The Scando Review
The Scando Review
Industrial revolution

Industrial revolution

Part 1

A revolution in history happens when the existing situation changes and something completely new comes into being. There have been many such revolutions in the history of the world. The industrial revolution was the period when there was a significant change in the employment sector, living conditions, and so on. After the first and second Industrial Revolutions, the world continues to advance industrially. Let us explore the industrial revolution, which started in Britain and spread all over the world to cause a remarkable transformation in the industrial field.

In the 1760s, machinery was introduced to Britain's agricultural, crafts, and economic sectors to make work easier and increase productivity. As a result, the industrial sector grew. There was a major change in the world's economic structure and employment sectors. This change was happening in each country over time. This change is called Industrial Revolution.

First industrial revolution

With its generally cold climate, Britain has a long history of producing textiles such as wool, linen, and cotton. Before the Industrial Revolution, the British textile business remained a true "cottage industry", with individual spinners, weavers, and dyers working at home in small workshops.

Around 1770, the prototype for the modern steam engine that became an icon of the Industrial Revolution was developed.

By the mid-18th century, advanced machinery such as the spinning jenny (a wooden frame with multiple spindles), flying shuttle, water frame, power looms, and paddles helped speed up the production of cloth used for weaving and spinning by reducing human effort and the cost involved. 

Factories came into being, and Britain's more efficient and mechanized production brought essential textiles to the world market. It also found a market in the many colonies of the British Empire. New inventions also took place in British iron production.

Around 1770, the prototype for the modern steam engine that became an icon of the Industrial Revolution was developed. It was known as the atmospheric steam engine. It was built by Newcomen to power machinery used to pump water from mine shafts. With key innovations, the steam engine became a major force in the Industrial Revolution. Britain advanced industrially.

Although many French writers used the term industrial revolution, the term industrial revolution gained wide popularity when English economic historian Arnold Toynbee used it to describe the economic progress of England from 1760 to 1840. Later, this term was used to refer to big changes in the financial sectors in a particular period. The reason for saying this is that the industrial revolution in countries like India and China did not occur until the 20th century. In the late 19th century, the Second Industrial Revolution began in America and Western Europe.

The use of engines to replace animal and human muscle power and machines to produce materials took on a distinctive character after 1850. This period can be called the second industrial revolution. The second phase was quite different from the first revolution.

As the Industrial Revolution spread rapidly from Britain to America and Europe, there was a wave of inventions. Many of them were improvements over existing machines. Scientific advances, especially in chemistry, led to advances in agriculture and medicine.

It was during this time that petroleum became the primary source of energy. This led to the creation of new mobile machines (especially automobiles and trucks) and the development of electricity as a new means of delivering power. This helped to introduce smaller motors and provide better lighting for factories and homes. A revolutionary change took place in construction, transportation, and communication. It was also during this time that large industries started growing.

These changes had a significant impact on societies throughout Europe and North America. This change was more profound than the First Industrial Revolution.

Characteristics of the Industrial Revolution

Technically, socio-economically, and culturally, there have been many changes. Following are the technical changes:

  • Use of new raw materials, mainly iron, steel, etc.

  • Use of new energy sources such as coal, electricity, petroleum, motive power, steam engine, and the internal-combustion engine.

  • The use of new machines such as the Spinning Jenny and power loom made it possible to reduce physical effort and improve production at less cost.

  • Specialization happened when workers in factories were assigned to specific activities.

  • Locomotive, steamship, automobile, aeroplane, telegraph, and radio were essential changes in transport and communication.

  • Extensive application of science in the industrial sector.

  • Natural resources could be used effectively through these technological changes, and production could be done on a large scale.

In this part we discussed in detail about the first industrial revolution. In the next part, we will discuss the spread of industrial revolution from Britain to other countries.

Now put on your thinking hats and think about the following questions for a couple of minutes.

How would you describe the term "industrial revolution" to your students?

Can you think of how the invention of the steam engine influenced the industrial revolution?

Write down your thoughts and discuss them with your students, children, and your colleagues. Listen to their views and compare them with your own. As you listen to others, note how similar or different your views are to others'.

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Happy Teaching!