Essay: Industrial Revolution the Nineteenth Century

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Industrial Revolution

The nineteenth century was a period of time in which great changes were undertaken by human society. This period of change became known as the "Industrial Revolution," and it was a time of rapid transformation in manufacturing, transportation, and society. This led to a rapid increase in human population which in turn led to a further increase in the transformative process. Artisan craftsmanship, located in small isolated villages, developed into an urban, factory-based manufacturing process. Agriculture production increased from subsistence farming to the exportation of huge amounts of food. From a time when people and goods took weeks to travel small distances, whole continents, and indeed the entire world, were connected unlike never before. As a result of these changes in manufacturing and transportation, the population increased and society changed from a small rural community-based society into an urban based one. In short, the Industrial Revolution transformed human society and created the modern world.

The Industrial Revolution had its origins in Great Britain in the late 1700's with the invention of a few simple, primitive machines to aid in the production of textiles. The combination of these machines and water power created a system by which a machine was powered, not by human or animal power, but by a water; and thus never tired. It was this concept, machines powered by non-living power sources, which laid the foundation of the Industrial Revolution. Textile machines like the jenny and power loom allowed factories to increase production and at a much lower cost. And this increase in productivity with "early mechanical looms had already potentially transformed the material framework of the society involved." (Stearns, p. 8) Workers had to be concentrated around the factories where they worked, instead of living on isolated farms. This caused an increase in the population of the cities where textile manufacturing was concentrated.

But it was not only textile manufacturing that was effected by the increased use of machines in production, other industries benefited as well. For instance, "new machines and procedures were introduced into beer brewing; the big factories established included the great Guinness brewery in Dublin…." (Stearns, p. 30) And other industries, such as the manufacture of pottery, iron production, and mining were all effected by the increased use of machines. The introduction of coke instead of charcoal allowed for improvements in furnace design and iron production resulting in larger furnaces that could produce much more and better iron at a lower cost. This increase in iron production subsequently created a, increase in the mining industry, as the new foundries needed more and more coal with which to make coke for iron production, and an ever increasing number of new iron machines. These new machines, and the increased demand for them, were then the inspiration of a wide range of improvements and new inventions to further increase production and efficiency.

It was not long before these technological advances spread to other parts of the world, including the European continent and America. In America, the introduction of the steam engine transformed the United States into an industrialized country. (Lampard) They were used in a variety of industries beginning with the textile industry and, as cost decreased, transformed everything from iron making, to saw mills which have been described as "…the largest single user of steam power in 1838." (Temin 1996) Steam power also transformed the entire practice of making things; and led to what was known as the division of labor. This process, in which different laborers work on different aspects of the same item, then combine their work to finish a product, was the precursor to the assembly line. "In large establishments particularly, use of steam appears to have enhanced total factor productivity." (Atack 2006) For example, by the introduction and use of steam powered looms, the textile industry, which was originally a labor intensive operation, was transformed into a model of modernization allowing for more production, of more products, at a cheaper cost, and in a shorter time. By 1880, just over half of all manufacturing workers were employed in establishments using steam power. (Atack 2006)

The increase in machinery in industries necessitated an equal increase in the ability to transport goods and people. Factories needed more and more coal transported to their location, as well as the transportation of their products to markets around the world. This led to the application of the principles of industrialization to transportation and, at first, the increased use of canals and roads, but with the invention of the steam engine, the increased use of steam ships and locomotives. The appearance of steamboats on the rivers of America precipitated the rapid growth in population as a flood of immigrants poured across the continent, pushing back the native Americans and bringing much of the American Midwest under cultivation. (Hunter, 1969, p. 29) From an initial population of about a million in 1810, the territories of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana grew in an exponential manner; boasting a population of 6 million in 1840, and more than 15 million by 1860. It has been argued that the extensive growth in the 50 years between 1810 and 1860 was due primarily to the development of the steamboat. The fact that their numbers grew ten fold, while their carrying capacity increased more than one hundred and twenty times, is an indication of this. (Hunter 1969, 34)

An even greater impact on America came in the 1820's and 1830's as the development of the steam-powered locomotive engine and the railroads changed America once again. From a modest 2,808 miles of railroad track in 1840, American railroads exploded across the nation containing 30,626 miles in 1860 and more than 93,000 miles by 1880. (American Railroads, 1951) Much like the steamboat aided in the settlement of the American Midwest, the railroad was essential for the American settlement of the region west of the Mississippi after the American Civil War. In the period from 1860 to 1890 close to 70,000 miles of track were laid west of the Mississippi River, allowing for a four fold increase in the population during the same time. (American Railroads, 1951) As steam-powered railroads expanded into new areas, American society was transported along with them. Railroads allowed for the movement of people and goods in an unprecedented way, creating entire new industries and spawning an even greater technological and economic expansion in the second half of the 19th century.

The period of time generally called the second industrial Revolution took place in the second half of the 19th century. This period saw the United States evolution into an industrialized society, with an ever increasing portion of the population living in industrialized urban areas. America also turned it's eye toward Imperialism, forcing the Japanese to open their ports after an 1853 visit by a fleet of modern American warships. By the 1870's America had emerged as a world power the equal of other European powers dominating "other countries and peoples in large measure because they monopolized the process of industrial intensification." (McClellan 2006, 312) With victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898, the industrial and military might of the United States was demonstrated to the world, as well as the beginning of an American overseas empire.

The Industrial Revolution of the first half of the 19th century, as well as the Second Industrial Revolution which took place in the second half of that century, was a transformation of the processes by which manufacturing and agriculture were undertaken. New machines allowed for an increase in production, in both manufactured goods as well as agricultural produce, which spawned an increase in population necessitating an improvement in the means of transportation. It was the development of the steam engine which literally powered the Industrial Revolution and led to the development of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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