Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What was the Industrial Revolution?

The biggest talent that humans have is the ability to create tools. We’ve been harnessing that talent to the point where we actually can create tool to make other tools; that was the main idea of Industrial Revolution that started in Britain centuries ago.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, not just in Britain but all across the world, nearly every manufacturing process was done by manual labor. There were no machines, so factories were basically filled people of all ages including children to make shovels, blankets, and pans. At some points in history the term “manufacturing” had not even been invented yet, because the person who coined it for the first time was still probably busy biting his finger nails – he had every reason to do that as nail clipper was not yet a thing back then.

In modern days it is hard to imagine living without assistance from machines or any kind of digital electronic stuffs, especially for millennials. When they hear the term manual labor, all they can think of is typing some words on a keyboard on a screen, not even a real keyboard where they can feel some actual buttons on their massive fingers - it is a hazard to the beauty of finger nails, they may say. This is also one of the main reasons that voice recognition is popular nowadays.

As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. In Britain during the late 18th century and beginning of 19th century, rich people were asking for more things to buy and cherish in addition to their two brown shirts while their poor counterparts wanted less difficult works and new products to sell. There was the need to do something to fulfill the demands from both parties. Imaging living in the period where you had to queue for a week to get a loaf of potato bread, everything was black & white including the rainbow, and maybe you had to dig a ditch anytime you needed to take a dump in the bushes. As it turned out, Industrial Revolution changed the course of human history not only in terms of machinery or manufacturing capabilities but also the civilization as a whole. Without it, you would still have to sew your torn socks every now and then.

What was the Industrial Revolution
Printer looked much better in Industrial Revolution, and you don't have to use computer

Industrial Revolution took place for the first time in Britain from around 1760 to 1840. It was marked not by a single event or invention of a new tool but a series of innovations that revolutionize the manufacturing industry; it was pretty much confined to Britain only too. The rest of the world eventually followed suit but it took quite a while for everyone else to catch up. As a terminology, Industrial Revolution was first used by French writers - whoever they might be - but the one that made it popular was Arnold Toynbee, an English economic historian.

While it technically described Britain’s economic development in general during the time period, Industrial Revolution definition can be scaled down for the inferior minds simply as the gradual yet rapid change from handicraft and agrarian economy to machine-oriented industry. If there had been an invention credited to spark or initiate the modernization process, it would have been Abraham Darby’s coke-fueled furnace used in cast-iron industry. Before you ask, he did not use the soft-drink Coke as a fuel the same way you use it to provide energy for your brain, which usually fails in a miserable way. It is a high carbon version of coal; you can consider it the enriched variant of the combustible sedimentary rock. Other industries also experimented with a lot of other innovations and actually succeeded for examples the mechanized looms in textile industry, steam engine in mining and transportation, power tools in carpentry, threshing machine in agriculture, and Portland cement in engineering.

To make it easier for your tired eyes to read and steaming head to remember, here in bulleted points are some of the technological changes that contributed to the Industrial Revolution:

  • the use new energy sources such as steam engine, internal-combustion engine, and petroleum so there was no longer the need to hire children as blacksmiths
  • commercialization of previously (and largely) unused raw materials for examples steel and iron which meant people didn’t have to drink from wooden mugs anymore
  • development in communication and transportation thanks to new engines and electricity, allowing the Brits to travel on train rather than a chariot and probably sent telegraphs to their horses back home
  • invention of continuous paper machines although the reading part was intermittent

Britain was more or less starting to understand that science could be useful for industry. Fortunately for them, the revelation came earlier to their societies, which made them an even more dominant force in world economic.

Why Did It Start in Britain

There were a good number of factors to make Britain the forefront of the change. One of the most notable was the fact that Britain had already developed a politically stable society before Industrial Revolution even started. Although many people were in poor conditions, Britain was the leading colonial power. In addition to the abundance of raw materials at home, it colonies could function as sources of more raw materials and markets for the finished goods.

If you could do something really well while nobody else were still far behind, you wouldn’t want to do it for free. In an impossible situation where you were the only person in a town – the kind which you had occupied and built earlier during younger days - who could produce enough supply of lemonade, you would want your neighbors to just grow lemons but purchase the lemonade from you.

Although other countries in Europe were far behind Britain, many of them could grow quite rapidly and catch up once the revolution begun. The United States soon followed suit and also became one of the dominating forces in manufactured goods. After World War II ended, Japan also joined the movement with great success.

Now that Industrial Revolution has gone so far with robots, drones, super computers, and solar panels, traditional handcraft is increasing in popularity albeit in just a small number of industry. Certain handmade products can be much more expensive now due to rarity and of course quality of craftsmanship. Handmade statues, swords, furniture pieces, clothes and a lot of other things are highly sought-after merchandises assuming the quality surpasses their mass-produced counterparts; but still, your origami wouldn’t sell for pennies.