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The Industrial Revolution: A Time Of Great Advancement And Change

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Peter Stearns claims that the industrial revolution was an intensely human experience. What initially arose as scientific advancements in metallurgy and machine building, the industrial revolution period saw a redefinition of life as a whole. As industry changed, human life began to adapt. Work life was drastically changed which, in turn, resulted in family life being affected. As is human nature, major change was met with great resistant. Ultimately, the most successful people during the transition were those that adapted quickly.

The industrial revolution is often mistakenly thought of simply as a time period when science was becoming more organized and resulted in the production of new machinery. The Industrial revolution was a period when major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation had a profound effect on socioeconomic and cultural conditions. The Industrial revolution denoted a major turning point in human social history as nearly every aspect of daily life and human society was influenced in some way.

The industrial revolution was marked by a shift of power. The power source before the revolution was human power. Human and animal muscle was the driving force behind all forms of production. At first, machinery saw an increase in manual labor in the form of railway production and canal excavations. Ultimately, the introduction of machinery resulted in a decline in subjugated men and instead man’s intellectual capacity was being utilized.

As a result of the shift of power and the new role undertaken by human labor, education became increasingly important. A privilege once reserved for the upper class, education was afforded to the working class in an effort to improve industrial efficiency. The gap between the classes was now smaller. Over time, the industry-driven education effort would cause the elimination of a totally illiterate class.

Industrialization led to the creation of the factory. The factory system resulted in the formation of cities as large numbers of people sought work in the factories. “Manchester, Britain’s cotton capital, grew from a modest town of 25,000 in 1772 to a metropolis of 367,232 by 1851.” The increase in population led to a more youthful distribution of age. Employers could pay a child less than an adult and since strength was not a particularly useful attribute, with machines providing the power, productivity would be minimally affected.

Industrial period home life was changed significantly. Homes were no longer a source of production. The rate of marriage increased as far more people could support a family and marriage itself offered advantages. Men, women, and even children were making contributions to the family’s income. An issue arose in the form of long work hours that would put a strain on family, or at the very least refine roles. Family time was often spent emotionally supporting one another after a very difficult day.

“In the long run, obviously, the chief impact of the industrial revolution was to dissociate children from productive labor.” Families increasingly kept their sons from work until twelve or fourteen. Education was seen as more important than making a contribution economically. By the 1830s, compulsory education was first starting to appear.

A redefinition of childhood had a big impact on the family. Fathers and their children were separated by the long work days. Parents had to reconsider how many children to have. The cost of raising children and supporting them through school has increased thus many families saw it fit to have less children solely as an economic choice. Birthrates decreased as did the average family size.

The industrial revolution also spurred change in government policy. “All Western governments began to participate in new activities relating to railroad expansion, industrial tariff policies, and sponsorship of technical expositions.”



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