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An age of revolutions

When and what: From the 18th to the 20th two revolutions reshaped the English social background: the Industrial ones.
First Industrial: this one didn’t change men’s lives: in fact it was linked to the textile production in the rural England, which gave the possibility to work at home. It is distinguished in different phases, in the USA too.
Causes: Britain changed from a mainly farming country into an industrial one, because of the growth in population, which meant a greater demand for pots, beer and clothes and the consequent mechanisation of these kinds of productions.
Time frame: from 1760 to 1830.
Methods of production: from hand to machine power production.
Power sources: these machines used water, steam and coal to work.
New engine: there was the steam engine (an engine driven by steam), developed by James Watt. It was more powerful and wasted less fuel than its predecessors. Production became quicker and more efficient thanks to the use of this new technology, and new factories were built all around England.
Mass production: mainly textile.
Inventions: they regarded machinery for cloth-making, such as the “spinning jenny”, the “spinning mule”, the “water frame” and the “cotton gin”, based however on hand power, but required only one worker (see the consequences).
Standards of living of the working class: awful, because people began to have too long working hours in bad conditions in the first factories. For example Alexis de Tocqueville visited Manchester and said that it was “hell on Earth”.
Consequences: goods became cheaper, while transport was improved thanks to new waterways and faster road travels. The new factories allowed Britain to manufacture cloth more cheaply than elsewhere, but also put many people out of work. There was also a shift of population from the agricultural south to the industrialised north.
Literary consequences: William Blake’s Songs of Innocent and Songs of Experience witnessed the evil effects of industrial development on man’s soul.
• To notice that the new technologies continued to be used during the 2nd Industrial Revolution, but new sources of power will be used in addition.
Second Industrial: this one changed men’s lives a lot. Under the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) the British Empire had his highest expansion thanks to foundation new colonies, for example India came under direct rule by Britain, and Victoria was crowned Empress of India in 1877 (until 1947 when it became independent and Pakistan was created to gave a nation to Muslims). There were also Australia, New Zealand, parts of China, of Africa and Southeast Asia.
Causes: There was a protected market with colonies, which means that they could commercialise only with England and nobody else could buy products from them. So tourism and employment were increased, because trade, production and the exploitation of raw materials (ex. From crude oil to oil) needed British citizens in the colonies. Plus in 1851 there was the first Great Exhibition of all times in London, centre of the most powerful Empire of the world. It was an international fair of new technologies and foreign goods, so that people from all over the world converged there. It was housed in the Crystal Palace, built by Joseph Paxton. (America had its first World Exposition only in 1893 with the Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, after the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s voyages). For these reasons the Empire had to have better communication and transport networks for both commercial and military purposes, which leads to the Second Industrial Revolution.
Time frames: from 1850 to 1914, when the World War One started and all men were sent to the front, so that industries had much less available workers.
Methods of production: an increased automation and mechanisation of the production.
Power sources: petroleum fossil fuel and electricity were more and more used.
New engine: the internal combustion engine was invented and the steam engine was used to develop the first steam locomotives.
Mass production: was mainly referred to steel to build the first railways. In fact there was a “railway mania”, the rush that led to the construction of 4600 miles of track all around England. It marks the passage to the modern age.
Inventions: automobiles, chemicals, railroads, telephone, telegraph and the radio, and a lot of them exist still today.
Standards of living of the working class: still bad, but improving, for example there were sewers, sanitation, purified water in the cities. Middle class expanded a lot because bourgeois entrepreneurs had more money thanks to the factories, and so better life conditions too. At a certain point school became compulsory until the age of ten, so children couldn’t become workers too soon. Other services were also introduced: lightning, places of entertainment, police stations, prisons and modern hospitals.
Social consequences: Industries required more and more people to work, so we can see a shift of population from the country to the city centres, which caused overpopulation. Industries were in the city centres for practical reasons: the transports had to bring raw materials in the industries and then to commercialise goods and finished products in all the Empire. To resolve the fact that there weren’t enough houses for everybody, co-houses or “slums” were built to house the workers creating the “mushroom towns”, but in this way there were worse health conditions ( bathrooms, promiscuity), no food for everybody, more desperate thieves and murderers and an higher range of mortality caused by the growth of dangerous situations, by the polluted atmosphere and by malnourishment. These problems were especially of women and children, less paid and so more employed, even they were weaker than men. There were also cholera epidemics and tuberculosis linked to the lack of hygiene.
Literary consequences: Trip around the world in eighty days, which was a demonstration and celebration of the power of the Empire thanks to the best transport net of the world. Charles Dickens in Hard Times showed on the contrary the negative consequences of the Industrial Revolution in the Victorian London. Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde criticised the “Victorian compromise” and the nobles’ hypocrisy.
Sciences: Charles Darwin changed the point of view of Victorian People, who believed themselves as superiors at the highest point of the chain of living so that they founded Christian missionary societies to spread British custom and religion in the colonies. The naturalist made a revolution like Galileo because he demonstrated the evolution of humans from apes, in opposition to the Christian genesis! His “natural selection” theory seemed to show that the strongest survived to the weakest -> consequence: applied to social life, natural selection was the same as economic competition, so that the poor and oppressed didn’t deserve compassion.
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