Chapter 18 Industrial Revolution in the West: 1700-1914
The industrial revolution in
England was the first revolution in productivity to sustain itself.
In the past, improvements in technology had often made societies
more productive by raising them to new levels of production. invariably, however, such improvements had eventually leveled off, as both
populations and standards of living were re-established at the new
levels. But the population and standard of living could not be
sustained beyond this level. In
the nineteenth century, for the first time, the standard of living did
not reach a new level and then remain there.
Instead, it continued to rise.
Population grew, moved increasingly into cities or towns, and
found employment in an increasing range of occupations.
Before the 1800s,
transportation had changed little from the Middle Ages. People could
travel only as fast as animals could transport them over rough roads,
which averaged about five miles an hour in dry conditions.
Water transport could be faster but seafaring ships needed wind.
Barges could float downstream on river currents but relied on
animals to tow them upstream.
In the 1700s British landowners and engineers created a network
of canals to move bulk goods to rivers and then to the sea. But canal
boats still required animal power to move.
first application of steam power to transport was made by an American
engineer, Robert Fulton, who successfully tested a boat powered by a
steam engine, nicknamed the Clermont,
on the Hudson River in 1807. Within five years, steamboats were
introduced to Europe. The
new boats opened the rivers of the United States to trade and
settlement, and ocean-going steamships connected North America, Europe,
and other continents. Steamships
carried most of the world's ocean-going trade by the 1860s.
power also revolutionized travel on land. The engineer George Stephenson
designed a self-propelled steam engine, or locomotive, that worked by
using steam under much higher pressure than a stationary Watt engine.
In 1829 he built and tested a locomotive, the Rocket,
which pulled a train of cars at the unheard of speed of 30 miles per
Railways made it much easier to move goods and people across long
distances. By the
mid-1800s, networks of railroads crossed much of Europe and North
America. The coming of the railroad was usually an exciting event for
communities. When the first modern railroad, the Liverpool to Manchester
Railway, opened in 1830, the actress Fanny Kemble wrote of her travel on
“The most intense curiosity
and excitement prevailed, and, though the weather was uncertain,
enormous masses of densely packed people lined the road, shouting and
waving hats and handkerchiefs as we flew by them.”
The railroad made possible the
movement of food from areas of surplus to areas of need, ending the
specter of famine as a result of local crop failure. With railways and
steamships, growing cities could supply themselves with food, coal, and
other necessities and produce manufactured goods and provide services in
The Industrial Revolution
changed many aspects of people's lives, including their homes, their
work, and the quality of life.
population of Britain began to rise dramatically. In 1801 the population
was about 10.5 million and by 1851 it had nearly doubled.
People began marrying earlier and had more children.
More importantly, the death rate dropped. One observer, Thomas Malthus, wrote in 1798 that the country
could not support a growing number of people.
He predicted that society would run out of food and collapse.
was mistaken because improvements in productivity and employment kept
pace with population growth. An
increase in the rural population led many people to move to the cities,
which for the first time were able to employ ever-increasing numbers. Cities in manufacturing regions grew especially fast. The
industrial city of Leeds grew 13 times larger in 1851 than it had been
in 1801, while the commercial city of London merely doubled in size.
people streamed into the cities, conditions for most of them were hardly
easy. In early factories,
laborers often worked 14 hours a day, 6 days a week. The work was not
adjusted to the seasons, as it was on farms or under the domestic
system. Instead, factory workers had to adjust their lives to the
demands of machines. Workers had to arrive at work promptly and had to
eat meals and take breaks at set times.
Early factories were noisy, dirty, and poorly ventilated. The air
was hot and steamy in summer and cold and damp in winter. Sanitary
facilities were primitive. Early machines had no safety devices, and
serious injuries occurred frequently. Employers provided no accident
insurance or other form of compensation for injury.
Wages were low because even with the harsh conditions more people
wanted work in factories than could find it.
and the city poor crowded into squalid slums, living in shoddy buildings
built so closely together that there was little light or ventilation.
Open sewers ran through the slums.
The danger of disease was ever-present.
In the 1830s and 1840s, serious cholera epidemics erupted in
Great Britain, as they did on the European continent.
Indeed, the incidence of disease became so bad in London that one
“We might...say here is the
typhoid parish, and there the ward of cholera; ...the southern shores of
the Thames [could] be christened Pestilentia. As season follows season,
so does disease follow disease in the quarters that may...be styled the
plague-spots of London.”
Air pollution was another
problem faced in the cities. Factories, railroads, and chimneys spewed
out smoke from burning coal. The London fog, which has been much
romanticized, was in fact a blanket of smog over the city.
Compared to conditions in rural areas, however, life in the
cities was not so bad. Agricultural workers also had long working hours,
poor housing, and low wages.
They suffered from periodic famines and epidemics.
In the cities, steady food and cheap factory-made clothes and
other goods raised the standard of living over time. One observer noted [date?]
that city dwellers were "in reference to health, domestic comfort,
and religious culture, in a truly enviable state, compared with the
average of our agricultural villages."
In addition, cities provided parks, soccer matches, free
concerts, and inexpensive railroad day trips, which the more prosperous
working people had the time and money to enjoy.
the nineteenth century, the British government began to regulate hours
of work and took steps to improve public health and sanitation. Florence Nightingale created the new profession of
nursing and better standards of hospital care.
Public primary schools came to Britain after 1870.
Not all workers toiled in the factories. Many were domestic
servants. For centuries young women had been hired as maids in other
people's houses or businesses, while men had worked as grooms,
gardeners, footmen, coachmen, valets, and butlers. After
industrialization, more middle-class families could afford to hire
servants, and most of those servants were women.
For many rural women, domestic service smoothed their transition
into city life. Because servants lived in their employers’ houses,
women moving from the country would be guaranteed a place to live and
food to eat. In the early years of industrialization, many women worked
as servants temporarily, to save money for a dowry or to supplement
their families' farm income, after which they returned to their home
villages. In later years, these women stayed in the cities. Some later
took jobs in shops or factories, while others married and worked in the
explain the significance of the following:
explain the importance of the following:
Liverpool and Manchester
London and Leeds
MAIN IDEA How did the railroad change
How did factory work change the routine of daily life?
How did the movement of thousands of people from the countryside
to the cities affect the quality of urban life?
ASSESSING CONSEQUENCES Did
life improve for workers who moved from rural areas into industrial