Industrial Revolution and industrialization
Background (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The Industrial Revolution is generally considered to have begun in England in the eighteenth century and to have spread to North America, northern Europe, and then further throughout the world. It is still under way in emerging nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Industrialization is characterized by increased consumption of energy and material resources, centralization of production, the growth of urban populations, and the evolution of extensive transportation and energy distribution infrastructures.
The production of nonagricultural goods has followed a common historical pattern in many parts of the world. At first, families (or somewhat larger tribal units) make enough for their own needs. Then a type of trade develops in which individuals specialize in the production of a limited number of goods, and a market economy—allowing the accumulation of money or capital—is established. The buying and selling then increasingly come under the control of merchants who buy from the producers and arrange transport to the buyers. At first, domestic manufacture prevails; in other words, production occurs within or near the home. Eventually, an industrial stage is achieved: Labor is centralized so that investment can be made in the means of production and economies of scale can be realized.
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Preconditions (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
In order for factory production to supplant domestic production in a nation or region, there must be adequate supplies of human power, mechanical energy, and capital. A transportation infrastructure must be in place. Further, some rudimentary knowledge of science and engineering is required, as are adequate materials with which to build machinery. Cultural assumptions are also important. Industrialization will not occur unless improvements in material wealth are considered both possible and desirable by those in positions of political and economic power.
The Industrial Revolution could not have occurred before an agricultural revolution made it possible for a smaller proportion of the population to be directly involved in food production, thereby freeing individuals to move to cities. Historians view the agricultural revolution as beginning with the transition in Western Europe, about the year 1600, from open fields to enclosed individual farms and the subsequent introduction of new crops (particularly feed for livestock), new tools for plowing and planting, and improvements in livestock. With the increased availability of animal muscle power and fertilizer from animal waste, farms became more productive, but they were also more expensive to run. Rural populations stratified into farm owners, tenants, and paid workers. The latter, having no direct tie to the land, were free to move to the city in search of work, and they formed...
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The Steam Engine (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Prior to the eighteenth century the only available sources of mechanical energy were muscle, wind, and flowing or falling water. The latter had been widely exploited in milling and other industries. The development of the steam engine appears to have been a by-product of the metal- and coal-mining industries. A major problem in mining was water that seeped into mine shafts, and, in 1698, English inventor Thomas Savery introduced a water-lifting device based on steam pressure.
By 1713 an English craftsman named Thomas Newcomen had produced the first steam engine that could function at atmospheric pressure. The basic Newcomen design was improved by James Watt, a Scottish instrument maker, in the period between 1765 and 1790. By 1820 some sixty steam engines were at work in Birmingham, England, generating a total of about 1,000 horsepower. A scant eighteen years later there were more than three thousand steam engines in the United States—on steamboats, in railroad locomotives, and in manufacturing use.
The steam engine converts heat energy into mechanical energy. Its development meant that mechanical power could be available wherever there was an adequate supply of fuel. The burning of coal, which had already begun to replace wood for home heating, became the principal source of power for the Industrial Revolution, with the early steam engines providing a means both of pumping water from mine shafts and of cutting the...
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Industrialization of the Textile Industry (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The textile production industry of fiber and cloth was the first manufacturing process to be industrialized, and cotton proved to be the fiber most amenable to the mechanized processing. Cotton is converted into cloth by the processes of carding, spinning, and weaving, in which the fibers are separated from one another, wound into thread or yarn, and then woven into fabric. The first spinning machine was put into production in London in 1740, with a carding machine developed about a decade later. Improvements in both these technologies were achieved by the English inventor James Hargreaves, who patented the “spinning jenny” in 1770 and a carding engine in 1775. The power loom was introduced by Edmund Cartwright, an English clergyman turned industrialist, in 1785. The number of power looms in England and Scotland grew from about fourteen thousand in 1820 to one hundred thousand in 1833.
The explosive growth of the textile industry had important implications for land use and for world politics. The British government sought to prevent the designs for textile machinery from leaving England so as to maintain a monopoly on textile production. The American textile industry began in 1790 when an English immigrant named Samuel Slater built successful water-powered spinning machines in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Following the invention of the cotton gin (which separates cotton fiber from the seed) by the...
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Transportation (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
With industrialization came the need for more efficient transportation of raw materials to manufacturing centers and of finished goods to consumers. The first steamboat, in which a steam engine produced the motive power for a paddlewheel, was demonstrated in 1787 by John Fitch, an American inventor. Regular steamboat service was not established until twenty years later, when American engineer Robert Fulton introduced regular service on New York’s Hudson River. The first propeller-driven steamships were introduced in 1836, and in 1845, a propeller-driven ship crossed the Atlantic, inaugurating a new era in worldwide shipping.
The second major vehicle for the transport of goods and services was the railroad. The first designs that were called “railroads” consisted of short lengths of wooden rail on which horses moved coal for short distances. In 1804, an English inventor named Richard Trevithick mounted a steam engine on a four-wheeled carriage and used his invention to pull an 8-metric-ton load of coal over 14 kilometers of track. The first public railroad began operation in England in 1825. By that time railroad-building had already spread to the United States. With government support, the railroads expanded rapidly across North America, fueling the westward migration of farmers and cattlemen and resulting in the conversion of vast areas of wilderness to agricultural use.
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The Chemical Industry (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The chemical industry is somewhat unusual in that most of its products are meant for use in other industries. It also is probably the industry with the greatest impact on natural resources other than energy. Sulfuric acid, used in the bleaching of textiles and the cleaning of metals, was perhaps the first major “chemical” to be used. At the end of the eighteenth century, new sources of alkali were sought to meet the demands of glassmaking and soapmaking. The depletion of the forests of Europe to produce charcoal had led to a scarcity of potash (potassium carbonate), traditionally obtained from wood ash. In 1780, Nicolas Leblanc developed a process whereby soda ash (sodium carbonate) could be produced from salt, chalk, and sulfuric acid. The modern chemical industry began about 1840 when chemists discovered that numerous organic chemicals could be extracted from coal tar, a by-product of the use of coke in blast furnaces. In addition to aromatic hydrocarbons such as benzene and toluene, then thought of mainly as solvents, the nitrogen-containing compound aniline and an entire family of aniline dyes were obtained. A great number of new chemical compounds and industrial by-products were thus released into industrial wastewater.
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The Internal Combustion Engine (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
While the steam engine was the original workhorse of the Industrial Revolution, it had many inefficient features. Heat energy, provided by burning wood or coal, was used to heat water, creating the steam that provided the moving force for a piston, which in turn produced the actual mechanical motion. Much of the generated heat energy escaped in the process. The strategy of using the fuel as the working material—thereby eliminating the middle steps in the production of motion—was realized in the internal combustion engine, developed in the years 1863 to 1866 by a German traveling salesman, Nikolaus August Otto.
The compactness of the internal combustion engine made it an extremely attractive power source for self-powered vehicles, including the automobile and the truck. The automobile became a major product of industry in the United States. The motor truck provided the capability to deliver goods wherever there was a road. Possibly no single aspect of industrialized society has had as much effect on land use and air quality as the automobile. In 1908, Henry Ford introduced the Model T, the first automobile to be affordable to many Americans. Within twenty years more than half of all American families owned motorcars. petroleum refining and road construction became major industries. Unfortunately, the combustion of gasoline in the automobile engine was not complete, so carbon monoxide and volatile...
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Electricity (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Italian physicist Alessandro Volta invented the electric battery in 1800, opening a new energy source to development. After the invention of the electromagnet by William Sturgeon in 1825, a number of inventors strove to perfect the electromagnetic telegraph, by which messages could be sent over wires almost instantaneously. Exploitation of the telegraph required the stringing of telegraph lines between major cities. Much of the development of electrical technology was driven by the potential for long-distance communication. The discovery of the electric motor and generator marked a new freedom in the generation of mechanical energy. Electrical energy could be produced wherever convenient and transmitted at low cost to wherever it might be needed. In particular, electricity could be generated by the energy of falling water, either at a natural waterfall, such as at Niagara Falls, or by damming the flow of rivers.
An explosion in energy consumption was heralded by Thomas Edison’s invention of the incandescent electric light in the late nineteenth century. In order for profits to be generated by this innovation networks of generators, transmission lines, and transformers for the distribution of electrical energy had to be established. These networks could be powered by falling water (hydroenergy); by the burning of coal, oil, or natural gas; or, following World War II, by the energy released by nuclear fission. Each of these...
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Impact on Natural Resources (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The course of industrialization in Western Europe and the United States demonstrates dramatically the interconnections between technological change, social and economic conditions, and the utilization of natural resources. Overall, industrialization is accompanied by an increased use of natural resources, punctuated by innovations and discoveries that may shift consumption from one resource to another. While industrialization has historically resulted in varying degrees of environmental degradation—ranging from deforestation to damage from huge strip mines to air and water pollution—advances in technology frequently allow a more efficient use of resources, moderating the demand for individual scarce resources and limiting environmental impact. The evolution of automobiles over the last forty years of the twentieth century, for instance, saw a reduction in metal usage, greatly increased fuel economy, the elimination of lead released to the environment, and a reduction in other pollutants.
There has been considerable debate over the question of whether continuing worldwide industrialization, coupled with population growth, will deplete crucial resources such as oil and certain mineral resources in the near future. On the one hand, reserves of materials such as oil are finite. On the other hand, a number of factors seem to be mitigating the problem. Automation and computers are employed in industry to use...
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Bronowski, Jacob. The Ascent of Man. Boston: Little, Brown, 1973.
Josephson, Paul R. Industrialized Nature: Brute Force Technology and the Transformation of the Natural World. Washington, D.C.: Island Press/Shearwater Books, 2002.
Kranzberg, Melvin, and Carroll W. Pursell, Jr., eds. Technology in Western Civilization. 2 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.
McPherson, Natalie. Machines and Economic Growth: The Implications for Growth Theory of the History of the Industrial Revolution. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994.
Marcus, Alan I., and Howard P. Segal. Technology in America: A Brief History. 2d ed. Fort Worth, Tex.: Harcourt Brace College, 1999.
Park, Se Hark, and Walter C. Labys. Industrial Development and Environmental Degradation: A Source Book on the Origins of Global Pollution. Northampton, Mass.: Edward Elgar, 1998.
Pursell, Carroll W., Jr., ed. Technology in America: A History of Individuals and Ideas. 2d ed. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990.
Singer, Charles, et al., eds. The Industrial Revolution, c. 1750 to c. 1850. Vol. 4 in A History of Technology. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1954-1984.
Smith, Toby M. The Myth of Green Marketing: Tending Our Goats at the Edge of Apocalypse. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998.
Stearns, Peter N. The...
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