United States, the most powerful in the world in the 18th and 19th centuries.


The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain during the last half of the 18th century
and spread through regions of Europe and to the United States during the following
century. In the 20th century industrialization on a wide scale extended to parts of Asia
and the Pacific Rim. Today mechanized production and modern economic growth continue to
spread to new areas of the world, and much of humankind has yet to experience the changes
typical of the Industrial Revolution.



The Industrial Revolution is called a revolution because it changed society both
significantly and rapidly. Over the course of human history, there has been only one other
group of changes as significant as the Industrial Revolution. This is what anthropologists
call the Neolithic Revolution, which took place in the later part of the Stone Age. In the
Neolithic Revolution, people moved from social systems based on hunting and gathering to
much more complex communities that depended on agriculture and the domestication of
animals. This led to the rise of permanent settlements and, eventually, urban
civilizations. The Industrial Revolution brought a shift from the agricultural societies
created during the Neolithic Revolution to modern industrial societies.


The social changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution were significant. As
economic activities in many communities moved from agriculture to manufacturing,
production shifted from its traditional locations in the home and the small workshop to
factories. Large portions of the population relocated from the countryside to the towns
and cities where manufacturing centers were found. The overall amount of goods and
services produced expanded dramatically, and the proportion of capital invested per worker
grew. New groups of investors, businesspeople, and managers took financial risks and
reaped great rewards.


In the long run the Industrial Revolution has brought economic improvement for most people
in industrialized societies. Many enjoy greater prosperity and improved health, especially
those in the middle and the upper classes of society. There have been costs, however. In
some cases, the lower classes of society have suffered economically. Industrialization has
brought factory pollutants and greater land use, which have harmed the natural
environment. In particular, the application of machinery and science to agriculture has
led to greater land use and, therefore, extensive loss of habitat for animals and plants.
In addition, drastic population growth following industrialization has contributed to the
decline of natural habitats and resources. These factors, in turn, have caused many
species to become extinct or endangered.



Ever since the Renaissance (14th century to 17th century), Europeans had been inventing
and using ever more complex machinery. Particularly important were improvements in
transportation, such as faster ships, and communication, especially printing. These
improvements played a key role in the development of the Industrial Revolution by
encouraging the movement of new ideas and mechanisms, as well as the people who knew how
to build and run them.



Then, in the 18th century in Britain, new production methods were introduced in several
key industries, dramatically altering how these industries functioned. These new methods
included different machines, fresh sources of power and energy, and novel forms of
organizing business and labor. For the first time technical and scientific knowledge was
applied to business practices on a large scale. Humankind had begun to develop mass
production. The result was an increase in material goods, usually selling for lower prices
than before.


The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain because social, political, and legal
conditions there were particularly favorable to change. Property rights, such as those for
patents on mechanical improvements, were well established. More importantly, the
predictable, stable rule of law in Britain meant that monarchs and aristocrats were less
likely to arbitrarily seize earnings or impose taxes than they were in many other
countries. As a result, earnings were safer, and ambitious businesspeople could gain
wealth, social prestige, and power more easily than could people on the European
continent. These factors encouraged risk taking and investment in new business ventures,
both crucial to economic growth.


In addition, Great Britain's government pursued a relatively hands-off economic policy.
This free-market approach was made popular through British philosopher and economist Adam
Smith and his book The Wealth of Nations (1776). The hands-off policy permitted fresh
methods and ideas to flourish with little interference or regulation.


Britain's nurturing social and political setting encouraged the changes that began in a
few trades to spread to others. Gradually the new ways of production transformed more and
more parts of the British economy, although older methods continued in many industries.
Several industries played key roles in Britain's industrialization. Iron and steel
manufacture, the production of steam engines, and textiles were all powerful influences,
as was the rise of a machine-building sector able to spread mechanization to other parts
of the economy.


During the development of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, coal was the main source
of power. Even before the 18th century, some British industries had begun using the
country's plentiful coal supply instead of wood, which was much scarcer. Coal was adopted
by the brewing, metalworking, and glass and ceramics industries, demonstrating its
potential for use in many industrial processes.


A major breakthrough in the use of coal occurred in 1709 at Coalbrookedale in the valley
of the Severn River. There English industrialist Abraham Darby successfully used coke—a
high-carbon, converted form of coal—to produce iron from iron ore. Using coke eliminated
the need for charcoal, a more expensive, less efficient fuel. Metal makers thereafter
discovered ways of using coal and coke to speed the production of raw iron, bar iron, and
other metals.


The most important advance in iron production occurred in 1784 when Englishman Henry Cort
invented new techniques for rolling raw iron, a finishing process that shapes iron into
the desired size and form. These advances in metalworking were an important part of
industrialization. They enabled iron, which was relatively inexpensive and abundant, to be
used in many new ways, such as building heavy machinery. Iron was well suited for heavy
machinery because of its strength and durability. Because of these new developments iron
came to be used in machinery for many industries.



Iron was also vital to the development of railroads, which improved transportation. Better
transportation made commerce easier, and along with the growth of commerce enabled
economic growth to spread to additional regions. In this way, the changes of the
Industrial Revolution reinforced each other, working together to transform the British
economy.



If iron was the key metal of the Industrial Revolution, the steam engine was perhaps the
most important machine technology. Inventions and improvements in the use of steam for
power began prior to the 18th century, as they had with iron. As early as 1689, English
engineer Thomas Savery created a steam engine to pump water from mines. Thomas Newcomen,
another English engineer, developed an improved version by 1712. Scottish inventor and
mechanical engineer James Watt made the most significant improvements, allowing the steam
engine to be used in many industrial settings, not just in mining. Early mills had run
successfully with water power, but the advancement of using the steam engine meant that a
factory could be located anywhere, not just close to water.



In 1775 Watt formed an engine-building and engineering partnership with manufacturer
Matthew Boulton. This partnership became one of the most important businesses of the
Industrial Revolution. Boulton & Watt served as a kind of creative technical center for
much of the British economy. They solved technical problems and spread the solutions to
other companies. Similar firms did the same thing in other industries and were especially
important in the machine tool industry. This type of interaction between companies was
important because it reduced the amount of research time and expense that each business
had to spend working with its own resources. The technological advances of the Industrial
Revolution happened more quickly because firms often shared information, which they then
could use to create new techniques or products.


Like iron production, steam engines found many uses in a variety of other industries,
including steamboats and railroads. Steam engines are another example of how some changes
brought by industrialization led to even more changes in other areas.


The industry most often associated with the Industrial Revolution is the textile industry.
In earlier times, the spinning of yarn and the weaving of cloth occurred primarily in the
home, with most of the work done by people working alone or with family members. This
pattern lasted for many centuries. In 18th-century Great Britain a series of extraordinary
innovations reduced and then replaced the human labor required to make cloth. Each advance
created problems elsewhere in the production process that led to further improvements.
Together they made a new system to supply clothing.


The first important invention in textile production came in 1733. British inventor John
Kay created a device known as the flying shuttle, which partially mechanized the process
of weaving. By 1770 British inventor and industrialist James Hargreaves had invented the
spinning jenny, a machine that spins a number of threads at once, and British inventor and
cotton manufacturer Richard Arkwright had organized the first production using
water-powered spinning. These developments permitted a single spinner to make numerous
strands of yarn at the same time. By about 1779 British inventor Samuel Crompton
introduced a machine called the mule, which further improved mechanized spinning by
decreasing the danger that threads would break and by creating a finer thread.


Throughout the textile industry, specialized machines powered either by water or steam
appeared. Row upon row of these innovative, highly productive machines filled large, new
mills and factories. Soon Britain was supplying cloth to countries throughout the world.
This industry seemed to many people to be the embodiment of an emerging, mechanized
civilization.


The most important results of these changes were enormous increases in the output of goods
per worker. A single spinner or weaver, for example, could now turn out many times the
volume of yarn or cloth that earlier workers had produced. This marvel of rising
productivity was the central economic achievement that made the Industrial Revolution such
a milestone in human history.


The Industrial Revolution also had considerable impact upon the nature of work. It
significantly changed the daily lives of ordinary men, women, and children in the regions
where it took root and grew.


One of the most obvious changes to people's lives was that more people moved into the
urban areas where factories were located. Many of the agricultural laborers who left
villages were forced to move. Beginning in the early 18th century, more people in rural
areas were competing for fewer jobs. The rural population had risen sharply as new sources
of food became available, and death rates declined due to fewer plagues and wars. At the
same time, many small farms disappeared. This was partly because new enclosure laws
required farmers to put fences or hedges around their fields to prevent common grazing on
the land. Some small farmers who could not afford to enclose their fields had to sell out
to larger landholders and search for work elsewhere. These factors combined to provide a
ready work force for the new industries.



New manufacturing towns and cities grew dramatically. Many of these cities were close to
the coalfields that supplied fuel to the factories. Factories had to be close to sources
of power because power could not be distributed very far. The names of British factory
cities soon symbolized industrialization to the wider world: Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds,
Glasgow, Sheffield, and especially Manchester. In the early 1770s Manchester numbered only
25,000 inhabitants. By 1850, after it had become a center of cotton manufacturing, its
population had grown to more than 350,000.


In pre-industrial England, more than three-quarters of the population lived in small
villages. By the mid-19th century, however, the country had made history by becoming the
first nation with half its population in cities. By 1850 millions of British people lived
in crowded, grim industrial cities. Reformers began to speak of the mills and factories as
dark, evil places.



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