The Industrial Revolution marked a change in production processes. It occurred between 1760 and 1840s (Weightman 7). The Industrial Revolution involved changes from the use of human power for production to machines, new methods of producing iron, chemicals, developments in generating water and steam power, and improvements in machine tools.1
Coal became the main source of energy during this period. The Industrial Revolution started in Britain and later spread to other parts of Europe and the US. This transition marked a turning point in the history of man because it later influenced every aspect of man’s life in terms of population growths and changes in living standards.
There are various reasons to explain why the Industrial Revolution began in Britain. First, Britain had natural resources needed to power machines for industrialization. These resources included iron, wool, and coal. Generally, Britain had coal, which provided energy for machines (Wrigley 211). Iron was useful in building machines while wool acted as a raw material for thread and textile industries. At the same time, these resources were close to ports and waterways. These locations enhanced fast movements of resources to factories.
Availability of laborers facilitated the Industrial Revolution. Factory owners offered high wages. Consequently, most people pursued factory jobs. Large populations provided the needed labor to operate machines.
Most factory workers specialized in their areas of productions. As a result, they became productive. This was the idea of specialization in production, which enhanced production in the textile industry. Specialization in labor facilitated mass production of goods in Britain for both local and overseas markets.
Some scholars argued that apart from abundant resources in England, geographical location of England also facilitated the Industrial Revolution (Mooney 51). The location of Britain along many ports, rivers, and waterways enabled easy transportation of resources to factories. Waterways reduced transportation time and costs of materials to factories. 2
The railroad enhanced movements of resources and finished products to various destinations. It reduced costs and uncertainty associated with the land transport. Before the invention of railroads, Britain had small markets due to barriers of costs of freight. However, the railroad opened new markets for traders. Large markets resulted into massive production and factories adopted superior machines. As a result, factories could make goods cheaply and meet the needs of the growing populations.
Scientific discoveries or innovations
Britain had many thinkers and innovators. They were able to communicate their new ideas and discoveries of machines and new methods of farming. However, new inventions faced challenges from uneducated or unskilled laborers. Innovators relied on their colleagues for advancing their ideas. Some of the outstanding inventions of the time included the following. Flying shuttle improved the speed of weaving cotton. As a result, production of cotton increased. Spinning jenny improved production of fabric materials from woven cotton.
It led to the development of cottage industries at homes. Water frame powered a spinning machine. It reduced the amount of time required to spin a machine, as well as the cost of spinning. This is because the invention reduced the amount of time and labor for spinning the thread. Another invention in Britain that facilitated the Industrial Revolution was the power loom. It used water as a source of power. This reduced the need for human labor and costs. It also increased the speed of weaving and cloth production.
The machine performed better than human labor. Finally, the cotton gin enhanced cotton harvesting. This was an American invention. It reduced the time consumed to separate seeds from the cotton (Rosen 149). Cotton gin enabled farmers to produce cheap cotton for cloth production. Therefore, we can see how cases of inventions facilitated the Industrial Revolution in Britain. These inventions were the root of textile mills in Britain.3
Changes in farming methods and expansion of markets
Britain also had significant improvements in areas of agriculture. For instance, Britain engaged in stockbreeding, which improved farm produce like meat, wool, and milk. These resources were necessary for feeding and clothing a growing population.
There was a horse-drawn seed drill, which planted seeds in rows. It reduced the need for human labor during planting and harvesting. It also ensured that harvesting of crops became easier.
Farmers adopted enclosure systems, rotational farming methods, new crops, and they divided farms for effective and efficient utilization. The enclosure system ensured that there was adequate supply of the labor force to both farms and emerging factories. This increased food production and reduced the cost of producing food. In addition, the government did not interfere with land consolidation conducted by farmers.
The agricultural revolution of Britain occurred in 17th century. Farmers became productive and improved their farming techniques by embracing new techniques of farming. They introduced new grains and vegetables supported with manure and fertilizer. English farmers viewed farming as science, which resulted in high productions of food for feeding the growing population.
Political stability in Britain facilitated the Industrial Revolution. Britain also lacked internal tariffs. England had economic freedom, which was not available in other European countries like Germany and France. The government did not impose strict regulations to control movements of goods. This facilitated industrialization. The country also had a functional central bank with favorable credit conditions.
Britain also had both domestic and overseas markets from its colonies. Scholars claim that the Great Britain had significant advantages over other countries. The Great Britain had support from its colonies and overseas in terms of financial and natural resources. They also claimed that Britain benefited from the slave trade from Africa and Caribbean. Studies have shown that contribution of slavery to the Great Britain economic profits was minimal. However, the demand from Caribbean accounted for “12 percent of the Britain’s industrial output” (Rosen 149).
These were ideal for manufactured goods. Many people in Britain were able to afford products they wanted. This is because disposable income increased among the working class. The purchasing power of this class increased the rate of the Industrial Revolution. Business expanded, and many people got jobs. As a result, majority had money to spend.
Britain also had a large number of entrepreneurs, who knew how to manage business. They made huge profits and expanded their factories, improved working conditions and ventured into new markets. In 1700s, entrepreneurs of Britain aimed at making money.
We can see that the Industrial Revolution led to high production of goods with low prices. Consequently, majorities in Britain did not have to spend most of their earnings on food, but could buy other goods too.
The main features of the Industrial Revolution were transformations that took place in “agriculture, communications, transportation, and technology” (Allen 133). These changes made Britain the first industrialized nation in the world. Historians have acknowledged these facts. However, some argued that cultural reasons also contributed the Industrial Revolution in Britain. They noted that the Industrial Revolution was a spontaneous and unplanned change, but there were men who wanted such changes to take place based on their inventions and discoveries. They saw both opportunities in technology and growth in profits from such changes. This meant that the Britons were commercial people with strong cultural attributes to entrepreneurship. This culture of entrepreneurship enabled the English to make and reinvest money in new ventures.
Importance of the Industrial Revolution to the Great Britain and the Global Community and Effects of Industrialization on the Global Community
The Industrial Revolution in Britain had significant impacts on human history.4
Standards of living
The Industrial Revolution led to increase in living standards among the upper class. However, some scholars noted that majorities of people who were laborers experienced reductions in living standards. However, there were changes based on improvements on wages of workers.
Food and nutrition
Before the Industrial Revolution in Britain, hunger was the norm in Europe. However, the revolution in agriculture led to increased yields and production of food. As a result, prices of food decreased, and majorities were able to afford food. Transportation systems also facilitated movements of farm produce.
The Industrial Revolution resulted into environmental problems and densely populated areas. The living standards differ considerably from poor conditions of the poor masses to luxury of the upper class. Poor living conditions among the masses led to spread of diseases.
However, the introduction of public health acts in the 19th century changed the living conditions of many people by improving water supply, hygiene, and sewage systems. Children died from communicable diseases, but health conditions improved during 19th century.
Increased manufactured goods and clothing
Majorities had disposable incomes during increased wages. As a result, they were able to afford manufactured goods and clothing.
The Industrial Revolution led to population explosion in Britain. This was due to abundance of food and improved living standards of the masses. There was a large middle class, which consisted of professionals.
Social structures changed in Britain. The middle class grew and overtook the property owners. Many people found employment opportunities in new factories. However, the working conditions remained poor due to long hours of labor. Poor working conditions existed even before the Industrial Revolution.
Industries and urbanization
New discoveries and inventions led to the creation of new industries. These developments replaced cottage industries and human energy. The rise in industries also led to growth of cities to accommodate factory workers.
Developments in technology and machines led to increased production of manufactured goods for mass markets. Industrialization faced challenges from a protesting group known as Luddites, who often protested and sabotaged industries.
The Industrial Revolution resulted into job loss among many people. The first people to lose their jobs were textile workers. These people were not able to compete with new machines. The machines needed few workers to operate them and produce more goods than human laborers. As a result, most people who lost their jobs to machines embarked on destroying machines and industries. The government controlled these individuals through laws and forceful transportation.
The industrial unrest in Britain spread to other areas like agricultural sector. Burning activities became popular among protesters. Such protests led to the formation of trade unions to protect interests of workers.
The Industrial Revolution led to growth in factories. At the same time, there was population increase in industrial cities. However, children suffered most in these conditions. Most industrialists and employers considered children as potential sources of labor. Employers could pay low wages for children than adults for the same amount of work.
Education was rare in during the Industrial Revolution, and society expected children to work in industries and farms. Experience was not necessary because machines were new. As a result, child labor became the best option for many employers.5 In fact, the population of children in industries as workers exceeded that of adults by 1788.
We have to recognize that child labor existed before the Industrial Revolution. However, it gained momentum during the Industrial Revolution due to increased demands for labor. The Industrial Revolution led to deplorable working conditions for children. Working conditions remained risky for both adults and children.
Following a public outcry, the government banned child labor in factories. This marked the beginning of eliminating child labor in factories. However, employers resisted any attempts to ban child labor. They argued that employing children reduced cases of starvation and helped the poor to buy food.
The Industrial Revolution also had global impacts. For instance, the evolution of modern factories in most countries of the world has led to rise in cities and increase in populations. Most emerging economies are experiencing what happened in Britain between 18th and 19th century. Emergence of opportunities led to migration to cities.
The Industrial Revolution led to knowledge transfer throughout the world. First, workers moved from one farm or factory to another. Second, other interested parties took study tours of factories and farms where they gathered information they needed for their new ventures. Study tours were the most common forms of knowledge transfer during the Industrial Revolution. These people also had travel diaries for comparison. In the US and the Great Britain, entrepreneurs took personal initiatives to make such tours and learn new ideas.
The Industrial Revolution brought major changes in the global community (Stearns 289).6 For instance, goods from Britain found their ways in different parts of the world. The export and import markets created jobs for many people. It also enhanced adoption of new ways of production and farming from Britain. This was also the beginning of the spread of education and knowledge across the world.
The Industrial Revolution also had effects on old views and ideas. Countries that were colonies of the Great Britain maintained their ties through trade and adopted Britain’s ways of production and farming.
Many historians believe the Industrial Revolution had significant impacts on the global community. Most claim that the Industrial Revolution had an important role in shaping today’s global community. The Industrial Revolution transformed key areas in the world history through technology and inventions. It was responsible for the economic boom of some countries that conducted export and import business with the Great Britain and the rest of Europe.
We have to note that the Industrial Revolution had credible impacts on production, agriculture, transport, and communication systems. These impacts had effects on the masses, including children. In addition, we still have effects of the Industrial Revolution in modern society around the world.
Allen, Robert. The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective: New Approaches to Economic and Social History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Print.
Mooney, Carla. The Industrial Revolution: Investigate How Science and Technology Changed the World with 25 Projects. Chicago: Nomad Press, 2011. Print.
Rosen, William. The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry and Invention. Chicago: University Of Chicago, 2010. Print.
Stearns, Peter. The Industrial Revolution in World History. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2012. Print.
Weightman, Gavin. Industrial Revolutionaries: The Making of the Modern World 1776- 1914. New York: Grove Press, 2009. Print.
Wrigley, Edward. Energy and the English Industrial Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print.
- Most scholars note these changes as the major transformation in the Industrial Revolution. See Weightman (2009) views on the subject.
- Mooney (2011) shows how 25 inventions in science and technology transformed the world.
- Invention in industries and steam power were significant during the Industrial Revolution. See Rosen’s discussion on great inventions (p. 149).
- Scholars acknowledge various social impacts of the Industrial Revolution in Britain and around the globe. See Allen (2009) for further analysis.
- Child labor became a major problem during the Industrial Revolution in Britain, and it is still a problem in emerging economies. See earlier works by Douglas A. Galbi on child labor during the Industrial Revolution
- Most scholars concur on the major impacts of the Industrial Revolution in the global community. See Sterns (2012) for the position of the Industrial Revolution in the world history.