The Industrial Revolution 1765-1900

The world’s largest cities in 1900 were in heavily Industrialized nations, with London leading with its population of 6.5 million, followed by New York, Pans, and Berlin.

The Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution began in Great Britain, which had large deposits of iron ore and coal the fuel on which modern industry first depended and a political system that encouraged private enterprise and investment. Britain also had a thriving cottage industry from which a new business economy could evolve. For instance, workers spun and wove wool and cotton by hand at home. After James Watt perfected the steam engine in the 1760s and steam power was applied to spinning and weaving, the textile industry boomed. Cottages gave way to factories, and the productivity of workers soared, producing profits and attracting investors, which allowed companies to purchase equipment and build more factories. Steam powered locomotives, introduced in the early 1800s, linked factories to cities, ports, and coal mines. During the 19th century, the industrial revolution spread across Europe and reached other parts of the world, including the United States and Japan.

The initial impact of industrialization was traumatic. Protesters known as Luddites sabotaged machinery, fearing widespread unemployment. Children toiled 12 hours a day in mills, exposed to choking dust and machines that mangled arms and legs. A visitor to Manchester, England, in 1842 likened the city’s many amputees to an “army just returned from a campaign.” Industrialization and overcrowding left cities cloaked in coal smoke and teeming with sewage and other filth that caused plagues such as cholera. Efforts to form unions or go on strike were thwarted. Proposed remedies for these ills ranged from the utopian socialism of Robert Owen a British manufacturer who established model industrial communities in Scotland and Indiana to the communism of Karl Marxa German political philosopher who collaborated with Friedrich Engels in 1848 to produce the Communist Manifesto, which forecast a class struggle that would lead to a dictatorship of the proletariat and ultimately to a classless society. What Marx did not foresee were the gains laborers would make as industrial, scientific, and political advances improved living and working conditions and brought employees higher wages and shorter hours.

In 1831, Englishman Michael Faraday discovered that moving a magnet through a coiled wire produces an electric current. This led to the electrification of entire cities by the late 1800s and the use of electronic signals to communicate by telegraph, telephone, and radio, pioneered by Guglielmo Marconi of Italy in the 1890s. Around the same time, Rudolf Diesel of Germany and others perfected the oil fueled internal combustion engine, which supplanted steam power in factories and ships and ushered in the age of automobiles and airplanes. These momentous developments gave industrialized societies huge advantages over pre-industrial societies and left much of the world under the influence or control of a small number of great powers.