Industrial Revolution (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Eighteenth century England was particularly suited to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. The nation was blessed with important natural resources ranging from coal to copper, salt, stone, and water—used for both energy and transportation by river. Self-sufficiency in food left much land and labor available for manufacturing, and the English countryside possessed many experienced weavers and millers. Theenclosure movement, which began in earnest under King Henry VIII during the early sixteenth century, saw peasants expelled from their lands by law or rising rents, providing cheap labor for wool manufacturing in cottage industry. The rural unemployed flocked to the large urban centers looking for work, furnishing cities such as London and Manchester with industrial labor for the next three centuries.
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Industry and Labor (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
The political stability that came with the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 made it safe for the aristocracy, along with bankers and merchants, to invest in urban industry; it was safe also for families and even lone individuals to start up workshops with little capital, while the Bank of England guaranteed long-term loans that stabilized the national currency. English naval power secured markets for industrial exports and agricultural imports ranging from cotton—key to the manufacturing of textiles—to wheat for sale to the growing urban working class. England’s and Wales’s abundance in coal made energy available to manufacturers at low prices, and new inventions—the steam engine, the spinning machine, and the railroad—increased labor productivity while lowering the cost of capital investment, as did new methods of producing iron and steel. London became the self-proclaimed workshop of the world, simultaneously a great urban manufacturing center and national capital, exercising political and police control over the working class.
The social and physical environment of England changed profoundly during the Industrial Revolution. Workers toiled by the hundreds in cramped, wretched quarters dubbed “Satanic Mills” by the poet William Blake (1757-1827). In the countryside, the extension of the railroad brought the demise of the village pub and chapel. Urban workers—men, women, and children—were subject to...
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The United States (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
The United States was destined for its own industrial revolution and set to outstrip England by the end of the nineteenth century. Without a history of feudalism or a homegrown aristocracy, but with a high level of literacy and a large percentage of the labor force possessing entrepreneurial or managerial skills, the former British colonies lacked only land for expansion and an influx of labor to make the leap from agriculture to industry. The Louisiana Purchase (1803), war with Mexico (1846-1848), and the forced expulsion of the indigenous population from the Midwest to the Far West to make way for cattle, sheep, cotton, and wheat, combined with new inventions such as the mechanical harvester, fomented a revolution in agricultural productivity in a few decades.
The Civil War (1861-1865) eliminated slavery and the last vestige of noncapitalist production methods. The war also led to a relaxation of immigration laws, flooding cities such as New York and Chicago with millions of both skilled and unskilled laborers, mostly from Europe. Government investment in infrastructure, including the Erie Canal and other waterways, bridges, and roads, made the transportation of goods less expensive. The Bessemer process for making steel furnished steel plows and railroad tracks. The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 symbolized the triumph of industry and commerce over small-scale agriculture. By 1890, when the national...
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Continental Europe (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Germany led the way in the second wave of the Industrial Revolution, starting around 1870. German unification in 1871, and victory over France in the Franco-Prussian War a year earlier, with the capture of Alsace-Lorraine and its coal fields, made Germany a leading industrial contender in iron and textiles, focused primarily in the Rhine River region, and also in relatively new industries such as electrical power and chemicals. Electricity, along with the internal combustion engine, allowed Germany after 1880 to assume the lead in automobile manufacturing, while the German chemical industry supplied Europeans in everything from explosives to aspirins. At the end of the nineteenth century Germany could boast of being the most powerful industrial country on the continent. Germany’s archrival to the east, czarist Russia, developed its own cotton industry, mostly for domestic consumption, while important iron- and steelworks surged in the Donets River basin. Oil deposits in the Caspian Sea region, and the railroad construction necessary to exploit them, pumped government investment in Russian industry.
As the new century approached, only England could claim to have made a full transition from an agricultural to an industrial society in Europe. Germany was still playing catch-up to the United Kingdom, while France, Italy, and the rest of the Mediterranean and Eastern European countries had developed only small-scale...
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Allen, Robert C. The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Hobsbawm, Eric. Industry and Empire: The Birth of the Industrial Revolution. Rev. ed. New York: New Press, 1999.
Mokyr, Joel. The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain, 1700-1850. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2010.
More, Charles. Understanding the Industrial Revolution. London: Routledge, 2000.
Stearns, Peter N. “Global Industry and the Environment.” In The Industrial Revolution in World History. 3d ed. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2007.
Vallero, Daniel. “Air Pollution and the Industrial Revolution.” In Fundamentals of Air Pollution. 4th ed. Boston: Elsevier, 2008.
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Background (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
The Industrial Revolution began around the middle of the eighteenth century in England. Increasingly sophisticated power-driven machines augmented and replaced human and animal labor, greatly increasing individual worker productivity. This led to an overall increase in per capita resource consumption at a time when population was also beginning to increase at an exponential rate.
Some economic historians speak of three or four separate Industrial Revolutions. The first, roughly 1750-1850, centered on mechanization of the textile and metallurgical industries. Mechanization of transportation in the form of railroads and steamships dominated the second phase. The United States overtook Britain as the world’s leading consumer of fossil fuels, and Japan became the first non-Western nation to embrace industrialization. The post-World War II era of globalization and rapid growth in information technology has been called a third Industrial Revolution. Finally, some economists call for a fourth Industrial Revolution that would drastically reduce depletion of nonrenewable resources.
Of the revolutions that convulsed Europe and North America in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the Industrial Revolution arguably had the most profound effect on the mass of people who experienced it. Most of its environmental effects, however, were either local or indirect. Compared with the first half of the eighteenth century and the...
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The Process of Industrialization (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
The roots of Europe’s industrialization must be sought in population fluxes and changing agricultural practices of the preceding centuries. Plague caused Europe’s population to crash in the mid-fourteenth century. By 1700, the population again reached carrying capacity, supporting urban growth and creating pressure to improve agricultural productivity. Rapid rural population growth also allowed colonial expansion, which in turn provided a source of raw materials for industry.
By 1719, whenIsaac Watt patented the first steam engine, London and other English cities mainly used coal for domestic heating. Pithead steam engines used to pump water from coal mines greatly increased production capabilities. Not long afterward, a series of innovations in the textile industry set the stage for massive movement from cottage-based industries to factories relying on external power sources. Other key inventions included improvements in iron founding, mechanization of tool machining, gas lighting, efficient papermaking and printing, and Portland cement, as well as the birth of the chemical industry.
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Energy Consumption (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Prior to about 1790, the mechanized textile industry in Britain relied upon water power. After 1790, coal-fired steam engines powered most factories. The use of coal to produce gas for illumination and cooking began in the first decade of the nineteenth century. Steamships started to replace sail for river and coastal traffic by 1820, while the first passenger railroad opened in 1828.
In the United States, consumption of fossil fuels was negligible before the Civil War. The textile industry used water power, and heating and transportation relied on wood from seemingly limitless forests.
The carbon dioxide (CO2) content of the Earth’s atmosphere remained nearly constant from 1700 to 1850, which correlates with a lack of observable greenhouse effect in temperature measurements from this period. Explanations for this stability in the face of greater fossil fuel use include sequestration in oceanic carbonates and an increased level of photosynthesis. In any event, although the rate of increase in fossil fuel consumption was impressive, the absolute numbers are low. The 45 million metric tons of coal consumed in 1850 are dwarfed by nearly 5.4 billion metric tons of coal consumed worldwide in 2006.
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Other Environmental Effects (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Historically, industrialization stimulated population growth. In early eighteenth century Britain, improved food production and better control of epidemic disease reduced infant mortality. Employment in cities and the opportunity to emigrate to colonies meant that these children married early and produced large families. While the population of the world as a whole roughly doubled between 1750 and 1860, that of Great Britain went from 7,500,000 to 23,130,000, and that of the United States went from 1,500,000 to 31,400,000. While the effects of immigration dominate U.S. statistics, the bulk of it was from the British Isles. Industrialization played a significant part in creating the expanding resource base making such growth possible. Although per capita resource consumption among the working poor did not begin to rise significantly until after 1850, the rise in numbers meant it took more energy and raw materials to support the population.
Contemporary accounts of early industrial cities paint a vivid picture of belching smokestacks and sulfurous fumes. Pollution controls were nonexistent. This large volume of pollutants tended to offset any greenhouse effect due to CO2. Pouring quantities of soot and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere produces atmospheric cooling. Although sulfur dioxide (SO2) is a greenhouse gas (GHG), it rapidly combines with water to form sulfuric acid, which reflects sunlight. Soot particles...
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Context (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Comparison of industrialization rates, temperature profiles, and CO2 levels in the period 1750-1850 with more recent trends suggests an insight into why global temperatures have not responded in a linear fashion to increases in atmospheric CO2 levels, but instead show a marked acceleration in the 1980’s, when acid rain became an environmental issue of grave concern, and western countries began aggressively curbing sulfur emissions from coal-fired electrical plants. Once the natural SO2 pulse from Mount Pinatubo cleared the atmosphere, the Earth experienced the full effect of GHGs unmitigated by pollution. The importance of SO2 pollution in counteracting greenhouse warming has also been recognized by British scientists studying drought cycles in the Amazon basin.
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Global Warming)
Alverson, Keith D., Raymond S. Bradley, and Thomas Pedersen, eds. Paleoclimate, Global Change, and the Future. Berlin: Springer Verlag, 2003. A collection of scholarly papers comparing past climate changes with present anthropogenic trends.
Singer, S. Fred, and Dennis T. Avery. Unstoppable Global Warming: Every Fifteen Hundred Years. Rev. ed. Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008. Lack of a temperature response during the Industrial Revolution is used as evidence that global warming is primarily a natural phenomenon.
Stearns, Peter N. The Industrial Revolution in World History. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2007. A thorough, scholarly book with good information on the effect of population on industrialization.
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Industrial Revolution (Encyclopedia of Science)
Industrial Revolution is the name given to changes that took place in Great Britain during the period from roughly 1730 to 1850. It was originated by German author Friedrich Engels (1820895) in 1844. In general, those changes involved the transformation of Great Britain from a largely agrarian (farming) society to one dominated by industry. These changes later spread to other countries, transforming almost all the world.
The Industrial Revolution involved some of the most profound changes in human society in history. Most of the vast array of changes took place in one of three major economic industries: textiles, iron and steel, and transportation. These changes had far-reaching effects on the British economy and social system.
The textile industry
Prior to the mid-eighteenth century, the manufacture of textiles (woven cloth or fabric) in Great Britain (and the rest of the world) took place almost exclusively in private homes. Families would obtain thread from wholesale outlets and then produce cloth by hand in their own houses. Beginning in the 1730s, however, a number of inventors began to develop machines that took over one or more of the previous hand-knitting operations.
In 1733, John Kay (1704764) invented the first fly shuttle. This machine consisted of a large frame to which was suspended a series of threads. A...
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