|The Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution may be defined as the application of
power-driven machinery to manufacturing. It had its beginning in remote
times, and is still continuing in some places. In the eighteenth century
all of western Europe began to industrialize rapidly, but in England the
process was most highly accelerated. England's head start may be
attributed to the emergence of a number of simultaneous factors.
Britain had burned up her magnificent oak forests in its fireplaces, but
large deposits of coal were still available for industrial fuel. There
was an abundant labor supply to mine coal and iron, and to man the
factories. From the old commercial empire there remained a fleet, and
England still possessed colonies to furnish raw materials and act as
captive markets for manufactured goods. Tobacco merchants of Glasgow and
tea merchants of London and Bristol had capital to invest and the
technical know-how derived from the Scientific Revolution of the
seventeenth century. Last, but not least important, the insularity of
England saved industrial development from being interrupted by war. Soon
all western Europe was more or less industrialized, and the coming of
electricity and cheap steel after 1850 further speeded the process.
I. The Agricultural Revolution
• The English countryside was transformed between 1760 and 1830 as the
open-field system of cultivation gave way to compact farms and enclosed
fields. The rotation of nitrogen-fixing and cereal crops obviated the
necessity of leaving a third or half the land fallow each planting.
Another feature of the new farming was the cultivation of turnips and
potatoes. Jethro Tull (1674-1741) and Lord Townshend popularized the
importance of root crops. Tull's most original contributions were the
seed drill and horse hoe. The seed drill allowed a much greater
proportion of the seed to germinate by planting it below the surface of
the ground out of reach of the birds and wind. ''Turnip'' Townshend was
famous for his cultivation of turnips and clover on his estate of
Raynham in Norfolk.
By the beginning of the eighteenth century in England, the use of
machines in manufacturing was already widespread. In 1762 Matthew
Boulton built a factory which employed more than six hundred workers,
and installed a steam engine to supplement power from two large
waterwheels which ran a variety of lathes and polishing and grinding
machines. In Staffordshire an industry developed which gave the world
good cheap pottery; chinaware brought in by the East India Company often
furnished a model. Josiah Wedgewood (1730-1795) was one of those who
revolutionized the production and sale of pottery. From 1700 on, the
Staffordshire potters used waterwheels or windmills to turn machines
which ground and mixed their materials. After 1850 machinery was used
extensively in the pottery-making process. The price of crockery fell,
and eating and drinking consequently became more hygienic.
The textile industry had some special problems. It took four spinners to
keep up with one cotton loom, and ten persons to prepare yarn for one
woolen weaver. Spinners were busy, but weavers often had to be idle for
lack of yarn. In 1733 John Kay, a Lancashire mechanic, patented his
flying shuttle. Weaving could then be done more quickly, but it still
was delayed until yarn was available in more abundance. In 1771 Richard
Arkwright's ''water frame'' was producing yarn. About the same time,
James Hargreaves (d. 1778) patented a spinning jenny on which one
operator could spin many threads simultaneously. Then in 1779 Samuel
Crompton combined the jenny and the water frame in a machine known as
''Crompton's mule,'' which produced quantities of fine, strong yarn. The
yarn famine had come to an end.
Between 1780 and 1860 other textile processes were mechanized. In 1784 a
machine was patented which printed patterns on the surface of cotton or
linen by means of rollers. In 1894 Northrup produced an automatic loom,
and when the power loom became efficient, women replaced men as weavers,
although there were still hand weavers in the paisley shawl trade as
late as 1850. By 1812 the cost of making cotton yarn had dropped
nine-tenths, and by 1800 the number of workers needed to turn wool into
yarn had been reduced by four-fifths. And by 1840 the labor cost of
making the best woolen cloth had fallen by at least half.
A. The Steam Engine
The steam engine provided a landmark in the industrial development of
Europe. The first modern steam engine was built by an engineer, Thomas
Newcomen, in 1705 to improve the pumping equipment used to eliminate
seepage in tin and copper mines. Newcomen's idea was to put a vertical
piston and cylinder at the end of a pump handle. He put steam in the
cylinder and then condensed it with a spray of cold water; the vacuum
created allowed atmospheric pressure to push the piston down. In 1763
James watt, an instrument-maker for Glasgow University, began to make
improvements on Newcomen's engine. He made it a reciprocating engine,
thus changing it from an atmospheric to a true "steam engine." He also
added a crank and flywheel to provide rotary motion.
In 1774 the industrialist Michael Boulton took Watt into partnership,
and their firm produced nearly five hundred engines before Watt's patent
expired in 1800. Water power continued in use, but the factory was now
liberated from the streamside. A Watt engine drove Robert Fulton's
experimental steam vessel Clermont up the Hudson in 1807.
B. Electric Power
It was not until 1873 that a dynamo capable of prolonged operation was
developed, but as early as 1831 Michael Faraday demonstrated how
electricity could be mechanically produced. Through the nineteenth
century the use of electric power was limited by small productive
capacity, short transmission lines, and high cost. Up to 1900 the only
cheap electricity was that produced by generators making use of falling
water in the mountains of southeastern France and northern Italy. Italy,
without coal resources, soon had electricity in every village north of
Rome. Electric current ran Italian textile looms and, eventually,
automobile factories. As early as 1890 Florence boasted the world's
first electric streetcar.
The electrification of Europe proceeded apace in the twentieth century.
Russia harnessed the Dneiper River and the Irish Free State built power
plants on the River Shannon. Germany was supplied with electricity in
the 1920's, and by 1936 Great Britain had built an ''electric grid''
completely covering the country. Electricity was a major factor in the
phenomenally rapid industrialization of Russia in the 1930's.
The coming of the railroads greatly facilitated the industrialization of
Europe. At mid.eighteenth century the plate or rail track had been in
common use for moving coal from the pithead to the colliery or furnace.
After 1800 flat tracks were in use outside London, Sheffield, and
Munich. With the expansion of commerce, facilities for the movement of
goods from the factory to the ports or cities came into pressing demand.
In 1801 Richard Trevithick had an engine pulling trucks around the mine
where he worked in Cornwall. By 1830 a railway was opened from Liverpool
to Manchester; and on this line George Stephenson's ''Rocket'' pulled a
train of cars at fourteen miles an hour.
The big railway boom in Britain came in the years 1844 to 1847. The
railway builders had to fight vested interests-for example, canal
stockholders, turnpike trusts, and horse breeders-but by 1850, aided by
cheap iron and better machine tools, a network of railways had been
built. By midcentury railroad trains travelling at thirty to fifty miles
an hour were not uncommon, and freight steadily became more important
than passengers. After 1850 in England the state had to intervene to
regulate what amounted to a monopoly of inland transport. But as time
went on the British railways developed problems. The First World War
(1914-1918) found them suffering from overcapitalization, rising costs,
and state regulation.
British success with steam locomotion, however, was enough to encourage
the building of railroads in most European countries, often with British
capital, equipment, and technicians. Railroads became a standard item of
British export. After 1842 France began a railroad system which combined
private and public enterprise. The government provided the roadbed and
then leased it to a private company which provided the equipment. In
Russia, Canada, and the United States, railways served to link
communities separated by vast distances. In Germany there were no vast
empty spaces, but railroads did help to affect political and economic
D. Advances in Transportation
The internal combustion engine was developed in Europe before 1900, but
in the American automobile it came into its own. By mid-twentieth
century, middle-class and working-class people owned automobiles in
Europe as well as in the United States, and the motorcar began to
transform social patterns. It has been said with some truth that
Americans in the twentieth century carried on a love affair with their
automobiles; certainly motorcars were marketed as sex and status
symbols. But at the same time, the growth of the automobile industry
created large fields for investment, produced new types of service
occupations, and revolutionized road-making. This was true in western
Europe as well as in America after the Second World War.
The First World War saw the beginning of commercial aviation. Germany's
geographical position and the ban on military aircraft imposed by the
peace treaty led to the development of civilian airlines. By 1929
commercial planes were flying out of the European capitals to all
important places on the globe. And the day was not far off when
airplanes were to eclipse railroad trains as commercial passenger
E. The Steamship
At the beginning of the nineteenth century the steam-driven ship
appeared on the horizon. From 1770 onward various men had experimented
with engines in boats in England, Scotland, and the United States. When
Robert Fulton's Clermont travelled up the Hudson to Albany, tradition
has it, people on the bank seeing the sparks from the smokestack thought
the Devil had gone by on a raft. In 1811 Bell built the Comet and ran it
for eight years between Glasgow and a port twenty-five miles distant.
Two basic economic problems in connection with steam vessels soon came
to light. First, the self-propelled ship was more expensive to build and
operate than sailing vessels; and second, its boiler and machinery were
so bulky that there was little room left for passengers. The technical
problems were solved shortly, but the economic aspects took more time.
Yet the steamship had some undeniable advantages: lt could not be
becalmed, it was not helpless in a storm, and it could arrive and depart
under its own power. By the 1840's the North Atlantic was crossed
regularly by steamship.
In 1839 Sir Samuel Cunard secured from the British government a contract
to carry mails between Liverpool, Halifax, and Boston. The run was a
great success, and soon Cunard was operating a regular schedule. The
tremendous growth of steamship traffic in the last half of the
nineteenth century was accompanied by significant improvements in hull
design, engines, and fuel. By 1839 the propellor had replaced the paddle
wheel, steel replaced iron in the hull, and multi-cylinder engines
became available. After 1920 the diesel engine, much smaller and lighter
than a steam unit of equal power, marked another major changeover.
A penny post on all letters was inaugurated in Britain in 1840 after it
was discovered that handling, not the distance sent, was the critical
cost in delivering mall. All letters weighing a half-ounce or less could
be carried for an English penny (two cents). By 1875 the Universal
Postal Union had been established to facilitate the transmission of mail
between foreign countries. In 1871 telegraph cables reached from London
to Australia; massages could be flashed halfway around the globe in a
matter of minutes, speeding commercial transactions.
Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 transmitted the human voice over a wire,
although it was several decades before the telephone became popular. At
the end of the century the wireless telegraph became a standard safety
device on oceangoing vessels. Radio did not come until 1920; then it was
commercially exploited in America to a much greater extent than in
Europe. In Europe the broadcasting systems were either operated or
closely controlled by the state and did not carry commercial
advertising. The world continued to shrink at a great rate as new means
of transport and communication speeded the pace of life.
IV. Changing Social Patterns
The Industrial Revolution brought with it an increase in population and
urbanization, as well as new social classes. The increase in population
was nothing short of dramatic. England and Germany showed a growth rate
of something more than one percent annually; at this rate the population
would double in about seventy years. In the United States the increase
was more than three percent, which might have been disastrous had it not
been for a practically empty continent and fabulous natural resources.
Only the population of France tended to remain static after the
eighteenth century. The general population increase was aided by a
greater supply of food made available by the Agricultural Revolution,
and by the growth of medical science and public health measures which
decreased the death rate and added to the population base.
Until the Industrial Revolution, most of the world's population was
rural. However, by mid-nineteenth century, half of the English people
lived in cities, and by the end of the century, the same was true of
other European countries. Between 1800 and 1950 most large European
cities exhibited spectacular growth. At the beginning of the nineteenth
century there were scarcely two dozen cities in Europe with a population
of 100,000, but by 1900 there were more than 150 cities of this size.
The rise of great cities can be accounted for in various ways:
First, industrialization called for the concentration of a work force;
and indeed, the factories themselves were often located where coal or
some other essential material was available, as the Ruhr in Germany and
Lille in northern France.
Second, the necessity for marketing finished goods created great urban
centers where there was access to water or railways. Such was the case
with Liverpool, Hamburg, Marseilles, and New York.
And third, there was a natural tendency for established political
centers such as London, Paris, and Berlin to become centers fort he
banking and marketing functions of the new industrialism.
Rapid growth of the cities was not an unmixed blessing. The factory
towns of England tended to become rookeries of jerry-built tenements,
while the mining towns became long monotonous rows of company-built
cottages, furnishing minimal shelter and little more. The bad living
conditions in the towns can be traced to lack of good brick, the absence
of building codes, and the lack of machinery for public sanitation. But,
it must be added, they were also due to the factory owners' tendency to
regard laborers as commodities and not as a group of human beings.
In addition to a new factory-owning bourgeoisie, the Industrial
Revolution created a new working class. The new class of industrial
workers included all the men, women, and children laboring in the
textile mills, pottery works, and mines. Often skilled artisans found
themselves degraded to routine process laborers as machines began to
mass produce the products formerly made by hand. Generally speaking,
wages were low, hours were long, and working conditions unpleasant and
dangerous. The industrial workers had helped to pass the Reform Bill of
1832, but they had not been enfranchised by it.
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