What is the Industrial Revolution?

The Industrial Revolution is the name given to the period in the 18th and 19th centuries when Britain was transformed from a predominantly agricultural nation into the manufacturing workshop of the world. Rapid scientific, technological and commercial innovations, a rising population, improved transportation and expanding domestic and international markets provided the context for the development of thousands of mills, factories, mines and workshops. Mining, engineering and manufacturing continued to provide employment for millions of people well into the 20th century. Until the early 18th Century, most people lived off the land as they had done for countless generations - an agricultural existence, defined by the harvests and the seasons, and ruled by a small political and social elite. But in the 150 years that followed, there was an unprecedented explosion of new ideas and new technological inventions which created an increasingly industrial and urbanised country. Hundreds of thousands of miles of roads, railways and canals were built. Great cities appeared and scores of factories and mills sprang up. At the heart of the revolution was our use of energy. Coal was the fuel which kickstarted the Industrial Revolution - and Britain was very fortunate to have plenty that could be easily mined. Wood had been the main source of energy in Britain, used for fuel in homes and small industries. But as the population grew, so did the demand for timber. As forests were cut down, wood had to be carried further to reach the towns. It was bulky and difficult to transport and therefore expensive. Coal was a much more potent form of power, providing up to three times more energy than wood. Britain had an advantage over other European countries because its mines were near the sea, so ships could carry coal cheaply to the most important market - London. The demand for coal led to deeper and deeper mines and an increased risk of flooding. In order to keep exploiting this wonder fuel, it was necessary to find a way to pump water out of the mines. Horse-drawn pumps could only draw water from depths up to 90 feet, limiting the amount of coal that could be mined. Intellectual Climate Newcomen and other inventors benefitted from the intellectual climate. Britain was characterised by the free expression of new ideas. There was a prolific exchange of scientific and technological ideas. And Britain, unlike many European countries, did not suffer censorship by Church or state. It was the Age of Reason. The established Christian view, of a world created by God, was being challenged by one which conformed to scientifically proven principles of nature. Alongside the new discoveries was a growing movement of people, trying to find practical applications for these new discoveries. Men of action and men of ideas, industrialists and scientists - often from very different backgrounds - met to share their ideas and observations, in what was to be called the Industrial

Enlightenment. They unleashed a wave of free thinking and creativity. Matthew Boulton owned an engineering works in Birmingham. Together he and James Watt - a self-taught Scottish scientist - began to manufacture more efficient steam engines. Boulton & Watt became the most important engineering firm in the country, meeting considerable demand. Initially this came from Cornish mine owners, but extended to paper, flour, cotton and iron mills, as well as distilleries, canals and waterworks. Eric Svedenstierna, a prominent official of the Swedish Iron Bureau, reported in 1803 his impression that steam engines "are as common in England, and are found in far greater numbers, as are water and wind mills with us". This sense of progress even attracted painters to capture potent industrial scenes. Embargo Act of 1807 After the short truce in 1802–1803 the European wars resumed and continued until the defeat of Napoleon in 1814. The war caused American relations with both Britain and France to deteriorate rapidly. There was grave risk of war with one or the other. With Britain supreme on the sea, and France on the land, the war developed into a struggle of blockade and counter blockade. This commercial war peaked in 1806 and 1807. Britain's Royal Navy shut down most European harbours to American ships unless they first traded through British ports. France declared a paper blockade of Britain (which it lacked a navy to enforce) and seized American ships that obeyed British regulations. The Royal Navy needed large numbers of sailors, and saw the U.S. merchant fleet as a haven for British sailors. The British system of impressments humiliated and dishonoured the U.S. because it was unable to protect its ships and their sailors. This British practice of taking British deserters, and often Americans, from American ships and forcing them into the Royal Navy increased greatly after 1803, and caused bitter anger in the United States. The anger reached a peak after June 22, 1807, when the British ship Leopard attacked the American Chesapeake off the U.S. coast, and removed four suspected deserters. This incident was perceived by Americans as an insult to American honour; combined with the increased commercial restrictions, it produced a demand for war in the United States in the summer of 1807. President Jefferson did not want war, and was convinced that the United States had the power to coerce the European powers by economic methods rather than war. Accordingly, in December 1807, Jefferson recommended to Congress an embargo which would prohibit all American ships from departing for a foreign port. This measure, which became law on December 22, attempted to end American foreign trade. Indeed, Congress had already, a few days before, put into effect a no importation act, originally passed in April 1806, which refused entry to many British goods. Enforcing measures put into effect to ensure that vessels engaged in the coastal trade would not sail for foreign ports were only partially successful. Some American vessels traded abroad throughout the Embargo, and smuggling flourished along the Canadian border. A case study of Rhode Island shows the embargo devastated shipping-related industries, wrecked existing markets, and caused an increase in opposition to the Democratic-Republican Party. Smuggling was widely endorsed by the public, which viewed the embargo as a violation of their rights. Public outcry continued, helping the Federalists regain control of the state government in 1808-09. The case is a rare example of American national foreign policy altering local patterns of political allegiance. Despite its unpopular nature, the Embargo Act did have some limited,

unintended benefits, especially as it drove capital and labor into New England textile and other manufacturing industries, lessening America's reliance on the British. Social effects The Industrial Revolution, while resulting in a global sense of the world economy, nonetheless took a hard toll upon the common people. In every country, farmers and workers lost their jobs and were exploited. The machines that helped poor countries stand beside the mighty still had many detrimental effects, particularly on society. The movement had many positive effects, and was a necessary step in world progress, but its cons cut deep into the lives of many. The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain had a negative impact on social living standards, resulting in child labour, population shifts, and unsafe working and living conditions. Before the Industrial Revolution, less than 10 percent of all European people lived in cites. The majority of people lived in the countryside, farming. Life was based in the earth, and upon agricultural production. British farmers were for the most part subsistence farmers, living off of the food they produced and caring little for money. There was a limited “cottage industry”, in which middle class entrepreneurs supplied raw materials to many households in the countryside. In return, these households, after churning out finished home-made products, sold back these finished items at discount prices to the entrepreneurs. Then, to complete the cycle, the entrepreneurs sold these goods at markets in cities. Life was hard in those times: a bad harvest could force a family into starvation, and a cold winter could kill the herd animals that people depended on. Diseases and epidemics were common, and farmers were always subject to the whims of cruel monarchs and harsh taxes. The onset of the Industrial Revolution in the long run was able to create safe jobs and stable environments to live in, but the standards of living during the Revolution dropped precipitously. Men were forced into the role of machines, mindlessly placing piece after piece into position in assembly lines. Even their small amounts of freedom were limited to the overcrowded, over polluted towns they called home. The Reasons for Migration As the number of factories and industrial workplaces grew, people began migrating from the rural areas towards these places of employment. People were attracted to the idea of a more lucrative, stable job. Farmer’s sons left for the shiny new towns that soon dotted Britain, seeking their fortune. With the population explosion in Britain resulting from the Revolution, and the promises of industrial wealth, these new towns quickly became overcrowded, unsanitary cities. England’s population was growing at almost 1 percent per year, and it showed. London was one of the worst centres of overpopulation: at the start of the 1800’s it contained about a fifth of the countries population. By 1851, it housed around half of the population. These new industry-based towns were unsanitary, overcrowded, and dull. Chimney and factory smoke blocked out the light to the homes, so citizens were forced to scurry around like rats in the dark. Soot and smog covered the streets like snow, made by burned coal smoke of the steam engines. All the towns were dirty and unhealthy: as there was no sewage system, rubbish and human waste was often just dumped into the street, and laid there until it decomposed. These towns smelled awful and were breeding grounds for disease. In 1832, a massive outbreak of cholera killed over 31,000 people. Luckily, no massive plague surfaced, but still more lives were snuffed

out by the likes of typhus, smallpox, and dysentery The death rate in these towns was much higher than the birth rate: the only thing that kept these industrial towns alive was a constant influx of people from the country. With this onslaught of fear and anger came the inevitable organization of the uprising. A mysterious man called Ned Ludd took charge of these riots, and organized them from a base in Sherwood Forest, much like the mystical bandit Robin Hood. These bands of employed and unemployed ravagers called themselves the Luddites, after his name. After 1808, when the Minimum Wage Bill was defeated in the House of Commons, these men began to take action. The Luddites acted almost as guerilla fighters, and attacked undefended factories and cottages, destroying the delicate machinery within. In 1812, employers started to take aggressive actions against the vandals, and several Luddites were killed in the retaliation. This in turn led to the organized murder of one of the employers. At this point, Parliament stepped in, and passed legislature that declared the destruction of certain machines punishable by death. After the Luddites were exposed and captured, many were sent to prison colonies, or put to death. The movement had been crushed, but small flickers of life moved on. This hatred for machines and loss of life and profit is one of the negative effects of the Revolution. Employee’s were forced out of their jobs by machines, and then took physical revenge upon them. Technophobia gripped all workers, and mixed the fear of dismissal into every workday. Men transformed into roaming bandits, only living to destroy the things that had stolen their livelihood. The Luddites were both an example of the layoffs that took place during the Revolution, and the after-effects that occurred after the initial industrialization. Entire generations were broken into pieces by the faults and pains of factory work. Hundreds of thousands died from horrible living conditions, and children’s lives were burned out simply for the sake of a quota. In 18th and 19th century Britain, it was not uncommon to see a limbless man, begging for food or money, crippled by the industry that was his former livelihood. Instead of freedom from nature, the Revolution brought slavery based in monotony, and man soon accepted his lower place in life. Societal living standards were forced down in the sake of progress. The Revolution, had it been more carefully monitored, could have sidestepped these growing pains. The British government should have acted earlier to protect its people, and it failed the mass populace. The results of these dark times were important to the global economy, and the British common labourer recovered. People accepted these new burdens, and the Industrial Revolution marched on. Technological advances were made, and eventually, the Factory Acts put in place by Parliament lessoned the severity of factory conditions. As Union’s were formed and laws put in place to protect workers, the fear that permeated daily life soon wore away, and the birthing horrors of the Revolution were forgotten in favour of its wondrous effects.

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