In Britain about two hundred years ago, great changes took place in making goods and transport, which has moulded the way our world works today. These changes made big differences to many people’s lives and work methods; and put together these are called the Industrial Revolution. They started in Britain and spead to Europe and on to the United States. A lot of the Industrial Revolution’s changes helped the lives of people as transport was more secure and faster, but also mass production was brought in.
Before the Industrial Revolution people made goods on a small-scale from their own homes, or in workshops beside their house, The whole family would be involed in producing and selling the product (This can be called by the ‘Domestic System’).
It was safe to work at home as they only used hand tools and simple machinery, these worked by hand or foot. In some situations a few bigger machines were used and water wheels were used as a power source. The Domestic System moved aside for more complex machines and new methods were invented in the eighteenth century which were powered by steam and gathered together in factories to produce more goods. It meant that people would work regular hours and not when they wanted too.
Before the invention of steam engines, wind mills and water wheels were used for powering big machinary. The first steam engine in the early seventeen hundreds was mainly used in the mines for pumping out water. James Watt in 1782 developed a new steam engine that was able to power factory machines. By that time factories had built up, particually in the cotton industry, which took over from wool. In 1733 John Kay, a workman from Bury (Landcashire), invented his “flying” shuttle, which made the making of cloth (weaving) much faster. To keep the weavers busy, more spub thead (yarn) was needed, But James Hargreaves with his ‘spinning jenny’, Samuel Crompton with his ‘mule’ and Sir Richard Arkwright, who was more of an organiser than a inventer, made it possible to increase the yarn supply. Further improvements came later to weaving. Edmund Cartwright invented the powered loom in 1785, but it was not efficient until thirty years later. They were used in the cotton industry and also in the older woollen industry as well.
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More machines were built and some were not in factories, since farmers were also using machinary for faster and more efficient methods of growing crops. Jethro Tull invented his ‘Seed Drill’ so that it would half the time and also straighten the seeds being put into the ground where as before the seeds were scattered randomly. The increased use of machines in factories and the greater use of steam power lead to the coal and iron industry. The Industrial Revolution made the two industries the most important in the country and the areas of mining became the source of Britains wealth.
The result of these changes was industrial towns, places like Manchester, which was the mass producing city of cotton, and Birmingham, which produced metal trades. Before this growth in industry, people lived in country towns or in London. The building of factories and workshops made people come to towns in the hope of finding work. The countries population increased quickly in the late eighteenth and early nieteenth century, and many had to move to towns as work was not avaliable in the countryside.
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The growth in towns made problems as houses became crowded and new houses were built quickly and cheaply in small shreets. For many years no proper water supply brought clean water to the people, and there were no proper drains. Life in the countryside had not been healthy but living in towns made people aware of the dangers to health. This awareness made the people feel something ought to be done to improve matters. After 1840 some improvement were made to some towns but many were still dirty.
Another result was the improvement in the transport system as goods needed to be moved from place to place. In the early eighteenth century the roads were bad, the river was only available at certain points and times of the year. The horses that carried goods were slow and expensive.
The first real improvement to transport was the building of better roads and bridges. Canals followed this. One of the first canal builders was James Brindley. His first canal was built to carry coal for the Duke of Bridgewater’s mines at Worsley, west of Manchester, into Manchester itself, and it also reduced the cost of coal in growing industrial cities. In the 1790’s every town wanted a canal, but this was not a bad thing as it built up a network of canals joining all the important towns of England together.
Railways were made posible when George Stephenson built a steam engine that ran on rails and was able to pull or push along carts. Stephenson’s first acheivement was the opening of his Stockton to Darlington railway in 1825 which he drove himself. In 1829, Stephensons most famous locomotive ‘The Rocket’ reached an amazing speed for it’s time, of twentyone miles an hour. In 1830 a line was built between Manchester and Liverpool, and within the next twenty years railways were built between all the important cities of England.
By 1850, steam locomotives had impove a lot. The fastest one travelled at the speed of sixty miles an hour. It cost more to sent goods via the railways than it did to send them by the canal, but people were willing to pay the extra amount as the product would arrive a lot quicker. Fewer people used the canals and this method of transport died out.
At sea steamships were just beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, when the old sailing ships were being replaced. Originally steam engines were put into wooden ships but iron soon followed. Between 1860 and 1870 it was easy to mass-produce steel cheaply and so it was the new metal used. Steel soon was as necessary as iron was.
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As the new machines were powered by horses, water or steam engines and did not need human strengh, people thought that women and children could look after them. People aslo said that because the machines weaved or spun themselves, skilled workers were not needed. Children worked for fourteen or more hours a day untill the government passed a law on their hours of employment, later the hours women worked were also controlled. When newer and more complex machines were made it became clear that they would need a skilled worker for the job. Even the machines that were controlled by unskilled people, a skilled machanic was still called in the repair the machine.
When machines were able to make other machines, a great number of mechanics were needed. Changes in the transport also needed skilled men. The workers began to take pride in their work and grouped up to improve the conditions to work in. This was the start of the ‘Trade Unions’.
The Industrial Rvolution changed a lot of lives for the better by improving a lot of work conditions and mass-production helped increase the amount of goods made. Steam engines made it posible to travel faster and also roads were improved. Before the Industrial Revolution the South of England was crowded but as factories grew up the population spread out across Britain. The way we work today is effected by the changes in industry and technology that took place between 1750 and 1950. There were some bad points in the Revolution but overall they helped to improve the way we live.