The Industrial Revolution was one of the most profound and impactful events to occur in human history. Taking place during the 1700’s and 1800’s, the revolution shifted millions of people from their traditionally agrarian lifestyles in the countryside to industrial lifestyles in urban settings. Before the massive factories were set up, most manufacturing was done on a small scale by craftsmen, often at their homes with rudimentary tools and machines. The shift to purpose-built machinery and mass production allowed many countries to greatly expand their wealth and take dominant roles in new industries and the global economy. These are but a few facts about the industrial revolution.
From improved transportation systems powered by steam and fossil fuels to faster communication across the ocean to centralized banking in the major metropolises, the Industrial Revolution synthesized and simplified many seemingly disparate areas of life. While many in the upper classes saw their standard of living improve, many of the poor and working classes were thrown into the dingy squalor of overcrowded, unsafe factories and forced to work long overtime by whip-cracking bosses. To find out about what shaped modern-day history and what we have to thank for the automobile, condominiums, and even smartphones, check out this list of 25 Facts About the Industrial Revolution.
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Birthplace of Industrial Revolution
Great Britain was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Primarily a rural, agrarian society up to that point, most British people grew most of their food and produced most of their clothes and tools. The Industrial Revolution led to specialization in which workers would focus on specific tasks and sell their products for other people’s products.
Britain's shady dealings
Besides its eager-to-work populace, Britain also had the largest colonial empire in human existence. These colonies provided raw materials which were shipped to the U.K., made into the finished product, then sold back to the colonies. Sounds like a scam if we’ve ever seen one!
Why didn't other countries industrialize first?
One of the greatest advantages Britain had above other countries was political stability. More-unstable countries would not have been able to effectively organize themselves into the structured systems needed to make production and distribution cost-effective.
A yarn-spinner changes history
One of the most-impacted industries was textile (clothes and garment) production. While a decentralized “cottage industry” existed prior, it was widely inefficient. In 1764, James Hargreaves invented the spinning jenny – a machine which dramatically reduced the amount of time it took to make a spool of yarn. Though basic, Hargreaves’ invention proved to be one of the most useful products of the Industrial Revolution.
Not everyone was happy with the technological changes happening to British society. The Luddites were citizens united against change. The name often refers to a group of workers in the early 1800’s who destroyed factories and machinery to protest the inevitable industrialization.