Industrial Revolution in England
The Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is one of the most significant periods in the history of England and the whole world. This process was marked by the invention and mass distribution of steam engines as the main means of production. It significantly increased the efficiency of manufacturing, as well as provided the population with additional economic opportunities. Along with the development of the economy, there was also an improvement in the social sphere and an increase in the standard of living of people. In particular, new means of protection against environmental influences, as well as hygiene, became available, which increased the health of the population. Additionally, new technologies have made work safer and working conditions more favorable, which has also contributed to raising living standards. New and varied goods became available to people, as well as new ways of entertainment, which resulted in greater satisfaction and the flourishing of consumerism. Finally, there has been a rapid population growth, which has increased the number of human resources. Thus, the Industrial Revolution has had a vast and positive impact on global development.
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Positive Impact of the Industrial Revolution
The industrial revolution was marked by a rapid flourishing of manufacturing and the creation of new, more effective means for it. One of the impulses for this process was the steam engine, which significantly transformed the economic reality of that period. This technology was first invented in the seventeenth century and later improved during the nineteenth century (Farr). John Smeaton, an instrument maker, improved the designs of existing steam engines in the 1760s, doubling their efficiency (Farr). This achievement made them the most important invention for global economic development. The most important consequence of its adoption is that “the coal-powered steam engine ultimately replaced dependence on human or animal power” (Farr). This fact has greatly reduced the cost of the manufacturing process, replacing some of the manual functions of the thread with mechanical ones. Additionally, in the context of social influence, certain types of work have become easier for people to perform with the support of steam engines.
The most important consequence of the use of this technology has become economic growth, which has significantly expanded the possibilities of the population. Manufacturers were able to produce more goods and, as a result, exaggerate their wealth. Andrew Ure notes that “steam-engines furnish the means not only of their support but of their multiplication” (Outman et al.). Thus, the steam engine not only simplified and accelerated the production process but also made it cheaper. This aspect allowed more people to engage in manufacturing, which stimulated economic development.
Effect of the Steam Engine on Manufacturing and Economy
The invention and widespread adoption of steam engines has served as a catalyst for the growth of many areas. First of all, they created a huge demand for fuel, which forced the production and use of more resources (Outman et al.). At the same time, with their help, the process of their extraction has become faster and more convenient, as well as technologically more complicated. This factor made it possible to attract to the work “multitudes of miners, engineers, shipbuilders, and sailors” (Outman et al.). Additionally, more efficient ways of transporting increased quantities of goods and fuel were required, which spurred the construction of canals and railways (Outman et al.). Thus, the overall involvement of the population in the economic life of the country increased significantly through the expansion of labor opportunities. In addition, the expanding volumes of manufacturing required more specialists, which also had a positive effect on the development of education.
Social and Cultural Improvements
The positive economic impact of the industrial revolution also resulted in improvements in the social and cultural spheres. In particular, “living standards improved more broadly, which meant new opportunities for and the enjoyment of more extensive entertainment options” (Stearns). This is associated with a significant expansion of the economic opportunities of the population, as well as an improvement in working conditions. In addition, the increase in the number of manufacturers provided more competition for the attention of buyers, which positively influenced the quality of goods and services.
It is also important that the production of more goods also influenced their diversity, which directly impacted the improvement of the quality of life in society. For example, the industrial revolution gave society such significant technologies as better heating in homes, air conditioning, and rain umbrellas, which were introduced to Western society only 250 years ago (Stearns). Such innovations have also positively impacted public health by providing better protection against extreme weather conditions. In addition, the Industrial Revolution provided opportunities for improving both public and personal hygiene. This factor significantly reduced not only the level of disgust but also infection, which additionally protected the health of society (Stearns). Stearns notes that “we’re subjected to far fewer bad smells than people used to be.” Thus, the industrial revolution introduced technologies that radically changed the life of society for the better. They not only improved health but also made everyday life more enjoyable.
At the same time, these improvements also had a direct positive impact on working conditions. While steam engines have made them lighter and more varied, new technologies introduced by manufacturing have improved other aspects. Laborers were often exposed to “bad air quality, deafening noise, poor lighting, cramped conditions, lack of sanitation and resultant disease” (Martello). Innovation has partially eliminated these factors by providing direct solutions for them through mass-produced goods. In particular, hazardous equipment could often cause injury and mutilations, which have also been modified by new technologies (Martello). Equipment became safer everywhere and also replaced laborers in the most hazardous work activities. Taken together with improved hygiene conditions and a decrease in the influence of unfavorable environmental factors, these aspects significantly increased labor safety.
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The increased pace of development also affected demographic indicators, which later became the basis for further improvements. In particular, better living conditions and economic opportunities have greatly helped in removing barriers to population growth (Martello). New technologies were also introduced in farming, which resulted in an increase in the amount of food produced, which also accelerated population growth (Martello). This process has led to a global demographic transformation with incredible population growth all over the planet. An increase in the number of human resources is the main factor in the subsequent development of the world economy and production.
The combination of factors contributed to the rapid growth of development in all spheres of both society and the economy. In particular, the production and transport infrastructure has been greatly improved. This was primarily made possible by the increased reserves of natural resources that were effectively exploited, including waterpower and coal (Martello). The production and use of these resources required extensive transport networks, and in particular, “turnpike roads and water transport” (Martello). The improved transport infrastructure became the basis for further economic development. Together with other significant aspects of the development of society in the course of the Industrial Revolution, such changes have become a critical point in the history of humankind.
Potential Negative Effects
All of these positive factors could also lead to less obvious negative aspects. For example, rapid population growth has stimulated relocation to cities, which could potentially worsen both living conditions and hygiene. Additionally, increased economic opportunities combined with a large number of people could result in creating pressure on people. In particular, earnings have become dependent on the skills and abilities of workers, as manual labor has become much less common. This factor could become a reason for the development of greater inequality in society, as well as a decrease in the well-being of some strata. It is also important that the rapid development of production was associated with a rise in the number of factories and the demand for laborers. This aspect could be the reason for more active involvement in work, for example, for children and adolescents. Finally, the increased use of coal and other natural resources to support production has had a negative impact on the environment. However, these factors are an inevitable consequence of the more significant positive influence of the Industrial Revolution.
The Industrial Revolution brought changes to all spheres of society. This process has largely positively influenced economic development, living and working conditions, as well as production and infrastructure. The Industrial Revolution and the proliferation of the steam engine have brought many innovative products to the public. It is also important that the demand and production of resources for manufacturing increase, which also stimulates economic and labor opportunities. Finally, rapid population growth was possible, as well as improved health and living standards. Thus, in general, the industrial revolution has had a significant impact on global development.
Farr, James R. Industrial Revolution in Europe (1750-1914) (World Eras, 9). Gale, 2002.
Martello, Robert. Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics (Vol. 2). Gale, 2005.
Outman, James L., et al. Industrial Revolution Reference Library: Primary Sources. U-X-L, 2003.
Stearns, Peter N. “A Happy History?” The Historian, vol. 81, no. 4, 2009, pp. 613-626.