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Industrial Revolution: Facts & Information for Kids

What is the Industrial Revolution?

The Industrial Revolution refers to a time of great technological, economic, industrial, and social development in England in the late 18th century and through the 19th century (approximately 1760 AD to 1850 AD). Some historians mark 1900 as the end of the Industrial Revolution, others note 1901 as the end of the revolution because this is the year Queen Victoria died.

The changes may have happened slowly, but the evolutions drastically changed the way of life in England and across Europe. The improvements in industry and social practices offered insight into what the future of the modern would look like.

Where Did the Industrial Revolution Start?

The Industrial Revolution began in England around 1760. The revolution began to grow specifically in the urban or urbanized areas of England, such as Manchester and Birmingham. Small towns and villages began to grow and contribute to the growing economy as industry took a hold of them.

How Did the Industrial Revolution Start?

Several factors acted simultaneously to help spur the Industrial Revolution: these factors include the development of machinery, population increase, and the innovation of processes to make labor more efficient. More importantly, the ages of enlightenment before the 19th century offered ideas and tools that gave those in the British Isles the ability to increase knowledge and improve society.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, most British citizens lived in rural areas or in the countryside. Artisans and crafters would make goods like textiles, clothing, and baskets by hand. They would make goods in their cottages and then send their goods to be sold or traded either in the marketplace, or they were traded in larger cities.

In the late 18th century, the population in England began to rise, so the demand for goods increased. Artisans, who were making their goods by hand, simply could not meet the increase in demand of goods, especially cloth or textile.

Around the late 1760s, James Hargreaves, who was an uneducated weaver living in Stanhill, invented the spinning jenny. This machine used up to eight spindles, meaning one weaver could spin eight threads at once instead of one. Later versions allowed up to eighty spindles.

After developments such as the spinning jenny, cotton would be more readily spun or woven into cloth in large scales. Cotton mills began springing up, offering jobs to skilled or unskilled laborers. Power looms, which were mechanized looms, created more cloth than a human could make.

Urban Migration

Citizens in rural villages became migrating to the cities to work in the cotton factories to earn wages. Cities began to form or increase in population from the rural migrants.

At the same time, the steam engine began to power more extensive and innovative machines. The steam engine could power looms as well as ships, cars, and trains. Some manufacturers used to the steam engine to make silverware and jewelry.

Alongside the increase of factories, the migration from rural to urban centers, and the steam engine, England saw a boom in railroad transportation. Trains began to run by steam. Citizens were able to travel quickly across the country, and manufacturers could transport goods for trade and sale at market.

The railways were supported by new techniques in ironwork and steelmaking. Ironmasters could make stronger and purer products of steel, including rods, knives, and mechanical parts. Iron provided the metal machines and components needed to make other industries successful, including textile makers, ship builders, construction builders, and other skilled crafts.

Rise in the Economy

As industry increased, the free market (or also referred to as capitalism) developed. Suddenly, buyers and sellers entered the market to trade money for wanted or desired goods. The government hardly interfered and there was no feudal system to oppress or control buyers and sellers.

Private business owners began to work to create great products that buyers would pay for over competitors. The successful private business owners would increase their factories or hire more workers to increase the output of goods to sell even more goods.

This kind of competition in the market helped innovation in the market, as businessmen would take risks in speculation to possibly gain profit. They would also work privately to improve innovation in machinery and production processes.

The increase in production of goods at low labor costs also reduced the price of goods. For instance, cheap metal prices allowed for the building of more railroads, bridges, and other structures.

Social Structure

The pace of society changed significantly with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Prior to the technological advancements, those in Britain worked with the seasons and the sun. Time was not standardized, and some citizens in rural areas may have had an hourglass.

With the increase of railroads and factory work, the standardization of time became necessary. Clocks and watches were made by skilled craftsmen and time was suddenly coordinated. Railways constructed timetables that passengers could use, and factories used clocks to measure work hours.

The pace of England quickened with the watch and citizens across the country were suddenly conscious of time.

Socially, cities had upper, middle, and lower classes. The improvement of industry allowed the middle class to improve, and it gave opportunity for upward social mobility to an extent.

The Bourgeoisie was a word used to describe individuals with businesses that were able to live comfortably. The working class were predominately unskilled laborers who worked for others.

Many laws were passed during the time. One of these bills, the Reform Bill of 1832, allowed all men to vote who owned at least 10 pounds worth of land property.

Individuals began to have leisure time. They joined clubs, went to public lectures, walked in public parks or gardens, and traveled.

Art, Literature, & Science

This period saw a boom in intellectual thought in the fields of art, science, and literature.

Authors like Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy wrote their famous novels during the time. Many of the novels depicted the reality of social problems and structures in Victorian England during the Industrial Revolution.

Women also wrote during this time, but they wrote under pen names. Some of these women included George Eliot (born Mary Anne Evans) and Acton Bell (born Anne Bronte).

In the realm of science and technology, the Industrial Revolution saw the development of the camera and electricity. Charles Darwin revolutionized science after his publication of On the Origin of Species.

When Did the Industrial Revolution Start and End?

Historians sometimes note that there were two specific industrial revolutions. The first Industrial Revolution lasted from 1750 to 1850. This revolution primarily occurred in England.

The second Industrial Revolution is said to have occurred from 1850 to 1900. This revolution was not confined to Britain and it spread to parts of Europe, North America, and Japan.

While historians may mark 1901 as the final ending date of the industrial revolutions, the technological and social progress made in Britain influenced what we know as our modern day.

What Were Some Problems During the Industrial Revolution?

While the Industrial Revolution was great for the economy, for social progress, scientific and technological advancement, as well as the furthering of knowledge, the revolution did create several problems in England.

One significant problem created in this time was pollution. The factories did not have regulations or environmentally-friendly practices. Dyes from clothing factories would be dumped back into rivers. The air surrounding urban areas was polluted with smoke from machines or steam engines burning coal as well as smoke from fireplaces.

There were many social problems during this period. Industrialization led to poor working conditions. Aside from dangerous working conditions that resulted in loss of limbs and disease, laborers worked long hours. Children were also working in these conditions, but hours were slowly regulated over time by laws.

The increase in urban populations also resulted in sanitation problems and the spread of disease. Until a sewage system was put into place, every city-dweller would throw excrement out windows or into the rivers. Common diseases were cholera, measles, mumps, diphtheria, and scarlet fever, smallpox, and tuberculosis.

What Was Created / Discovered During the Industrial Revolution?

  • Anesthesia
  • Vaccines – in 1796, Edward Jenner introduced a vaccine for smallpox
  • Telegraph
  • Telephone
  • Light Bulb
  • London Sanitation System
  • Geared bicycles
  • Pinhole camera
  • Morse code
  • Sewing machine
  • Power loom
  • Typewriter
  • Voice recorder
  • Comic books
  • Steam Engine

What Was the Highlight of the Industrial Revolution?

Perhaps the best part of the Industrial Revolution is that it set the stage for the modern era. The increase in technology and knowledge allowed for further improvements in production of goods and the acquisition of knowledge.

The arts and improvement in education and future development in social reform established a society of mobility both geographically and temporally.

The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London showcased all the great inventions and technological advances taking place in the British kingdom. It is the pinnacle of what the future could look like with scientific, technological, and artistic innovation.

Who Were the Crucial Figures in the Industrial Revolution?

  • Henry Bessemer – improved steel-making processes and craft
  • James Watt – evolved the steam engine
  • Charles Darwin – furthered scientific inquiry
  • Edmund Cartwright – invented the power loom
  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel – an engineer that planned the railway system in England and constructed steamships
  • Eli Whitney – invented the cotton gin
  • Thomas Edison – invented the lightbulb
  • Isaac Singer & Elias Howe – invented the sewing machine
  • Nikola Tesla – worked with electricity and radio waves

Other Facts About the Industrial Revolution:

  • Workers had shifts that were 12-15 hours long
  • Workers began to form unions to win better working conditions
  • Laws and new techniques resulted in roads being rebuilt or repaired
  • There as an increase in the use and production of chemicals to cure disease, dye fabrics, create pigments, and to craft goods
  • Canals were improved to better transportation of manufactured goods

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