An epoch in which the social, cultural and economic paradigm was completely changed, princes and kings were no longer the protagonists of the world, now industrialists, inventors, engineers, and entrepreneurs changed history.
It was during these years, where modern life began to take shape, where the human being strengthened his domination over nature, ceasing to depend on magic and superstitions, to understand the true functioning of things through logic and reason.
Then, it can be said that the Industrial Revolution is nothing more than the peak of enlightenment, for that reason, it is born in England since –in addition to having a large amount of raw materials and political stability– it was a country with great freedoms and a religious ethic that valued work and the creation of wealth.
British Agricultural Revolution (18th Century)
Due to different political variations in England, the structure of the lands is changed, from communal to private, this with the aim of converting subsistence agriculture to one with surpluses to trade. The measures worked, encouraging farmers to invest in better tools and technology for their crops.
However, the one that most benefited agriculture was not a farmer, but the first industrialist: Richard Arkwright, creator of the factory. Able to produce large quantities of cotton yarn, requiring more workers than were available in his town.
With the arrival of industry, peasants became workers, production increased at the pace of the population. The chronic famines that attacked the country when the weather desired it was over, the Industrial Revolution had arrived.
Industrial Revolution (18th Century)
Although the Industrial Revolution is usually related to the steam engine, at first it was not like that, the primitive apparatuses worked with hydraulic, wind or muscular force, that is, animals. This is because the first steam engines (like Newcomen’s) were inefficient, only used for pumping water in heavy industries.
With the arrival of James Watt, this changed. In association with other people, he designed a machine 3 times more efficient and 2 times more powerful than the previous ones, however, they did not stay there. Why settle for the mining industry? Then they modified their invention so that it could be used to produce all kinds of products, without limitations of water or place, since it could be installed anywhere.
The factories were born everywhere, not only the life of the miner was changed, but that of the textile worker, the potter, peasant, and distiller. The factory system and industrial management were born. Turn-based work was invented, now time was money.
There were many products, but there was a problem: How to transport them? In the middle of the eighteenth century, it took longer to cross the country than it did to get to and from the moon. Many tried to solve this problem using the steam engine, but it was dangerous.
Until the engineer, Richard Trevithick, developed a powerful boiler that made the first functional locomotive possible, although very heavy for transport. Then, George and Robert Stephenson managed to create an efficient locomotive – based on Trevithick’s – in conjunction with the first railway line.
The suburbs were born, since people could be transported, they did not have to live next to the factories, they ate different and fresh since the products came quickly to all parts of the country. Life expectancy changes from 35 to 50 years, the average salary doubles.
Among the leading thinkers of the time stand out: Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, Robert Owen, Immanuel Kant –German– and Adam Smith, who was like the eighteenth-century management consultant, for his theories of economics and production.
Like the first technological revolution, it brought with it new diseases, the crowded conditions in the cities, were not optimal for a healthy life. From tuberculosis to typhus, there were many ailments that attacked the population.
Medicine was superstitions, rumors, and magic. There were experienced doctors, but their methods were very poor. With the environment of rational and creative thinking, there were those who studied family recipes in a scientific and methodical way, finding what ingredients worked and how much they did it, showing that it was possible to find remedies by measuring and studying the substances.
Cures were discovered, but… The causes? Traditionally it was by air, so ventilators were designed for enclosed spaces, however, this was not the real cause, although it reduced airborne diseases.
Then, James Lind, devised tests and processes to study diseases, working systematically and methodically, thus creating the clinical trial. However, despite finding the cure for scurvy, the leadership, distrusting the new, ignored this for years.
In other parts of the country, doctors and chemists working together with industrialists were able to isolate and find practical applications to oxygen, nitrous oxide, and other chemicals. Another important fact was the discovery of the first vaccine to fight smallpox by Edward Jenner.
Just as they discovered cures for known diseases, new ailments were born, especially for workers, due to terrible working conditions. Over time, occupational medicine was born at the hand of Charles Thackrah.
Despite knowing the basic structure of the body, it was not until this time that it began to study in a scientific and clinical way, with the aim of discovering its operation. In this case, the pioneer was William Hunter, who left a legacy of detailed medical illustrations.
Then, after a whole history of superstitions, magic, and prayers, medicine advances with aplomb, going from dubious remedies to diagnose, prevent and cure diseases, something unthinkable in previous centuries.
The sciences, in general, have a wide development, motivated by the thought of the time: chemistry is born –detaching itself from alchemy– at the service of metallurgy, medicine, and other industries, physics and mathematics are developed with speed to build better machines and increase productivity, botany, biology, social sciences, all develop to the beat of the industry.
Before the Industrial Revolution, the military superiority was carried by the side that had the best disciplined and trained troops, added to some technological advantage. With the arrival of industry, this changed, modern armies begin to be born, now the winner will be the one who produces more and better. Of course, the improvements not only benefit the army, the civil also benefits.
Although it seems impossible, the revolution did not touch the military field for many years, at the beginning of the 19th century, all rifles, parts for boats among others, were made by skilled craftsmen, not machines. However, this did not take long to change, with the creation of precise factories that completely changed industrial production.
These standardized the pieces of the products, allowing the damaged parts could be changed in full battle. In addition, it was dabbled in the creation of rockets and submarines, although they worked, they did not have much practical success.
The new methods of production of cannons make discovered incredible properties of wrought iron to the detriment of the gray, thus creating not only new weapons but buildings, bridges, and even warships.
So many new people generating wealth, made the cities grow rapidly, which generated a real estate boom, now, the houses were also made in series, with water and sewerage systems, using very efficient methods, leaving infrastructure that continues to work today.
The gas lighting made it possible for people to go for a walk and shop with relative safety, which made the commercial areas in the city grow, marketing was born, door-to-door salesmen, newspaper ads, in short, it was a Revolution of Consumption.
World industry (19th century)
Something so good was not going to be left alone in the United Kingdom, right? Industrialization did not take long to reach continental Europe, Japan, and the other Anglo-Saxon colonies, standing out above all in the US, being moved by electricity and oil.
Destined to be bigger, this was characterized by a deeper use of technology, being born new industries responsible for producing products such as fertilizers, dyes, medicines, artificial fibers, new mineral alloys, internal combustion engine, sterilized preserves, airplanes and, an amazing development of the arms industry.
It is here, where the bases of the mass media are built, with the telegraph, radio, photographs, and cinema, for this, it was required to educate –indoctrinate– the population through compulsory schooling. Also, the economic depressions and large multinationals are born.
The great competition, now global, promoted important scientific discoveries –which were immediately applied to technology–, but also, the displacement of the United Kingdom as a power. In addition, new systems of production are born, such as Taylorism –scientific planning– and Fordism –maximum specialization of work–.
However, an important feature of this stage is the great power of the states –the reason for the great development of armaments– leading to the First and Second World Wars, facts that end this “Revolution”.
After the terrible events of the great wars, certain fear in society towards technological innovations is born, therefore, the development has to take place in another way, however, this “other way” we will discuss it in the last stop of this trip.
Recommended multimedia content:
Esta obra está bajo una Licencia Creative Commons Atribución-NoComercial-CompartirIgual 4.0 Internacional.