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The Industrial Revolution  

While some historians are hesitant to call the technological and social changes that occured in England in the late 18th century as a revolution, these changes did indeed transform Europe and the world.
Last Updated: Jun 30, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Factory Work


Transforming Society

The changes that occured in England did not happen overnight and were the result of advances in agriculture, mining, machine making and technology.   These changes were more pronounced in England because the country had large deposits of coal and iron, a very good banking system, abundant capital and colonies that provided both raw materials and markets.   British scientific culture emphasized pratical applications and inventions.  The steam engine was a major invention.  The first commercial engine was produced in 1698, but in the 1760's James Watt began working to improve the engine.   By 1785 he had solved many of the problems and constructed an engine that used heat more efficiently than earlier engines and used less fuel.  Coal provided the power to drive the engine.   Iron was used to improve machines and tools.   Roads and canals were built.  In 1804 the first steam locomotive was invented and was rapidly improved.

The greatest innovation occured in the cotton textile industry and transformed everyday life for many people.   Power machinery increased output and led to the development of factories.   Individuals left their rural communities to work in these factories and were confronted with a regimented daily and weekly schedule.   Men, women and children worked long hours, six days a week.  Working long hours led to industrial accidents.   The factories were often dirty, with poor lighting.   The workers had little recourse if injured.    Strikes were not tolerated.    However, as time passed, the standard of living increased for many and after much struggle, unions did protect workers to a certain extent.  

These changes led to the growth of cities.  The population in England and later in Europe and the United States shifted from villages and farms to large towns and cities.   Urban areas were often crowded, dark, dangerous and dirty.  Over a period of time, reformers worked to improve the living and working conditions of these urban dwellers.

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