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Short Essay 2

Short Essay 2

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Published by Robbie Bruens

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Published by: Robbie Bruens on May 05, 2013
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06/26/2014

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Robbie BruensOctober 12, 2010Age of Revolutions? / Anixter 
Revolutionary, But Not Just Industrial
When investigating the accuracy of the nomenclature of the historical epoch known as theIndustrial Revolution, one must define the terms of discourse precisely. Michael Fores provides a useful
menu of possible meanings for „industrial‟ and its variants, offering four that seem to be used regularly by
scholars of the period. Industry can simply mean a particular sector of an economy (e.g. the textile industry,the insurance industry), or it can refer specifically to the manufacturing sector of a particular economy, or it
serves to describe the factory system as applied to manufacturing or finally „industrialization‟ may mean“the process by which „modern‟
 
life has been produced…characterized by urban living and more „rational‟guidance for performance at work.”
1
As Fores points out, the first meaning is hardly useful at all indescribing what is meant by the Industrial Revolution. On the other hand, the fourth meaning would apply asort of circular logic
to the discussion by narrowly defining „industrial‟ as heralding modernity that we
recognize today. Some combination of the second and third will work best in achieving a sort of precision.Fores contention
s about the meaning of “revolution” are less helpful. Outside of the field of physics or 
astronomy, most would agree that revolution implies a profound or radical change of some kind.
But Fores‟
temporal limitation on revolution as a series of events that
“takes a matter of weeks, months and perhaps up
to a decade at most
2
to unfold would seem to include only major changes in government and politicalconditions. Such a definition would
accede to a modernist‟s conception o
f what constitutes rapid change, but a broader view of historical time would allow for a revolution that takes well over a century to play out.Given these considerations, the Industrial Revolution cannot be understood as entirely industrial but can beviewed as distinctly revolutionary. The dramatic changes constitutive of this Revolution were far more thanindustrial, as they included everything from crucial agricultural and demographic factors to increasingly
1
 
Michael Fores,
The Myth of a British Industrial Revolution
, pg. 188.
2
 
Fores, pg. 187
.
 
interdependent international trade relationships. Perhaps most significantly, the Industrial Revolutionsignaled the socioeconomic transformation of the household.A true picture of the Industrial Revolution would include far more than the admittedly significantindustrial advances of the era, and this appears most obviously when viewing the massive demographicshifts and concomitant agricultural innovations. The Industrial Revolution was about more than machinesand factories
, it encompassed an epochal increase in “men‟s access to the means of life, in control over 
their ecological
environment” and a “a rise in human productivity,” not just industrial but also “agricultural[and] demographic on such a scale that it raised as it were, the logarithmic index of society.”
3
While itremains unclear whether the unprecedented rate of population growth experienced by Great Britain was duemore to increased birth rate or decreased mortality rate,
4
the ability of fewer farmers and smaller amountsof land to support many more people is undeniable and began an irreversible trend of population expansion.
“Industrial” does not due this phenomenon justice, nor does it describe the change in the very nature of 
foodstuff consumption patterns like the increased access by ordinary workers to items like tea and sugar,which had formerly been luxuries.
5
 However, such patterns can be explained by another very important element of the revolution thatcannot be sufficiently denoted as industrial: that of the much more central international trade relationships.
When examining the much disputed „take
-
off‟ peri
od of the revolution, economic figures indicate Britishforeign trade tripled in two decades.
6
And when looking at the causes of the revolution, the export trademay have as much or more primacy than the celebrated innovations of industrial technology. During the
first half of the eighteenth century, “home industries increased their output by seven per cent, export
industries by seventy-
six percent”
7
 
and then these trends actually accelerated at midcentury. Thus Britain‟s
revolution was not simply an internal miracle of forward looking industrial entrepreneurs, but instead was
3
 
Harold Perkin,
The Origins of Modern English Society
, pg. 3.
4
 
E.P. Thompson,
The Making of the English Working Class
, pg. 330.
5
 
Thompson, pg. 317.
6
 
Perkins, pg. 2.
 
7
 
Hobsbawm, pg. 26.

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