The Industrial Revolution is the name given to the movement in which machines changed people’s way of life as well as their methods of manufacture. About the time of the American Revolution, English People began to use machines to make cloth and steam engines to run the machines. Sometime later they invented locomotives. Productivity began a steep climb. By 1850 most Englishmen were laboring in industrial towns and Great Britain had become the workshop of the world. From Britain the Industrial Revolution spread gradually throughout Europe and to the United States.
The most important of the changes that the Industrial Revolution brought were:
1. The invention of machines to do the work of hand tools.
2. The use of steam, and later of other kinds of power, in place of the muscles.
3. The adoption of the factory system.
The Industrial Revolution came gradually. However, when measured against the centuries people had worked entirely by hand, it happened in a short span of time. Until the inventions of the flying shuttle in 1733 and the spinning jenny in 1764, the making of yarn and the weaving of cloth had been much the same for thousands of years. By 1800 a host of new and faster processes were in use in both manufacture and transportation.
Several systems of making goods had grown up by the time of the Industrial Revolution. In country districts families produced most of the supplies that they used, while in the cities merchandise was made in shops, and manufacturing was strictly regulated by the guilds and by the government. The goods made in these shops were limited and costly. The merchants needed cheaper items, as well as larger quantities, for their growing trade. They had to establish another system of producing goods. The cottage or domestic industry filled in the gap for some time, because it gave the merchant a large supply of manufactured articles at a low price. It provided employment for every member of a craft worker’s family and gave jobs to skilled workers who had no capital to start businesses for themselves. A few merchants who had enough capital had gone a step further. They brought workers together under one roof and supplied machines. These establishments were factories.
After centuries of the craft guilds and the government having controlled commerce and industry, began the belief that it was better to let business be regulated by the free play of supply and demand rather than by laws The English government started to leave business free to adopt the new inventions and the methods of production which were best suited to them.
The new methods increased the amount of goods produced and decreased the cost. British merchants no longer found it a problem to obtain enough goods to supply their markets and, at times, the markets were flooded with more goods than could be sold.
As conditions in industry changed, social and political conditions changed with them. Cities grew rapidly, and the percentage of farmers in the total population declined.
A person had to have a lot of capital to buy machines and open a factory. The men who controlled these enterprises formed a powerful new class in England called industrial capitalists. Due to the “laissez-faire, factory owners could arrange working conditions in whatever way they pleased. Grave difficulties arose for the workers. They had problems with working hours, wages, unemployment, accidents, employment of women and children, and housing conditions. The revolution began in England for various reasons. English merchants were leaders in developing a commerce. There also were new ideas in England which aided the movement, such as the growing interest in scientific investigation and invention. Another was the doctrine of “laissez-faire”, or letting business alone. It was especially popular after Adam Smith’s demanded it in “The Wealth of Nations” (1776).
The Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution.
The Liberalism and the Capitalism are fed by Individualism. For instance, a free market requires openness in which people sell and people buy. The free trade is a Liberal idea, an idea of the eighteenth century.
The work in the factories changes from collective, as it used to be in the farms and in the villages, into individual. Individualism is a major Icon of the Enlightenment.
Technology relates directly to progress, which is another Enlightenment Icon. The Industrial Revolution is technology – from machines to methods to factories. They all show technological progress, higher efficiency and effectiveness. The western man has proved to be capable of better technologies, and has shown the courage to think – Sapere Aude.
Bourgeoisie – a French word originally denoting the class of people between the aristocracy and the peasants, or the middle class. In the Industrial Revolution, the word has come to mean those who own the means of production, the wealth and the power. The distinction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat is fundamental to Marxism
Absolutism – a political system that gathers power in the hands of one person or a group of persons who have almost unlimited authority. The notion of absolutism became prominent in Europe during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries when monarchs were struggling to wrest power from groups such as the church and the nobility and to create national states.
Mercantilism – an economic policy of the commercial age preceding the Industrial Revolution. Mercantilists believed that a country’s exports were one measure of its strength and that economic success could be judged by the influx of gold, silver, and other precious metals from abroad. Gold and silver could be used to purchase military supplies, which provided a further reason for acquiring them.
Liberalism – a political philosophy that emphasizes individual freedom, arose in Europe in the period between the Reformation and the French Revolution. The new liberal order – drawing on Enlightenment thought – placed human beings rather than God at the center of things.