The industrial revolution
In the late 18th and early 19th century, Britain changed from an agricultural country into a rich industrial one. This period is known as ‘Industrial Revolution’. It transformed the whole country and the North became the heartland of industry and the South, London remained the most important business and trade center. It revolutionized English, European and American societies down to their very roots.
No other revolution in modern time can be said to have accomplished so much in so little time.
In the eighteenth century, other series of invention transformed the manufacture in England. George Stephenson’s inventions of the steam engine made it possible to create new machinery, which changed the way to product goods. Machines replaced human skill and effort, as they were rapid, precise, regular and tireless.
The use of the steam engine and the coal as a new power source facilitated the growth of industries.
Stephenson created the first moving steam engine in 1814 and the first railway, which transported passengers as well as coal. It was opened in 1825 between Stockton and Darlington. Thank of this invention, communication became more and more rapid and efficient. Iron trains ran on iron tracks the length and breadth of the country; the railways change English society dramatically.
Britain became the workshop of the world, with her mills and factories producing more goods much more economically than any other nation. Moreover, more than half of the world’s cargo was carried in British ships.
The industrial revolution gave rise to a new mode of production: the factory system. The newly built factories produced plenty of goods in large quantities at lower price and the demand for traditional crafts declined. The industrial development was a source of prosperity, but created many social conflicts and problems. The use of the machines meant that many of worker lost their jobs.
The workers wives used to spin and weave by hand in their house to sell their cloth, but soon spinning and weaving were done on machines in mills.
Large mills were developed particularly in Lancashire and Yorkshire were cotton and wool were mostly available.
The people who lost their jobs, were forced to leave home and either to emigrate to Canada, Australia, New Zealand or move in new industrial towns. In factories the working conditions were appalling: dust and damp make workers ill. They worked up to 16 hours a days and wages were low. Many of this people died of disease and starvation. The factory owners employed women and children and paid them very little. As they were small they were suitable for work in the narrow tunnels underground, pushing and pulling heavy wagons.
During the 19th century the living conditions became worse. The houses were built back to back to save space and in small houses women and children were thrown up quickly and cheaply. Person lived in unhealthy condition plagued by poverty, overcrowding and disease. They had little or no water supply, neither hospitals nor schools. As industry was fuelled by coal, day and night chimneys poured out smoke and filled with it people’s lungs.
While poor people lived in small back-to-back terraced houses , many middle class worker moved out of town.
The industrial revolution made possible to use glass and iron in public buildings: The royal botanical gardens and Liverpool street station are some of the best example. Bricks were used to railways, houses and Victorian universities became known as ‘red brick universities’.
The first unions which were gaining popularity in the industrial north, were feared and distrusted by the government , which tried to band them. The most known case was the puddle martyrs of 1834. Six laborers were sentenced to seven years ‘ deportation because they had tried to start a friendly society. They were taken to Australia and later offered a conditional release, which they rejected, only being fully pardoned in 1836.