The Industrial Revolution: What Led, And What’s Left

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Life, as we know it, is full of a vast amount of events that can affect us individually, and affect the world as a whole. Some events have higher impacts than others on a person, society, country, or even the whole world. In all times and places, these impactful events are bound to occur usually leaving a lasting memory or an actual tangible effect that mankind can touch and feel throughout its short-lived time on this planet. Incidents and occasions that occur and have a wider impact in the long-run are usually recorded by a portion of the individuals that lived to see it, or by those who took efforts with studies to deduce the said events. Events either current or past will always have an effect on individuals who’ll come after them for ages to come. Arguably, history does not matter, as it has no significance to the current civilizations who currently inhabit the countries and places it narrates stories about. Also, it might be deemed as boring or uninteresting to some people, who equally believe in its insignificance. However, history has a huge importance on each and every person’s life, as it helps them get educated on what they were and what they have become. In other words, history has a great job to not only teach mankind what it was in a sense of comparison but to also teach mankind how it came to this age. King (1963) believed that man is not a maker of history, but history is the maker of said man. The acknowledgement of great historical events helps us humans,, to understand, and to grasp the current outcomes we’re living, as some outcomes last to this day. Each civilization has its own stories to tell its multiple rising, and upcoming generations, which serves an agenda, and adds value to the generations being taught. Western history contains several stories and events that did not only have an impact on the western part of the world only but on the world as a whole.

A major event that took place in western history would be the industrial revolution. The Industrial Revolution took place between 1750 and 1848 in Europe. This revolution caused a major social, economic, and technological change in Europe. this shift in European society turned it from an agrarian-based economy to an industrial economy (Berndl et al., 2005). The feudalism at the time where only nobility could be in charge was replaced by capitalism. This social change took place in the 19th century in England, which had a massive supply of raw materials at the time; it slowly moved from the west to the east. The industrial revolution still has an impact on economic systems to this very day and has led man to divide between the pre-industrial world, and a post-industrial one. This economic, social, and technological revolution was the outcome of the change of several factors and the advancement of different fields. This said turn left a major mark in history and has several impacts on societies and economies of the world to this very day.

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The industrial revolution is not exactly the revolution people usually think of, although it was followed by a lot of uprisings in several parts of Europe. It was more about the enhancement and advancement of the economic system, society, and technology. To start off, the revolution was followed by major advancements which were very considerable at the time. This technological advancement was due to the several scientific discoveries that occurred in the 18th century. For instance, Britain’s wool and linen industry was categorized as a “cottage industry”, as linens used to be produced by people in tiny and multiple workshops (History.com Editors, 2009). With the industrial revolution and the multiple scientific discoveries, like the “Spinning Jenny” and the “Power loom”. These said machines gave producers multiple ways to mass-produce linens, cotton, wool, and even textiles. These new ways and methods of production lessened the need for more employees and even lessened the amount of time needed to produce certain commodities of the aforementioned type. This led to mass production, and a major increase in profit for the merchants and producers; also, it made Britain the starting point of the industrial revolution. Another advancement at the time was utilizing the steam in machinery. According to History.com Editors (2009), a very innovative invention at the time was the first prototype of the steam engine aka the “atmospheric steam engine” which was designed by Thomas Newcomen in the early 1700s, initially invented to be used to power machines that pump water out of mineshafts. Later in the 1760s James Watt a Scottish engineer added and implemented several enhancements and improvements to this machine, and in a manner upgraded it to produce more efficiently. With this major advancement, steam power spread wider all across a multitude of British industries including flour, paper, cotton mills, waterworks, iron works, distilleries, and canals. When all this very rapid advancement of new inventions took place, entrepreneurs at the time had access to huge amounts of capital and factors of production, which as mentioned made the production easier and widely cost efficient for them (Berndl et al., 2005). This increased access they had to these factories and capital, made regulations of free and open trade possible, and industrialists could be freed of all the regulations that were set at first by guilds i.e. the very powerful merchants and craftsmen. In addition, due to the expansion of production, and increase in resources transportation became easier than ever via rail roads. This revolution had a major impact on the discoveries of certain machinery and innovations that exist to this day like railroads and trains. It also empowered the freedom of the economy with several economists calling for a freer trade systems and discouraging the interference of the government in the work of individuals. One of the first economists that did not approve of the interference of governments in individual businesses like sales and purchases was Adam Smith. Smith (1776) believed in the invisible hand that would help regulate the way suppliers and consumers work at the time (as cited in Berndl et al., 2005). This motivation for a more independent and liberal economy empowered Europeans and several civilizations of the west to later fight for their democracy and freedom. However, this fighting came after a lot of socioeconomic tragedies and downfalls that took place within the industrial revolution. In other words, as beneficial as this change was to European society it brought several burdens with it later on.

The industrial revolution had a lot of perks from the side of the innovativeness of its technology. The revolution caused a lot of social, and economical changes. One very notable product of this revolution is the laissez-faire capitalist economical system that most countries still live by to this day. But, unfortunately the industrial revolution took a huge toll who lived in the midst of it all. The said reform caused a lot of damage to societies, families, and even a wide portion of individuals who belong to the working class. The working class at the time would be the typical people who work at the multitude of factories, and institutions for an amount of money that would seem very short when compared to what entrepreneurs and capitalist are making in profit from sales. The working class also lost a wide portion of its jobs and earnings of said jobs. But how would that be the case in the midst of innovation? Well to continue from where was left off, after the increasing the ability to transit and move around via railroad, now merchants could go beyond their local lands. With the aforementioned in mind, this meant that there would be an increase of completion among factories and in production (Berndl, Hattstein, Knebel, & Uelhoven, 2005). The competition increased pressure amongst the sellers and the providers of the product. The suppliers and factory owners at the time had to later start looking for ways to cope with the multiple competitions from their both local, and outer competitors which started causing a hemorrhage in profits at the time. As a result, the owners of the industries started taking it out on the working class in. First, they started implementing child labor into the factories and companies in order to cut production costs. They also had to shrink the wages of their employees and add a huge amount to their working hours and loads to cope with these said losses, which was very unhealthy to the labor and workers. At this point, the employees were working in unacceptable conditions at very little to no wages, which took them down the poverty line more day-by-day widening the gap between social classes in several British and European societies (Berndl et al., 2005). With the increase of factories, industries, and companies came the increase in migration towards the cities, as for individuals and families to find jobs. The migration led to the need for the increase of housing to these new migrants. To fix this problem, wealthy industry owners started building housing in the cities of these countries at the time. The housing was in no way shape or form in a condition to live in. to elaborate on that, the houses where dangerously close to each other and were built in a manner to take no space. These houses would be very tiny, and in many cases several houses would be connected directly to each other which gave families and individuals no privacy, and sometimes no proper access to sanitary tools such as baths, which caused a deterioration in hygiene amongst the working class who were already living in very rigid circumstances (History Crunch Writers, 2018). The overcrowded, and unacceptable living areas, the several companies that were established by huge businessmen which needed to mass manufacture their goods with the use of steam engines, that needed a lot of coal were accompanied by pollution. The pollution in the 18th and 19th century was at its worst, and was very harmful to the inhabitants of the already unlivable housing. To illustrate, the water in the streets and all around the people was polluted from people’s own waste as the housing they lived in did not have proper systems to get rid of these wastes; garbage was a main component of water pollution as well. Plus, the steam that as being produced from the several factories that-as mentioned- use steam engines that need huge amounts of coals, were causing a catastrophic amount of air pollution and smog, which also worsened the conditions of living, as it is the source of a multitude of diseases (History Crunch Writers, 2018). Living in horrible conditions, and fighting against poverty every day, the labor class had to fend for itself now. The labor had no access to rights or education, thus they started a multitude of uprisings in Europe (Berndl, Hattstein, Knebel, & Uelhoven, 2005). One very known revolt would be the revolutions by socialists and some liberal craftsmen in several areas of Europe in 1848.

The labor class of several parts of Europe have sunk under the poverty line and lived in horrendous conditions after the 18th-century changes. People started to grow angry and agitated about the system that began to exist, as this system drowned its preys with misery, illness, and poverty; it needed change. After several adjustments to the reforms of the 1830s and the early 1840s, Louise-Philippe of France rejected that the country goes through anymore changes which triggered liberals to protest and be agitated (Weinstein et al, 2020). This agitation was a result of the several fall in major artisans’ statuses and decline in work condition. Plus, a massive recession in 1846-1847 increased the unrest of the citizens. The group of artisan leaders that were empowering a change towards a system that gives them the right to own and operate their own firms, businesses, and industries spread that socialist ideology amongst the people triggering a mass of movements around the country. The labor wanted to live in harmony and equality, and the small artisans wanted power over their small firms and businesses. With this socialist mentality spreading around the nation in 1848, the police interfered which caused massive outrage from the people. This outrage from the people ousted the monarchy of France Louise-Philippe (Weinstein et al., 2020). After the monarchy had left the ruling, the people of France now brought a new ruling system, which was known as the second republican government that abided by several voting rights and independence for business owners and property owners at the time. This ruling class at the time consisted of those who were socialists and liberals (Berndl et al., 2005). This government proclaimed the several rights to work and rights to male suffrage i.e. voting and ownership rights. Unfortunately, this government was later kicked out and replaced by a more conservative and dictator government that would be evil enough to quickly shut down workshops that were made to educate those who are unemployed. With this conservative government in charge, a socialist uprising in Europe was quick to emit in June 1848 and was later brutally put down by a military dictatorship established by this very brutal government. It was not only France uprising in the famous revolutionary year for Europe (1848), different parts of Europe did several socialist and liberal uprising against their governments. For instance, Vienna had a massive uprising led by those of the working class and nonetheless students from schools and universities to abolish the census in March of 1848, and to increase their electoral rights in their constitutions and laws. Also, Italy’s middle and working-class citizens led several uprisings against their reigning monarch demanding that they become a national state instead of a monarchy in January of 1848 and later got to enforce a constitution of laws (Berndl, Hattstein, Knebel, & Uelhoven, 2005). And, Germany-especially the southwest of-led several uprisings for democratic rights by the middle class. These few mentioned liberal uprisings are the some out of many that later took place in Europe in the year 1848. However, these protests and demonstrations were immediately quick to fail, although the European people started attaining their demands in the upcoming two decades. The immediate failure was very prominent in these revolutions, due to the several internal disagreements between those leading and participating in the uprisings. Furthermore, the revolutionaries did not properly anticipate how their governments would react to these uprisings, to try to stop them. in other words, they underestimated how aggressive the military powers would be. Their governments did an efficient job in brutally oppressing them and segregating them by their own needs, which were common, but somehow differed from a citizen to the other. The uprisings that took place in 1848 in European cities and countries are very much commemorated to this day by the offsprings of those who lived to see them. They did not have an immediate win due to the violence and aggression practiced by the governments towards the people, but the majority of socialists started getting what they protested for later gradually within the next one or two decades, which is proof that the protesting and demonstration of the said needy citizens did not go in vain.

In a few words, this very impactful socio-economic and technological reform had multiple factors surrounding it, and major impacts to this day. This revolution was a major shift towards the more industrialized world we live into this day and was the era of the discovery of several new machinery and scientific components. But, these discoveries did not give an ideal situation to the people at the time, and later had a somehow butterfly effect when the uprisings of Europe against the ruling class began. This revolution has massive impact to this day, as we use its several modified and enhanced creations. Plus, it was the time of the founding of the laissez-faire economic system which is a major foundation of very successful economies to this very day all around the world. 

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