Teacher Guide to the Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution is a term describing the massive changes in production and manufacturing that happened in the 18th and the 19th century. The movement started in Britain and spread to the rest of Europe and North America and lead to significant changes in various social institutions. Mining, agriculture and transport were profoundly modified and the way average people lead their everyday lives changes dramatically. It is a significant event in human history.
Similar times are happening right now in other countries. Manufacturing is in an all time boom in China and parts of Asia. All the manufacturing jobs have moved overseas due to the reduced cost to produce goods in those countries.
Before the Industrial Revolution, manual labor was the basis of most production and by necessity the scale of production was small. This tended to keep the supply amounts small and so the market reach was also limited. Even when this progressed to the use of animal-powered vehicles, there was not a significant improvement in scale of production. The invention of the steam engine marked the first major shift in increasing rates of production. There was a shift to the mechanization of the textile production process, improvement in the processing of iron and experiments with the increased use of coal. All these meant a significant jump in quantities of production and so supply of goods became plentiful.
At the same time there was also an improvement in transportation options because there had been investment in infrastructure such as canals and roadways. So the increased supply of goods could be transported easily to markets across a larger area. Suddenly the earlier limited scope of people's lives was no longer necessary or relevant. A person could manufacture a product in one place and transport it to a market far away where there was heavy demand for that product, whether it was textiles or other goods. This meant higher profits and increased investment in more mechanization. Industrial Revolution single-handedly helped transform the notion of trade.
It is thought that changes such as the more defined national borders, the drop in disease levels and the less labor-intensive means of production all helped the Industrial Revolution. The technological innovations of the mid 19th century helped to increase the efficiency of production processes. The stability of the political environment in Britain at that time and the relatively high levels of education following the Age of Enlightenment are among some of the social factors that helped the Revolution.
The Industrial Revolution which started with changes in production led to changes in the legal system and in the financial aspects of trade. This meant that every aspect of society was slowly modified by the Revolution. The role of the individual, the position of women once they started working in factories and the concept of economic freedom all became closer to modern ideas of thinking rather than the earlier feudal notions of being born to fill one particular role in society.
There were also some negative developments from the Industrial Revolution. In the search for cheap labor for the factories, some manufacturers used child labor and to increase profits in the industries they avoided improving the working conditions in the factories. The poor sanitation in newly developed worker tenements led to factory workers facing health problems. The demand for raw material and the need for new markets also lead to the whole process of colonization.
Despite these negative developments, overall the Industrial Revolution was embraced by most people in countries where the new production methods were used because it increased the options available to individuals and promised great wealth and prosperity to communities and nations.