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01 Industrial Revolution

Unit Overview

Student Contribution #1

The Industrial Revolution was a time period during the 18th and 19th centuries where mainly rural societies in America and Europe became urban and industrial. Before the Industrial Revolution, most manufacturing was done in people’s houses using basic hand tools. The Revolution brought in the use of powered specific-use machines in factories and mass production. The growth of the textile and iron industry played a huge role in the Revolution, as well as the evolution of the steam engine. Industrialization made many lives better by increasing the amount and quality of goods produced, but for the poor working class, it lead to horrible living and working standards. 

Before the Revolution, most people lived in small, rural areas where their lives revolved around farming. For the most part, life was tough for the average person. Incomes were small and disease was fairly common. Most people produced their own food, clothing, and whatever else they needed. Britain became the birthplace of the Revolution because it had very big coal and iron ore deposits, which provided a reason to start industrializing to get these resources. At the time Britain was had a very stable society, which meant it could serve as a marketplace for manufactured goods.

The textile and iron industries were transformed by the Revolution. Various inventions and innovations kept improvements coming at a quick pace. Machines that could produce multiple spools of thread simultaneously improved the textile industry, as well as the power loom, which mechanized weaving cloth. Developments in the iron industry also introduced a cheaper and easier way to produce cast iron. Iron and steel became popular materials used in appliances, machines, ships, and buildings. 

The transportation industry also changed greatly during the Industrial Revolution. Before the steam engine was invented, anything that someone wanted to transport had to be moved by wagons and boats through canals. Soon, ships were carrying freight across the Atlantic Ocean. Shortly after, railway steam train made their debut. Additionally, road construction could be completed quicker, leading to easier travel. Now, goods could be transported quickly and efficiently, leading to more business. 

Not everything about the Industrial Revolution was positive. Standard of living did improve for the upper and middle classes. However, life for the poor, working class was hard. Wages for the people who labored for countless hours in factories were minimal, not to mention the potentially hazardous working conditions. These workers were unskilled and could easily be replaced if they weren’t happy. Even children had to work in the factories. Some even had the dangerous job of cleaning the machines. A lot of craftsmen’s jobs were taken by machines, leaving many people jobless. Since many people were rushing in from the countryside for jobs, the rural, industrial areas couldn’t keep up with the flow of these people. This lead to cramped living space and unsanitary living conditions where disease could spread very quickly. Conditions for the workers gradually improved as the government instituted labor laws and allowed workers to form labor unions.


Key Vocabulary Terms


Set #1:
  • Urbanization:  Urbanization is the increase of population in cities and towns and leaving rural/countryside areas.  This movement of people, an example of interaction and exchange history force, occurred due to the hope that life in the cities would be better for the family due to better jobs, more money, and a higher quality of life in comparison to living in rural Europe on the plantation farms.  There were positives and negatives with life in the cities.  More opportunities for jobs but unhealthy living conditions, dangerous and exploitative working conditions, and failure to enjoy a large increase in financial wealth for the families.
  • Laissez-faire: Economic system in which businesses are able to operated with little to no government interference. This would mean that government would not set regulations from the government, and individuals along with businesses would have a lot of freedom in regards to their and society’s economic affairs.  Literally from the French expression, "To be left alone," the belief was that economic market forces would result in sharing of the wealth with the workers, prices would not increase significantly since more competitors would enter the business field if some businesses were making enormous wealth, and that government intervention would result in lower quality of life for all.
  • Liberialism:  This is a political philosophy where the main ideas are liberty and equality. Liberalism emphasizes on liberty, individuals rights, and limitations of government power.  Economic and political power should be more "liberally" spread among the people, both rich and poor, and would result in better living conditions for all in society.

  • Mercantilism:  Economic system with a goal to strengthen the national government's wealth, prestige, and power through acquiring vast amounts of gold and silver which were considered essential to be recognized as more powerful that neighboring countries.  This economic system was primarily drive by the national government with them enjoying the wealth gathered by foreign imperialism that sought to acquire actual gold and silver.  Individuals and corporations were not the major drivers of the economy, rather the national government led by primarily aristocrats and the largest land owners.

  • Anarchism:   It is a theory that believes in the abolition of all government.  This was the last of the major political theories that emerged in response to lack of progress of quality of life for the factory workers.  Since the Industrial Middle Class did not appear to be willing to share wealth and the government uninterested or powerless to intervene, social must be turned upside down and all wealth must be shared equally.  Violence was justified as a means for this dramatic change to occur since those in power did not want to share.
  • Classical economists:  They believe that the market functions best without government interfering and promoted ideas such as Laissez-faire and free competition.  These economists believed if the economy was market-driven, more wealth would be created and it would be in the interest of the bankers and factories owners to share that additional wealth with the factory workers.
Set #2:
  • Revolutionary socialism: . Karl Marx and his followers believed that throughout all history there had been competition between the haves and the have nots: Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat.  The Industrial Revolution had continued the pattern of the Bourgeoisie always being the most powerful even they they numbered the least in comparison with the Proletariat.  A revolution must occur with a battle between these two forces.  The goal was to reach a classless society in which wealth was equally shared by all.  Revolution is a natural result of the historic conflict.

  • Christian socialism: This was the Christians attempt to bring their views of life and mix it with the industrial lifestyle. They took their example from the early Christians in Jerusalem that shared their wealth with one another so that all families had food, shelter, and protection.

  • Industrial middle class: This was the class of successful entrepreneurs and professionals in all phases of the working world. The industrial middle class was considered well-off or privileged.  The most common occupations of these individuals were bankers and factory owners. While it seems more logical to locate these individuals in the upper class, they were not since they were not part of the historic power people who were land owners.  The landowners did not want to share power so these "new" wealthy people were placed into the Middle Class. 

  • Landed elites:  Owning land was a way of showing which class you were. The more land you own the higher of class you were considered.  Few people owned land in Europe.  Most people were the workers on the large plantation farms.  They were called serfs or peasants.  Only the landed elites (literally the land owners) had political and economic power.

  • Protestant Work Ethic: The idea that any success you had in life (improved social mobility, increased personal wealth, better jobs) occurred because a person was a Christian.  Since it was impossible to see the inner quality of a person's heart, the only way to detect if an inner change had occurred was to observe if they had obtained more wealth, social status, and better jobs.  In order to achieve those outward signs of a changed heart, people had to work hard, therefore they had a strong "work ethic."

  • Liberal economists:   This economic theory was developed in the middle of the Industrial Revolution in response to lack of progress of the quality of life for the factory workers.  The "liberal" economists wanted the government to make some interventions in life: better conditions in the prisons, right to vote for men and some advocated for women to have right to vote, improved working conditions, permission for labor unions to form and protect workers, and the government to take control over the pay for workers in the factories but not to control what the factory owners wanted to manufacture.   This theory was located between the classical economists and the radical economists.

Potential Essay Questions:

Essay Questions #1. What were the basic features of the new industrial system created by the Industrial Revolution, and what effects did this new system have on urban life, social classes, family life, and standards of living?
To support your essay response, use your class lecture notes and what  you learned from the assigned reading articles by Dunn, Rhodes, Barker, Polland and Holmes, Galbi, Ibsen, and Morris.  Use samples from a number of them to illustrate your answer.

Student Contribution #1:


The industrial revolution was in many ways a revolution centered on machinery, but if one pays close attention, they see that the real needle mover of the industrial revolution was not machinery itself (it was the effect) but rather the simple concept of supply and demand, or to put it more bluntly the manufacturing of goods and profit (the cause). This need fueled the development of machinery even further and needed workers to operate them, and workers needed jobs, thus gave rise to the fast developing urban community (urbanization). This seemingly symbiotic relationship between big business and new workers, who still in many ways had deep roots as serfs and peasants from the rural communities was not without fault, companies now had the power to dictate where the workers lived. Not much money was put into the living quarters of the industrial workers so their living condition was much worse as a result, despite the fact that huge advances were made in construction during this time period.

Living conditions was not the only thing that changed for the worse. The industrial revolution changed the lifestyle of the workers as well, rules were usually set place in factories, rules that were starkly different from the pre industrial revolution era, this pre industrial generation worked to their own tune and timing. The stark differences in the work life of the two generations is best described in a written piece titled “Discipline In The New Factories,” in it are new set of rules for a factory in Berlin in 1844. It illustrates and gives a glimpse of the strict and dare I say, almost dogmatic working environment of this particular factory, some examples being that a workman was prohibited from talking to fellow coworkers about any non-work related matters or losing half an hour wage just for being two minutes late (imagine the effect this would have today). I restate the fact that this was very different from anything ever before, including the cottage industry, where home based workers spun threads in their own time, very much like entrepreneurs of today, you worked in your own pace (relative to a factory worker in the industrial revolution).

The industrial revolution was in many ways a shift in power dynamics from land based aristocracy to business companies (beginnings of multinational corporations), this tremendous change led to many economic changes. New economic classes appeared thanks to the revolution, the families who became rich in this period (thanks to the industry) were very different from the old aristocrats who were in many ways vestiges of the middle ages. These people who came upon wealth in their own life time without inheritance were known as new money, stereotyped as brash and unfit, they were the epitome of success in the era passed. Officially two new economic classes were created, thanks to the industrial revolution they were the industrial middle class, and the industrial working class. The industrial middle class were the owners of factories, they profited off the production while the industrial working class are the laborers of the factory.

Prior to the industrial revolution, women often could only aspire to be three things and they were being mothers to their children, loving wives to their husbands, and obedient daughters to their parents. This case is best illustrated in the small piece titled “Escaping The Doll House” in it a wife named Nora and a husband named Helmer argue over the role of Nora. Just like the title says, Nora has always felt that she wasn’t a human being, but rather a doll, because her life has been a life of servitude, servitude to her father and then to her husband. There is also one other key that we can take from this story, in the midst of Nora and her husband’s argument, Nora said that she was going to go look for a job (much to her husband’s dismay), this signifies the eras rise in working women. Ironically much later in history during world war 1, women were forced to work due to the men being deployed to the war and this could have indirectly led to women getting the right to vote in the united states soon after.

In the end, while many important aspects and effects of the industrial revolution can be felt even today, we mustn’t forget that working class people who lived at the dawn of the revolution were the vanguard of a big historical movement.


Essay Question #2. What were the emerging economic and political theories of this time period and how did they relate to each other? How could they be explained as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and the historical context in which they were influenced?

Support for this essay question comes mostly from your class lecture notes. 

Student Contribution #1:

1. Developing new economic theories
    a. Classical Economists- views the Industrial Revolution benefits everyone in society
        i. Adam Smith
            1. Supply and Demand
            2. Laissez Faire policies
            3. Economy has important role in society
        ii. David Ricardo
            1. Theory of Rent- Profits Aristocrats is reduced
            2. Iron Law of Wages- Wages are low to slow population growth
    b. Liberal Economists- Industrial Revolution excesses and abuses working class
        i. Jeremy Bentham
            1. Utilitarism- prison reform, suffrage, and increased wages
        ii. John Stuart Mill
            1. Laissez Faire doesn’t distribute wealth
            2. Labor Unions
            3. Women’s Suffrage
    c. Radical Economists- demand major change in societies structure
        i. Robert Owen- Utopian Socialist
            1. Equal Wealth Distribution
            2. IR reform
            3. Move industrial production to rural areas
            4. Communal living society

2. Developing new political theories
    a. Christian Socialism
        i. Protestant Christian principles
            1. Christianity promotes socialism
            2. Communal property and living conditions
        ii. Advocated changes in society
            1. Share Profits Equally
            2. Upward social mobility
            3. Universal public education for all
    b. Revolutionary Socialism
        i. Marx
            1. Class Struggle- Bourgeoisie (Capitalists) and Proletariat (workers)
            2. Surplus Profit Redistributed- between Bourgeoisie and Proletariats
            3. Ind. Rev. exploits Proletariats
            4. Revolution and Restructure results of Exploitation
                a. Capitalism & Socialism = Classless society
    c. Anarchism
        i. Proudhon
            1.Society must be restructured 
                a. Political power structures are flawed and should be eliminated
                b. Personal Property is theft
                c. Liberty of the person
            2. Violence Justified for change- Terrorism Acceptable for change
            3. Reactions between IR and Theories
                a. Mid 1700s- Classical Economists
                b. Early 1800s- Liberal Economists, Christian Socialists, Rev. Socialists, IR development, Change in social life
                c. Mid 1800s- Radical Economists and Anarchism




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