. What are three historical developments or events that are essential for explaining the Industrial Revolution? In other words, what three “things” made the industrial revolution possible?
The industrial revolution changed the world forever. Moving from agrarian existence to industries created more wealth for people and grew nations like Britain. However, the revolution was a culmination of political, socio-economic, and technological factors. The industrial revolution was possible due to technological advances, social-economic changes that created capitalism and class changes, and the political factors like the slave trade.
Technological advancements in the textile, mining, and transportation industries significantly influenced the revolution. Before machines, people worked from home and mass-produced items like clothes from their yards. However, inventions made large scale production away from home possible. Noteworthy inventions like the steam-powered cloth weaver and the cotton gin were used in the textile industry (Sherry “week 5.2” 11). Equally, the steam engine was introduced, leading to the creation of coal machines in factories and transportation.The advances resulted in the growth of factories. In Manchester, there were numerous cotton factories, which extensively used the devices. Comparatively, the steam engine availed a source of energy in transportation and factory machinery. People no longer relied on horse-drawn carts or sea vessels to transport their products. The popularity of the steam engine and other machines prompted the growth of the iron industry as the majority of these technologies relied on iron. Technology promoted mass production and the growth of factories, which drew many people from low-scale manufacturing and an agrarian lifestyle.
Social-economic factors prompted the revolution. Many people immigrated to big towns like New York to find employment in the factories (Sherry “Week 5.2” 13). From the large number of immigrants, factory owners found reliable and cheap labor. Comparatively, child labor in industries was introduced especially in textile industries in Britain. There are sordid accounts of children in John Fielden’s report on factory conditions of children, which states that they worked very long hours and were severely punished (Scott and Baltzly). The cheap labor meant enormous profits for the factory owners, who expanded their fortunes in industries, promoting industrialization. By keeping wages and employee maintenance at a minimum, the factory owners exploited workers and used their wealth in growing other industries.
A new economic system changed the social structure of society. Instead of a feudal society, capitalism and mercantilism grew to empower the revolution (Sherry “Week 2” 4). Through capitalism, people created inventions like the steam engine to create fortunes. Moreover, factory owners in popular industries gained wealth through mass production and labor exploitation. Those stuck in agrarian activities became poor, and their regions were underdeveloped. The newly wealthy group used their financial capabilities to grab power from the old regime and retain control of the economic changes caused by the revolution (4). The revolution disrupted the social structure by shifting the economic power from the aristocrats to merchants.
Politics influenced the industrial revolution. Slave trade facilitated the industrial revolution. Slaves were acquired through the Trans-Atlantic slave trade involving Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean (Sherry “Week 3” 12). The slaves were very cheap labor to these bankrupt nations. Through their efforts, Europeans were able to grow and export cash crops like tobacco, rice, sugar, and cotton. Consequently, the slave master became very rich and began investing in technologies. Through slavery, the arms and transportation industries grew. More gun powder and ships were made to acquire and control the slaves. Eventually, more improvements like cotton machines ensued.Without the slave trade, western nations would not have seen the need to advance technology nor had the funds to invest in creating machines that led to the industrial revolution.
Britain’s law to contain industrialization instead fueled industrialization in other countries. Britain had prohibited the exportation of its technologies or skilled workers to other nations, which proved counterproductive. Industrialization still expanded to other nations like the USA, France, and Germany. Evidence of industrialization in other nations is recorded in Friedrich Engel’s work. The German wealthy were behaving like their English counterparts in oppressing their factory workers (Engels 177). Other countries like the USA and Germany experienced the revolution because of leaked information and technologies by the British.
The industrial revolution was possible due to technological advances, social-economic changes that created capitalism and class changes, and the political factors like slave trade. Through technology, machines like the steam engine were used in the production process. Comparatively, the socio-economic factors were instrumental. Immigrants and children availed cheap and ready labor, which merchants exploited and grew their wealth. Similarly, capitalism encouraged people to invent machines that would make them wealthy. Politically, the slave trade availed money that was used in industrial growth. Again, Britain’s attempts to withhold the revolution made it grow even further. The industrial revolution would have been unsuccessful without technology, social, and political activities.
Engels, Friedrich. Condition of the Working Class in England. Leipzig, 1845. Retrieved Form https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/condition-working-class-england.pdf
Scott, Jonathan and AlexanderBaltzly.The Life of the Industrial Worker in Nineteenth-Century England- Evidence Given Before the Sadler Committee (1831-1832) Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1930. Retrieved From http://www.victorianweb.org/history/workers1.html
Sherry, Jonathan. Week 2: Revolution & Marxism in the 19th century. Course Material.
Sherry, Jonathan. Week 5.2:The Industrial Revolution and its Discontents. Course Material.
Sherry, Jonathan. Week 3: The “New World,” the Atlantic Slave Trade, and the Origins of Capitalism (15th -18th C). Course Material.
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