Topic Essay #3
The above painting sends out a strong social message. Obviously, it depicts a working class home and the woman. She is mending a worn-out shirt,
mostly likely belonging to her husband. While doing that, it seems that the wife is praying for her husband and other family members. This image
sends a message that women's true place is home and that their role is to make best of her condition and pray for a better life. Obviously, this does
not fully convey women's life during the era of industrial revolution because many of them were working in textile factories and even in the mines
to survive and support the family. Some of them even walked the streets as a means of survival. Yet, this image gives off a strange sense of serenity
even in poor working class life. I guess that was what the ruling class of the day wanted the people to believe.
Now, here is our topic essay question: The industrial revolution most thoroughly and profoundly transformed society. Western societies and
communities that had gone through industrial revolution did not look and feel like what they used to be before the onslaught of industrial
revolution. Describe how the lives of the people, both the ordinary – peasants and urban laborers – and the unordinary – like the bourgeoisie
(owners of the means of production) -- were shaped by the forces of industrialization?
Your essay should be three pages in double space at least and submitted to Turnitin.
Let us embark on our journey into one of the most momentous revolutions that shaped history of the western world -- industrialization. Before the advent of
industrialization, roughly before the 18th century, European societies in general were highly feudalistic. Under feudalism, the basis of power and influence
society was hereditary privileges that were derived from aristocratic birth and land ownership. In the eighteenth century, however, feudalism came under
increasing challenges from a rising class of people whose wealth was self-made and whose influence was based on economic contributions to society rather
than on bloodlines. These people were known collectively as the bourgeoisie. We have studied how the bourgeoisie served as the backbone of the liberal
phase of the French Revolution.
Now, let us journey into the economic revolution undertaken by the bourgeoisie,
which culminated in the French Revolution. Unlike feudal landlords, the
bourgeoisie's wealth was not tied mostly to the land. They were actively engaged
in international trade. Also, they began to invest heavily in mining and textile
production. These two industries will serve as the locomotives of the industrial
revolution, which brought about dramatic transformations not only in economic
production but in every aspect of human existence. They of course sought
enjoyment in life but controlled and somewhat business like as in this image of
their gathering place.
Just like the previous revolutions we studied together, religious, scientific,
intellectual, and political ones, after the industrial revolution, the world was no
longer the same place after the industrial revolution. Through industrialization,
the human civilization experienced explosion of productive forces that led to
introduction of goods and services that were not thought possible in quantities as well as in qualities. Naturally, people who had control over this particular
way of production ended up dominating the society.
Our journey must begin with the ingredients of the industrial revolution. Industrialization requires the following elements: labor, technology, natural
resources, capital, and the entrepreneurial spirit.
First, cheap labor: One of the most important developments in modern European history
was a dramatic increase in population during the 18th and 19th centuries. At around 1700
European population was about 110 million. This number increased to more than 400
million in 1900. Population size nearly quadrupled in two centuries. Why? Many reasons,
but, essentially, people simply lived longer than before through better diet and
improvement in medical sciences and technology. The agricultural revolution explains the
dramatic improvement in diet, which leads to greater resistance to disease, and healthy
The agricultural revolution was brought about by more extensive and intensive use of
land, which means more acres were planted. Also, yield per acre increased as well. To
increase farmlands under cultivation, Europeans drained marshes and wetlands.
wildernesses were cleared
too. In addition, the science
of agronomy introduced
modern crop rotation, winter crops, as well as wider use of fertilizers. The agricultural
revolution was also supported by use of farm machines such as seed drills and threshing
machine that allowed more efficient harvests.
These factors produced a healthy and expanding population, but engendered social and
economic problems. The foremost is the question of where will this large population find
economic resources to survive on. Could the rural population of countries such as England and
Germany secure enough land to farm on? These are relatively small countries with large and
expanding population. Farmlands were unavailable to many and the landless peasants were
forced to migrate to urban centers. These migrants from the countryside were soon turned into
a pool of cheap labor for industrialization.
There is a controversial issue related to the migration of rural population to urban centers. That
controversy is over the “Enclosure Act” of Great Britain. By tradition, most villages in Britain
reserved a portion of public land as the so-called "the commons" for the use by all residents. No
one was allowed to plant crops on the common but people were allowed to graze their animals, forage for food, and gather firewood. When these village
lands were “enclosed” and sold, villagers lost their traditional rights and, for some, the only means of livelihood. If you were in that situation what would you
have done? People who could no longer survive on the common field left for cities and became urban laborers. (Here is
one family migrated to city but could not find dwelling nor work.)
Second, new technologies: The pressure of growing population demanded great increases in the production of essential
goods, such as the woolen and cotton textiles needed for clothing. Traditionally such a production was done by hand
and in people's homes. This type of production was known as “cottage industry.” This family based, home production
was not productive and efficient enough to meet the demands for goods caused by massive population increases. The
owners of the means of production needed better ways and tools to increase the production and benefit from the rising
markets. Beginning in the mid eighteenth century, technological innovations reduced dependence on human skills and
Actually, the age of industrialization was opened by a single new technology -- the
steam engine (to the right) that provided power source to operate new machines to make
manufacturing more efficient. According to popular culture, it was an English precision
instrument maker, James Watt (to the right), who invented the steam engine (left). However, it
is more accurate to say that the technology was perfected by contributions from many
technicians and engineers. (It is true though that Watt produced the first effective machine
(below) that turned pressurized steam into energy.)
In any event, before the steam engine was used in contraptions such as textile machines and locomotive, it was first used to pump
water from mine shafts that passed below the water table. This technology permitted an increase in coal production, turning it into
an efficient and relatively cheap source of energy and heat. Deep mining made possible by steam engines also made iron ore more
readily available. Machines, of course, were made from iron that become cheaper and more refined by the use of coal in
smelting. Here it is, the third ingredient of industrialization, cheap natural resources. Raw cotton is another example of
how cheap resources fueled industrial revolution.
The availability of inexpensive steam power and iron for machinery led to invention of technologies such as spinning
jenny, spinning mule, and powered loom. In 1806, the first steam loom factory opened at Manchester. The resultant
change in scale of textile manufacturing was stunning. According to one historian, “whereas a master weaver with thirty
years of experience could produce two bolts of cotton cloth a week on a hand loom, a fifteen-year-old boy at a power
loom could produce seven” The British, who had a well-developed global commerce already in place, became textile
merchants to the world. More than half of the world’s cotton cloth came from Britain by the middle of the 19th century.
Cheap cotton from the U.S. grown by African slaves provided precious raw material for Great Britain's textile industry.
Railroad was another technological revolution resulted from the availability of cheap coal and iron, steam engines, and
new mechanical contraptions. The new industrial enterprises whose markets were not limited to local markets required
fast and cheap ways of transporting resources and finished products. In 1804, the first steam locomotive was built. (It
would take twenty more years for the people to actually ride on the rail, though.) The early locomotive rode on iron rails
with five wagons with seventy passengers and ten tons of iron ore achieved a dizzying speed of five miles per hour. In
any event, despite the slow speed, one of the early locomotives was named, “Rocket,” which seems somewhat
exaggerated. Of course, faster locomotives were soon introduced. Improvement in iron producing technology, on the
other hand, allowed engineers to build bigger bridges, some of which carried railroads.
The last of the four basic ingredients of industrialization is the capital and entrepreneurial spirit. As discussed earlier, before the advent of industrialization,
until the 18th century, feudal lords monopolized power and influence based on hereditary titles, property, and privileges. Unlike feudal aristocrats, however,
the bourgeoisie were business-minded and invested their wealth in new ventures such as
textile mills, mining, and ironworks, rather than in acquiring more farmland to be rented out to
peasants. Also, they had different way of life compared to the landed nobility who used their
wealth to maintain an expensive and courtly, but not-so-productive aristocratic way of life
symbolized by country estates, fox hunting, and excessively elaborate attire. The bourgeoisie,
on the other hand, sought to maximize profit by relying on all means necessary. Their
propensity to accumulating wealth through investing in manufacturing and commerce rather
than buying and renting agricultural lands, and their obsession with cost cutting and increasing
efficiency provided capital resource and spiritual foundation for the industrial revolution. This
is called entrepreneurial spirit. This spirit often meant treating workers more like machines
than human beings. But in the end, this economic outlook ushered in the epoch of industrial
production that unleashed explosive productive energy. (Here, you are looking at the Bank of
England, the symbol of Britain's entrepreneurial spirit.)
These four elements were the engines of the industrial revolution. They were not the only but key elements that will propel such nations as England,
Germany, France, and the United States into a higher level of economic might and prosperity.
The Second Industrial Revolution
Let us continue with the industrial revolution that liberated human race from limitations of agricultural economy and its way of life. In
agricultural society human labor is the primary source of power and energy, therefore, the most important productive force. European peasantry,
therefore, led a rather deprived material live, literally working their bodies to death. I know something about agricultural life and I can tell you
that farming without the help of machines could be a torture. Your back and hands are your primary production tools to they are never really in
When I was young, in the countryside, I saw many grownups around me with missing or badly disfigured fingernails. They worked so much with
their hands that their nails were abraded or twisted. Yet, they barely managed to feed their family. Industrial revolution allowed Europeans to
produce more, with less human labor, and new things to make everyday life more comfortable. Of course, these benefits were not for everybody.
Some enjoyed more of these industrial products than others. For some life became even more difficult and challenging because of industrial
revolution. (I will address the issue of class division in the following lecture.) But two things were undeniable: Industrialization weakened feudal,
agricultural tradition in Europe. It also introduced an array of new inventions and consumer goods that made the lives of those who were able to
afford them comfortable.
Let us now analyze the meaning of the second Industrial revolution. The first
revolution brought about changes in the foundation of production: mode of
production, power source, means of transportation, basic building material, source
of fuel, and so on. The second industrial revolution was about utilizing these new
bases of industrial production to manufacture, what is known as "amenities," things
that make our daily existence more comfortable and convenient. In the second
phase of the industrial revolution further advancements in the basic requirements
of industrial production were made and
new and better energy sources and
materials were introduced. They included,
petroleum, electricity (and electricity
powered gadgets), steel, communication
equipment and chemical products. How
did these improvements come about?
Let me start with steel. First there was iron. The problem with iron, however, is its heavy and bulkiness
and inflexibility. Also, iron wears out easily because of the high carbon content in iron ore. For example,
cast iron has 2.5%-4% carbon content. Wrought iron, which contains 1%-2% carbon, is little more
malleable but still, it is not a vast improvement from cast iron. The key is to get rid of the carbon from
iron ore. During the second Industrial Revolution, technological advancement was made to reduce the
carbon content to less than 2%. The result was the introduction of steel, which is strong, but elastic. It meant that steel could be shaped into many
different forms, including girders for buildings and bridges, and machines. (The above is the famed Crystal Palace in London built in 1851. This
architectural master piece demonstrated to the world what could be done with steel.)
One of the first industries to benefit from steel was textile industry. Power looms and weaving machines made of steel. It is no exaggeration to say,
steel production meant national power. Take a look at the steel production of European countries measured in tons. Great Britain's industrial
might was reflected in its steel production.
With production of steel, which was equated with nation power, modern transportation
industry was born -- railroad, steamboat, and, eventually, automobiles. Not only that,
could modern architecture have been possible without steel? Could the human
civilization have come up with such a beauty as the Eiffel Tower (1887-1889), the Statue
of liberty, or Empire State Building?
In particular, the rise of the railroad industry was truly spectacular. Great Britain in
1850 had 6,621 miles of railroad. 1873, it had 15,145 miles. What about Germany? From
3,639 miles to 14, 842 miles. In the U.S. in 1869, the continental railroad was completed
to connect the east and the west via iron (or steel) horse.
More importantly, in the second phase of the industrial revolution the western societies
introduce more sophisticated tools and farm machines that allowed people to produce
more, making the cost of food less expensive. For example, already in the 1830s reaping machines, which could
do ten times the work of a single person, was introduced. (The development and use of farm machines were
more prevalent in America than in Europe though.)
Now, the chemical industry. What kind of goodies has the Western Civilization gotten out of this industry?
Synthetic dyes, chemical fertilizers, explosives, artificial fibers and so on. Eventually, modern pharmaceutical
industry will come to being and offer products such as
aspirin, antibiotics, and antiseptic products that vastly
improved people's health. (To the left is a typical old well,
which gave birth to petrochemical industry.) Unfortunately,
chemical industry of Europe would also invent and produce
chemical weapons capable of killing large number of people
– the weapons of mass destruction, contemporary
And there were more: internal combustion engines powered
by gasoline. In 1885, the first of modern automobile was
introduced by Daimler, a German engineer. By early 20th century, more powerful internal
combustion engines helped the human race to realize one of its wildest dreams, flying. Airplane was first flown successfully in 1903. Could you
imagine our lives without automobiles and airplanes?
Another example of the goodies of the second industrial revolution was electrification. What came out of it? First
there was light, which allowed people who could afford it to prolong their daily activities. In a way, if you had
money to bring electricity to your home, you could do more with your life. (General Electric Corporation still
promises that GE brings good things to life.) Then came other inventions like telegraph, telephone, phonograph, and
radio. Soon there followed household appliances that we rely on everyday: icebox (refrigerator), washer, vacuum
cleaner, and the list can go on forever, to include radio, TV, computers in our own time.
One of the most amazing aspects of the second phase of the industrial revolution is the communication revolution.
(To the left is the one of the earliest telegraph machines.) As one historian writes,
"Communication, meanwhile, had developed to meet the needs of entrepreneurs around the globe. First the
telegraph (which could communicate even across the Atlantic ocean, thanks to a cable laid in 1866), then the
telephone, patented by Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) in 1876, conquered the distances that modern economies traversed. From the 1890s,
wireless communication was made possible by the work of Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), and by the early 1900s radio broadcasts could be
received in ordinary household."
Communication Revolution engendered development of mass media,
including cheap and popular newspapers, news magazines, and
eventually, radio and television. These medium will be utilize to
entertain, educate, and sometimes, instill jingoism in the minds of masses.
Here is one result of the rise of mass media; the people of London were
elated at the news of the British victory in the Boer War. According to the
critics of nationalism that makes people behave like this, the working
people are dumped to fight and support a war that will only benefit those
who exploit them.
Before we finish this lecture, we should also recognize that industrial
revolution was not limited to Western Europe and North America. There
was a fiercely competitive Asian industrial power, Japan in Asia. Also,
Russia was trying to industrialize itself rapidly. Incidentally, these two “imitators” of Western European industrial revolution would soon battle
each other in the Russo-Japanese War.
It is time t ...
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