The epoch between 1760 and 1840 brought a colossal transformation in the way people dealt with life and work, especially in Europe and the United States. It was the age of new, often never-heard-before inventions of machines that aimed at driving efficiency and reducing manual labor, catering to big-scale operations, or in other words, the industry. On a socioeconomic level, all these discoveries, starting from the steam engine to telegraph communications, revolutionized the existing agrarian system. With the development of agricultural and manufacturing technologies, the ordinary man got introduced to urbanization, capitalism, and consumerism.
Here are some interesting facts about the industrial revolution:
1. The industrial revolution started in Britain and eventually spread out to other parts of Europe like Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, France, and the United States.
2. Though Great Britain popularized the Industrial Revolution, it had its advent in other European countries, even as early as the 1500s. Lombe’s Mill is proof of this claim. It was the first hydropower driven silk throwing plant along the Derwent river that found its inspiration in the Italian silk throwing and doubling machines. The Lombe’s Mill is often touted as the first fully mechanized factory in the world.
3. The concept of the Breakfast as the most important meal of the day has its roots in the Industrial Revolution era. This is because laborers would prefer a heavy meal before starting the day’s work.
4. The world’s first railway that used steam locomotives was opened in England. It connected collieries between Shildon and Darlington. The 25-mile-long line was built by Stockton and Darlington Railway company.
5. The major factor that led to the industrial revolution was coal. The digging of coal mines became the need of the hour with an increase in the demand for fuel. However, to remove the chances of flooding in an urge to dig deeper, Newcomen came up with a steam-driven engine that could pump out water from the deep recesses of the earth. This engine would use the steam power derived from the burning of the coals to push a movable piston that would ultimately pump out the water. Newcomen’s steam engine paved the way for the famous Watt’s Steam Engine, and finally, the locomotive.
Here is a list of the most significant discoveries that embody the Industrial Revolution.
1. The Steam and the Locomotive Engine: Inspired by Newcomen’s steam water pump, Scottish Engineer James Watt invented the steam engine in 1763. Watt’s engine consumed less fuel than the Newcomen variant. Therefore, it became an instant hit as soon as it was launched.
The steam-powered engine became a major source of machinery operating in the British factories, the biggest leap is the locomotive. The first locomotive ran 9.75 miles (ca. 16 km) in 1804 carrying ten tons of iron, five wagons and seventy men.
2. Telegraph Communications: The first type of long-distance messaging system which used electric wires to send messages created as coded pulses, was developed by two Britishers in the mid-1800s. They installed the first 13-miles long commercial telegraph in the world between Paddington and West Drayton.
Later, within the same decade, American Scientist, Samuel Morse invented the more sophisticated Morse Code.
3. The Modern concept of the Factory: After Lombe’s Mill, Cromford Mill, which was also constructed along the Derwent River in 1771 became an embodiment of the modern-day factory. It housed water-powered cotton spinning machines and 200 employees working in a 12-hour shift.
4. The Typewriter: This was an American invention, and William Burt was the man behind the first-ever typographer. It was patented in the year 1836, but it proved to be very inefficient.
The prototype of the modern-day typewriter was patented in 1868 by Christopher Latham Shoals. The first version of the typewriter he invented had all the keys arranged in alphabetical order. He later developed the QWERTY keyboard.
5. The Electric Generator: English Scientist Michael Faraday contributed extensively to studies in the field of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. He invented the electric generator in 1831. His ongoing studies pertaining to voltage production eventually led to the invention of the dynamo, which played a major role in factory operations.
6. Macadamized Roads: This technique of road-building takes after the name of the inventor himself, John McAdam. Before McAdam developed this technique, British roads were in a sorry state. It implemented the process of constructing roads using a compacted subgrade of crushed granite with a surface layer of light stone, which dramatically improved road conditions.
7. The Bessemer Process: The man behind the mass production of steel was Henry Bessemer, who patented the technique in 1856. This process was implemented to mass-produce steel from molten pig iron via oxidation. The mass production of steel was conducive to the improvement of the construction of other appliances like machines, ships, buildings, infrastructure etc.
8. Battery Invention: The first modern battery was invented in 1800 by Italian scientist Alessandro Volta. He discovered that certain fluids, when used as a conductor, were able to generate electrical power. This eventually led to the invention of voltaic cells or battery. The mass production of the battery was initiated by William Cruikshank in the year 1802.
9. The Power Loom: These power-driven weaving machines developed by Edmund Cartwright in the year 1784 changed the way clothes were produced. It is one of the most significant discoveries of the industrial revolution that showed how machinery increased output by 40 times. The discovery again reinforced the power of promptness.
10. Mackintosh Raincoat: Charles Mackintosh from the industrial era was the man behind the vulcanization of rubber, a process of heating rubber with Sulphur, which improves its quality. Prior to this discovery, rubber-based materials, such as raincoats, would become stiff during the winter and sweaty during the summer. But thanks to Mackintosh, rubber was rendered usable.
The Industrial Revolution fared well for the collective development of economies. For example, urbanization caused the agrarian economy to shrink. With the focus shifted to large manufacturing units, the number of goods and services produced increased by leaps and bounds. This, in turn, led to the development of a new community, the businesspeople, who began to influence the economic structure significantly, with an inclination towards capitalism. They were the risk-takers who would bet on investments in the hope of reaping the rewards. The ‘middle class’ also developed during the industrial revolution. There were more people with disposable income in their hands to promote consumerism.
During the industrial revolution, the English already had colonies established in Africa and Asia. Trade-wise, they were at a vantage point. By exporting manufactured goods to these colonies, and by capturing the global markets, Britain’s economic position rose.
The condition of the poor factory workers in the city, however, was far from favorable. The wage gap between male and female factory workers was wide, just enough to buy one’s daily bread, and at times not even that. Child mortality was high during the industrial age as most children would be engaged as factory workers. Poor sanitation, lack of nutrition and pollution led many people to die from Tuberculosis. England even riled under two cholera attacks during the industrial revolution that took many lives.
Charles Dickens, who was one of the most prominent writers in England during this period, portrayed the debilitating and dehumanizing effects of over-industrialization on common lives in his novel, Hard Times.
Despite everything, it was the industrial revolution and innovation that led Europe and the United States to become global superpowers at that point of time in History.