In definition, Industrial Revolution refers to the time when machines transformed people’s lives and the manufacturing process. It began over 200 years ago. Because of the industrial revolution, products and goods presently are produced in large amounts (mass production). People who work with the help of power driven machines to ensure the products are produced. Long before the era of the industrial revolution, the people did not have the luxury of the machines and thus had to use their muscles and animals. To produce the products nowadays produced within short durations, they had to spend more time and a lot of energy. If the effects of the industrial revolution were reversed, the results would be unbearable to people already used to simplified life. It would mean lack of electricity, no automobiles, and aero planes, no means of communication since the telephone, radio, and televisions would disappear. The children would not be in a position to attend schools and would be left in their ranches and homes working all day in their farms2.
At the beginning of the industrial revolution, steam engines were used to drive the machines while sewing and cloth making was done using machines. Steam engines helped in conversion of heat energy into mechanical energy. Locomotives followed in the invention. By 1850’s, the Great Britain had developed as an industrial country and was referred to as workshop of the world. The revolution later spread to the United States and all over Europe. Industrial revolution is attributed to the invention of machines that could do the work initially done by hands. Adoption of systems of factory in working and use of steam also played a helping hand.
John Kay who invented the flying shuttle (1733) spearheaded the revolution and 31 years later James Hargreaves invented the spinning jenny. The spinning jenny was used in spinning of yarn and making of clothes but, as time passed, the machines were revolutionized and made faster. All this marvelous transformation happened in a very short time thus termed as a revolution. Improved machines have eventually lead to increased productivity. Although it resulted in increased productivity, it was also harmful in some other ways. The level of pollution increased the workers were exposed to harmful working conditions, and the capitalists exploited children and women by paying them minimal wages.
Industrial revolution brought about the shifting of classes in the society. This is because only the rich had the capability and capacity to run the companies and factories for production of mass products. They made abnormal profits and their wealth increased dramatically. The factory owners did not pay their workers the deserved income for the work they did. They in turn, exploited them by paying meager amount of money1. This made the gap between the two classes widen. This has continued until the present days. Industrialization brought about capitalism and socialism systems of governments. Socialism was advocated since the government would intervene and help improve the lives of the poor during times of capitalism. Communism also came into a place where people advocated that for means of production to be owned by people while a small group was controlling wealth. Utilitarianism was also not left out.
As a result, of the industrial revolution, the cottage industry was abandoned, and people worked in the factories for long hours with a main objective of increasing mass production and earning from the jobs they were doing. Because of increased production of goods, the prices of the products dramatically reduced, and many people now had the ability to purchase them. This highly benefitted the less fortunate who were financially struggling. People also had the chance of getting jobs as they were in plenty2.
During the industrial revolution, the raw materials were manufactured and made into many valuable final products. Since the manufactured products had more value than the raw materials, the industrial countries made lots of money by sale of the products. Britain exploited the United States when colonizing the country3. It took the raw materials in the country, made them into better-finished products, later they sold the products back to the United States at extraordinarily high prices. Some countries have the ability to manufacture the raw materials while some countries just have the ability to produce raw materials and lack the ability to manufacture them. Because of these business/trade relations have to develop between the countries. Thus, industrial revolution has thus helped in bolstering international relations between countries3. Through the discovery of steam engines, it led to invention of locomotives, Britain became an industrial power and started exporting its innovation and the locomotives to the international market.
Increase for goods produced benefited the less fortunate. Increase in the number of ideas and inventions dramatically improved people’s life quality. Better ways of handling diseases became available. The medicinal options were improved and drugs and medicinal products were able to cure a variety of diseases. Methods of transport and transport means were also made available in this era of the industrial revolution. This resulted in faster transport of services and goods to different places as a way of facilitating trade. As time went by the health benefits were introduced, workers got their own rights and the wages were improved. The labor laws and the health benefits helped to improve the life expectancy of people for more than 20 years. With the absence of these two, the life expectancy of people would drop by 20 years4.
Industrial revolution was also greatly bolstered by the agricultural revolution as it helped in freeing many workers form lands. The population working in the lands reduced by 39% from 74% to 35%. This helped in creation of economies and in restructuring of the society. The British also opted for cheap energy, which had adverse effects to nature. It led to pollution of air water and land5. Presently the world is experiencing the adverse effects of pollution. Thus, it is not for debate how the cheap source of energy has affected the nature.
Demand for fuel by the general population also helped in coal industry. This also affected the homes in that they had to build other fireplaces and chimneys that could make using of coal in their houses possible. Coal market rapidly grew due to increase in demand. When demand increases it, call for an increase in supply. Since Britain was rich in coal, supply it also created a market that led to growth of international trade.
Industry and commerce have always gone together. Commerce was bolstered by the industrial revolution. Writers even referred industrial revolution and named it as commerce revolution as a way of describing the economic progress. Commerce helped in opening up the riches of Europe. Europe discovered America and exploited it for what it had. The resources helped Britain become the industrial power it is. Commerce also helped in opening up new trade routes helping in promoting international trade.
Although the industrial revolution came with all these benefits, it was because of the industrial revolution that the agrarian and pastoralist came down crashing. The energetic population moved to the cities and town to fill up the opportunities that had been brought by the industrialization. Labor was in plenty in the in urban areas but was scarce in the rural areas. Because of this civil war came to be because the workers were treated like slaves while working. The capitalists wanted to produce the goods and products at remarkably cheap prices disregarding the people who were working tirelessly in their farms. This is to say that agriculture was on the decline since the start of the industrial revolution. Only the elderly and the young children were left in the home taking care of the ranches and the cattle and this dramatically reduced the production from the farms2.
In conclusion, the benefits of the industrial revolution far outdo the negative effects. Without industrial revolution, the technology enjoyed by people would never have been invented.
Jerry Bentley, Herbert Ziegler, and Heather Streets-Salter, Traditions and Encounters: A Brief Global History (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009), Chapters 25 – 27.
Achebe, Chinua. 1994. Things fall apart. New York: Anchor Books.
León Portilla, Miguel, and Lysander Kemp. 1962. The broken spears. Beacon Press.