The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britiain during the latter part of the 18th century. It later spread to Western Europe, North America, and eventually the rest of the world. It revolutionized manufacturing which transitioned from manual to machine-based. It greatly helped manufacturing at a faster rate and increased efficiency, and this led to the mass production of goods which became more affordable and accessible to many people.
Because of this, many economies of the world moved from being agricultural to industrial. People’s lifestyles certainly changed in many aspects, including transportation, communication and employment. This event was witness to many of the world’s most important technological advancements that mankind greatly benefited.
However, the Industrial Revolution was not without a price — and up to this day, we are still paying for it dearly.
The production of textiles was among the first to benefit from the industrialization, from the use of the modern production equipment and methods, to employment. Before that, clothes were made at home. Merchants would normally hand the raw materials and equipment to the tailors. By the time the clothes were done, these merchants would come back to collect them and then sell them.
With the advent of the industrialization, machines began to take the big chunk of the work, and this meant less human involvment in the production. But the people who did get involved were required to work to the factory every day, and they were closely monitored to ensure smooth and efficient production. Industrialization certainly helped increase in the production of textiles, but it doesn’t mean that the people’s lives were greatly improved by it.
The use of steam as a source of power was discovered even before the Industrial Revolution came. In 1712, English inventor Thomas Newcomen introduced the world’s first practical steam engine, which was originally used to draw water out of mines. It wasn’t until the 1760s when Scottish inventor James Watt improved the use of steam engine, paving the way to power many machines during the Industrial Revolution.
The price of the Industrial Revolution
Industrialization helped increase production at a faster rate and an increased efficiency. These factors, in turn, led to mass production of goods that became made more available to the masses. While it gave birth to many of the world’s most important technological advancements and made many people’s lives better, the rapid industrialization also brought a seriously adverse impact on both the society and the environment.
The poor and the working classes in particular bore the brunt of the negative effects of industrialization. They suffered unemployment and harsh working and living conditions. Cities began to get overcrowded and poverty escalated, which led to massive job protests, riots and crimes that rose to an alarming rate.
When industrialization was still in its infancy, factories were small and often limited, so the levels of pollution and their effects on the environment had not yet been taken seriously.
But as time mached on, these factories expanded into full-scale industries. Along with them came the increasing levels of smoke and chemical wastes which polluted air and water as well as degraded soil quality. People were eventually forced to do jobs that were repetitive, unhealthy or life-threatening. This is where the issue of industrial pollution began to take more importance, eventually leading to the passing of the world’s first environmental laws during the mid-1800s.
The most important inventions and discoveries
Among the most important inventions and discoveries during this era are:
- Steam engine
- Smelting iron – the discovery of the use of coke enabled faster production of iron, as compared use of charcoal. Iron was used in building public works such as railways and bridges.
- Steam train – the first successful working steam train was invented by British inventor Richard Trevithick
- Cement – English cement manufacturer Joseph Aspdin developed and patented the Portland cement in 1824. The Thames Tunnel was among the first important structures composed of the Portland cement.
- Machine tools – machine tools such milling machine and cylinder boring tools had replaced the manual process of manufacturing metals. This allowed for mass producing metal products for building structures and vehicles.
- Chemicals – the Industrial Revolution paved the way for the large-scale production of chemicals (such as sulphuric acid) for several industrial processes, such as the making of bleaching powder for cloths as well as soaps and paper.
- Improvement of roads – newly engineered roads — first called “macadamised roads” — were first built by Thomas Telford and John Macdam during the early 19th century.