The Industrial Revolution literally changed how societies functioned, and while it brought with it inventions and new possibilities, it also raised many challenges.
What is the Industrial Revolution?
The Industrial Revolution refers to a period of time when an agrarian and handicraft economy became dominated by machines and mass production, specifically in Great Britain from around 1760 to 1840.
There are multiple reasons why the Industrial Revolution began in Britain and not in another part of the world. First, it had abundant deposits of coal and iron ore, which were key for industrialization. Additionally, the country was politically stable and the world’s primary colonial power, providing them with abundant financial resources, as well as raw materials that allowed for production of manufactured goods.
The iron and textile industries, as well as the development of the steam engine, were important parts of the Industrial Revolution, in addition to improved transportation, communication, and banking.1 Three main areas were heavily influenced by the Industrial Revolution: technology, economy, and culture.
Timeline of Technological Advancement
1707: Innovation in the iron industry
Developments in the iron industry were also an important part of the Industrial Revolution. In the early 18th century, Abraham Darby found a cheaper, easier method of casting iron by using a furnace that was coke-fueled rather than charcoal-fueled.
1712: Invention of the first practical steam engine
While earlier prototypes were available as early as 1698, in 1712, Thomas Newcomen developed the first practical steam engine, which was used to pump water out of mines. By the 1770s, inventor James Watt improved on the previous success, allowing the steam engine to power machinery, locomotives, and ships.
1764: Invention of the spinning jenny
In the 1700s, a series of inventions, such as the spinning jenny, led to increased productivity and decreased need for human energy in the production of textiles. Innovation in the textile industry continued when English inventor Edmund Cartwright invented the power loom in the 1780s, mechanizing the weaving of cloth.
1776: Adam Smith publishes The Wealth of the Nations
The Industrial Revolution was marked by the rise of banks as well as the development of stock exchanges: in London the 1770s and in New York in the 1790s.
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In 1776, Adam Smith, a Scottish social philosopher considered the founder of modern economics, published The Wealth of the Nations where he discussed the importance of an economic system with free enterprise, private ownership of means of production, and minimal government interference in economy.
1807: Invention of the steam boat
After the invention of the first commercially-successful steamboat, steamships successfully carried cargo across the Atlantic.
As steamboats became more popular on the seas, British engineer Richard Trevithick constructed the first railway steam locomotive. By 1850, Britain boasted more than 6,000 miles of railroad tracks. To add to these developments, around 1820, engineer John McAdam developed a new system for road construction, allowing for smoother and more durable roads.
1837: First commercial telegraph patented
In 1837, William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone described and patented the commercial telegraph. In 1844 Samuel F. B. Morse famously sent a telegraph from Washington to Baltimore, and by 1866, a telegraph cable had been laid across the Atlantic.
1850: Mass production of steel begins
Henry Bessemer, a British engineer developed an inexpensive process for mass-producing steel. This allowed both iron and steel to become essential materials of the time, used for building anything from ships to buildings.
1870: Industrial Revolution begins in Germany
The rest of the world wasn’t so quick to follow their British counterparts in undergoing technological advances in their respective countries, and it is not because they didn’t want to. Rather, they simply didn’t have the power, stability, or resources to support industrial development.
For other European countries such as Germany, the Industrial Revolution began as late as 1870, despite the fact that they had more than enough coal and iron. And when they began the process of transforming their economy and advancing technologically, they did so with great speed. Eventually, Germany would go on to produce more steel than Britain.
By the mid-19th century, most of western Europe and the American Northeast was rapidly industrializing. By the early 20th century, the United States had become the world’s leading industrial nation.
The Costs of Industrialization
Looking back on the Industrial Revolution, it seems like there could be little cause for complaint. After all, it established the trajectory for progress and modernization that propelled modern-day technological innovations. However, there was more to the Industrial Revolution than technological innovation and a sharp increase in factory-produced products.
Though the Industrial Revolution generally increased quality of life for the middle and upper class, life for the poorer working class remained challenging. Wages in factories were low and working conditions were both repetitive and dangerous. Children were also a part of the work force and often spent long hours operating dangerous machines.
Most notably, industrialized areas were unable to keep up with the demand for housing that came from individuals moving to the city to work, leading to increased pollution, poor living conditions, and a sharp increase in disease rates. Many of these issues were remedied through institution of labor reforms and trade unions. However, some of the overarching drawbacks of industrialization have carried through to the present day, like trading in the fresh country air for the polluted city air.1
These thoughts and concepts relate to our fascination with breathing the same air as our ancestors, referred to as Paleo Air, which can be done with terpene-rich essential oils in MONQ’s personal aromatherapy diffusers. Try out one of our most popular, Zen, to get you to a state of peace and relaxation.