Britain's Industrial Revolution Essay

1753 words - 8 pages

Impact of the Industrial Revolution: Positive or Negative?

During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Industrial Revolution transformed the social and economic structure of Europe. The period of the Industrial Revolution produced a quantum leap in industrial production and a shift from the home and workshop to the factory. The Revolution relied heavily on coal and steam, which replaced wind and water as new sources of energy and power. Although the Industrial Revolution took decades to spread, it was truly revolutionary in the way it fundamentally changed Europeans and ultimately the world. Historians have often been enthusiastic or pessimistic about the impact ...view middle of the document...

Population increases had begun in the eighteenth century, but they became dramatic in the nineteenth century. In 1760, the population of England and Wales stood at an estimated 6.5 million; by 1830, it had more than doubled to 14 million.[1] The key to the expansion of population was the decline in death rates throughout Britain. Due to the increase in the food supply, more people were better fed and more resistant to disease.
A possible benefit from the Industrial Revolution was change in textile production that enabled workers to increase their output. The invention of the flying shuttle made weaving on a loom faster. This created shortages of yarn until James Hargreaves’s spinning jenny, perfected in 1768[2], allowed spinners to produce yarn in greater quantities. Edmund Cartwright’s loom, powered by water and invented in 1787[3], allowed the weaving of cloth to catch up with the spinning of yarn. John Aiken had a positive and enthusiastic outlook on the introduction of spinning machines. In his, “A Description of…Manchester[4],” Aiken supported child labor due to the fact that their small hands allowed them to better work with the machines. The new boost given to cotton textile production by technological changes was apparent. Cotton was Britain’s most important product in value and British cotton goods were sold in many parts of the world.
The invention of the steam engine pushed the cotton industry to even greater heights of productivity. In the 1760’s, James Watt, a Scottish engineer, built an engine powered by steam that could pump water from mines three times as quickly as previous engines. In 1782, Watt developed a rotary engine that could turn a shaft and thus drive machinery[5]. Steam power could now be applied to spinning and weaving cotton, and before long, cotton mills using steam engines were multiplying across most of Northern Britain. Fired by coal, these steam engines could be located anywhere.
Other technological advancements transformed the lives of the working people. A better quality of iron came into being, and a boom then ensued in the British iron industry. The new high-quality iron was used to build new machines. In 1804, the first steam-powered locomotive on an industrial rail line was introduced. Better locomotives soon followed. By 1840, Britain had almost 6,000 miles of railroads with locomotives that reached 50 miles per hour.[6] The railroad was an important contribution to the success of the Industrial Revolution. Railway construction created new job opportunities, especially for farm laborers and peasants who had been accustomed to finding work outside their local villages.
Perhaps most important, the abundance of a cheaper and faster means of transportation had a ripple effect on the growth of the industrial economy. As the prices of goods fell, markets grew larger. Increased sales meant more factories and more machinery, thereby reinforcing the self-sustaining aspect...

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