The world is what it is today because of the Industrial Revolution. The leap forward in technology and the discovery of new forms of fuels skyrocketed economies and changed the lives of people around the world. This major turning point shifted the human race into an even greater ruler of the planet and gave way to an evolution faster than ever seen before. The introduction of steam power and new building materials led to better efficiency and allowed a faster production of goods. More money being pumped into the economy allowed countries to grow and expand. The Industrial Revolution affected the triumph of new technologies, society, and economic development.
In the early years, society was built upon a class system. Landowners, called the aristocrats, relied on servants to do their work for them, such as cleaning and farming the land. They each relied on one another. With the advent of industry, the middle class started to grow and become much larger. New technologies allowed for cheaper manufacturing. Essentials for living were more easily accessible to those who were not necessarily rich. The factory was the center of production for many products.
Cotton producers saw the strong demand for their cotton that they turned to inventions that rapidly mechanized the cotton textile industry (Bentley and Ziegler 653). New machines powered by water, steam, or coal allowed producers to manufacture goods faster and cheaper. The invention of the general-purpose steam engine, by James Watt, replaced animals and workers and was prominent in the textile industry. Coke was used as an alternative to coal because it was cheaper and wood was scarce at the time and allowed producers to build bigger blast furnaces and turn out larger lots of iron (Bentley and Ziegler 654). Iron and steel production increased and prices dropped allowing the material to be widely used in structures and other machinery. Iron was only used because it was cheaper than steel. It wasn’t until Henry Bessemer constructed a refined blast furnace known as the Bessemer converter which lowered the production cost of steel considerably. Steel then began being used in many products, machinery, and structures.
The invention of the steam powered locomotive and steamships brought another turning point to the Industrial Revolution. Steam powered trains and boats were able to carry more cargo for less money. Inner cities far from the shore were now connected by rail and able to reach goods much more easily. Manufactured goods were now able to be shipped across the world as well.
Coal was one of the most important resources in the Industrial Revolution. It served as the catalyst for many of these events to take place. Coal provided fuel for locomotives and heat for iron production. However, someone needed to mine the coal. The effects of the high demand from the Industrial Revolution had detrimental effects on people’s lives. Entire families would work in coal mines. Children would develop malformations and defects because of the heavy workload. Young girls working in the mines wore chains around their waists that damaged their pelvic bones making them smaller, and even leading to death during childbirth (“ Working Conditions”).
Factories became commonplace and were used instead of the old putting-out system. Nearly everyone worked inside of a factory. Children as young as five years old worked in factories and around dangerous machinery. The children were working because needed as much income as possible, so as soon as their child was able to, they were sent off to the factory. Factory owners would hire them because they are cheaper than adults. People would often work twelve to fourteen hours per day and make a miniscule amount of money. As they worked six days a week doing the same thing over and over, workers suffered from alienation (Bentley and Ziegler 656). In today’s world, these types of situations are unheard of. People suffered day in and day out and could barely afford living, let alone the products they were making.
As people began moving toward where the money is, urban societies were formed. People flocked to cities to begin new lives where the factories were located and where there were the most jobs. Cities were already unhealthy places to live, but as more and more people began migrating to urban areas, pollution increased. The burning of fossil fuels and the use of chemicals poisoned water supplies and the air in the cities. Until the latter part of the of the nineteenth century, urban environments remained dangerous places in which death rates commonly exceeded birthrates, and only the constant stream of new arrivals from the country kept cities growing (Bentley and Ziegler 663). People’s desire for money and opportunity seemed to outweigh the risks involved. They allowed themselves to be under such a great risk, even when in the end they still would be living at the edge of homelessness.
Families lived in tiny apartments, seemingly ready to fall apart. Many times their homes consisted of a small room with the family overcrowding on top of each other. Since so many people were moving into the cities in such a small amount of time, tenements were constructed without any previous planning, meaning that they contained no sewage, running water, or sanitation system (“ Negative Effects of the Industrial Revolution”). Disease was rampant across these urban environments. Living conditions were so bad that epidemics of certain diseases, like typhus and tuberculosis, were a common occurrence.
The Industrial Revolution affected the United States especially in population growth. People immigrated from across the globe for the job opportunities present in America. According to Traditions and Encounters, “ during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, about fifty million Europeans migrated to the western hemisphere, and this flow of humanity accounts for much of the stunning demographic growth in the Americas” (Bentley and Ziegler 663). More and more people started flowing in, making bad situations worse as overpopulation created cesspools and centers for sickness. The government finally caught on to what was occurring in these urban villages. Regulations were being set and vital lifelines such as sewage and water systems were being built. Tenements seen as unsafe to inhabit were outlawed to try and keep people safe. Epidemics were soon eliminated as people started living in healthier environments.
As the rich became richer from their new factories, new classes in society were formed. The super-rich held the world with an iron fist with the worker at their disposal. The job didn’t need the worker, the worker needed the job. If one were to complain, get sick, or get hurt, they were replaced under a moment’s notice. These people were part of the new working class. As the wealth trickled down to skilled workers, such as teachers and physicians, a rising middle class became dominant.
The Industrial Revolution also had its mark on family and personal life. In the early years prior to the revolution, family and work was one, as families each had their own specific job within the household for a given task presented by someone who wished to buy a product from the family of which they could make for them. With the introduction of factories, work moved outside of the home and family time was left for when the work was over, and was no longer considered to be connected.
The economy flourished in this time of great wealth. Production strengthened local economies who sought to produce desirable goods. One important factor was raw materials. Many flourishing locations needed raw materials but were not found in the surrounding area. This created opportunity for distant lands to mine and sell materials to other regions of the world. Land was surveyed for the next large deposits of these materials to supply factories and to gain more wealth. Population growth increased the demand for popular products, such as sugar, tobacco, and cotton. Continents around the world were sought for their natural resources.
Opportunities arose for many countries which contained these sought after natural resources and raw materials. Exportation of these resources influenced the economy of that given area and fostered economic development. Markets flourished and many new jobs were created. Nations grew wealthier with these new opportunities and countries began to develop ever further.
The Industrial Revolution affected the entire world. It spurred the development of nations and the movement towards a technological age. New inventions gave convenience to factory owners who were able to sell products for much cheaper and gained a lot of wealth in the process. People however were taken advantage of and living conditions were hell on earth. However, without this industrial age, we would be living in a very different world. Perhaps not as advanced as today’s. As people began to learn from their mistakes and governments intervened to protect the lives of individuals, the world began to move forward and into a safer, more modern place. The Industrial Revolution had a tremendous effect on many aspects of the world, right down to the individual.