Hertfordshire

 Cuffley Industrial Heritage Society

Next page  
Home About Us Gallery Society Trips Contact Us

Hertfordshire

Next page   Previous  


Essay about the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial revolution was a time of drastic change and transformation from hand tools, and hand made items to machine manufactured and mass produced goods. This change generally helped life, but also hindered it as well. Pollution, such as co2 levels in the atmosphere rose, working conditions declined, and the number of women and children working increased. The government, the arts, literature, music and architecture and man's way of looking at life all changed during the period. Two revolutions took place, both resulting in productive but also dire consequences.

Before the first industrial revolution, England's economy was based on its cottage industry.  Workers would buy raw materials from merchants, take it back to their cottages, hence the name, and produce the goods at their home. It was usually was owned and managed by one or more people, who were generally close to the workers. There was a good worker/boss relationship, which was demolished and destroyed by capitalism. This industry was efficient but the workers, productivity was low, making costs higher. The longer it took one person to manufacture a product, the higher the price. Subsequently, goods were high in price and exclusive only to the wealthy people.

The year was 1733, the demand for cotton cloth was high, but production was low. This crisis had to be solved or England's economy would be hindered. The answer came from a British weaver, John Kay, who invented and fashioned the flying shuttle, which cut weaving time in half. John Kay was a pioneer and his invention paved the way for numerous inventors. Although at first, many workers didn't accept machines, in fact, many inventions were destroyed, but what was inevitable, couldn't be stopped. The machines had made their way to England, and nothing could stop them.

By the 1750's, the industrial Revolution had begun. At first, inventions were strictly limited to cotton weaving. Inventions such as the spinning jenny and the water-powered frame, both of which provided spinning yarn faster, the spinning mule, the power loom and the cotton gin, all helped the manufacture of cotton goods by speeding up the process. Mass production had begun, along with capitalism. Capitalist, people who have their own materials, money and space, bought many machines and stored them in a factory, where hired people worked the whole day manufacturing goods. The factory system had replaced the cottage industry. Mass production made usually expensive items, such as shoes, less expensive and easily affordable by lower class and less wealthy people. The quality of life had improved. In the 1800's, inventions weren't just limited to the cotton industry. Steam engines were invented, providing a faster mode of transportation, instead of the use of horses and carriages. With steam engines, cities were able to move farther away from rivers and sources of water, to start cities.

The second Industrial revolution proved more drastic, not only in inventions, but in social and government policies and reforms. Art and culture flourished and was transformed into many different and unique styles. The first industrial revolution had forever changed England, and later the world. England was now ready for another change, as life with machinery had already been assimilated into society.

The second industrial revolution utilized the power of electricity to help them develop their technology and help social and home life. Michael Faraday, a British scientist, demonstrated how an electric current could be made. This concept and principle is still in use today. Electricity improved life by supplying people with light, and electricity to power machines. Communications improved as a result of electricity. The telephone and telegraph were the first communicational devices that were for public use. With the development of technology, radio waves were discovered. Now messages could be sent over long distances in virtually no time.

Advances in Science were also made. The discovery of radioactivity by Marie Curie helped discover radioactivity as power source, but also led to the discovery of the nuclear bomb. During the 1800's over 70,000 chemical compounds were broken down. Some of these were Portland cement, vulcanised rubber, synthetic dyes, and petroleum products. Petroleum begun to be widely used as an alternate energy source. Gasoline was also needed for transportation also changed from steam engines to the internal combustion engine. The internal combustion engine made transportation faster and less public. A person could own a car instead of using public transportation. During this time, a new technology was born in the field of transportation. Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully completed the first airplane flight at Kitty Hawk. The air plane industry was born.

Medicine before the 1750's and in the 1750's wasn't well developed. Once infection set in, nothing was possible to save the patient. Various diseases couldn't be stopped or controlled because of limited technology. In the 1850's however, vaccinations were discovered and administered. X rays were also discovered and provided doctors with a faster way of diagnosing medical problems. Louis Pasteur discovered and fabricated a way to eliminate all germs in milk. Called pasteurisation, this technique is now widely used on all milk. The technique involves heating the milk to slow the fermentation process.

Darwin was a naturalist who devised the theory of evolution. It stated that all animals and plants evolution from a lower species. He also developed the concept of Social Darwinism that the strongest survive. Many people contested his ideas and argued against them.

Life was drastically changed during the industrial revolution. People were living in germ infested, crowded and very unhealthy conditions, much like their place of work. Children and women laboured in harsh conditions, working long hours with little pay. The British Parliament stepped in and limited and controlled child labour. This sparked a rebellion. People, especially wealthy capitalists, wanted the government to stay out of its issues, called the laissez-faire system. Many people opposed the laissez-faire system, saying the capitalists would gain too much power and people would be mistreated. The laissez-faire system was disregarded after a few years.

Art changed with the different ideas of social Darwinism, the laissez-faire system and the industrial revolution. Romanticism painted emotions that they had no control over, such as love, religion, and beauty. It showed more of how people look at one moment in time. Realism tried to capture what was really happening, all the sadness and tried to make people work to change what was happening.

Socialists were reformers who wanted to construct a better life for all people. Among them, Robert Owen, an owner of a textile mill, whose reforms reshaped the working class. He raised pay, improved working conditions, and didn't allow children under 11 to work. Directly related to Owens reforms, crime and disease rates dropped and life improved. Marx, also a socialist, stated the class struggle, the conflict between the different classes of people, had an impact on the changes that occur in history.

The Industrial revolution brought on more technology, wealth and power, but at what consequence? The people were living in filth, working unthinkable hours and being paid very little. The revolution shaped modern society to what it is today. As Rousseau said, "Civilization spoils people," but did people spoil civilization by implementing machines to do our work?


Return to home page



Essay on the Industrial Revolution