The Industrial Revolution, which straddled the 18th and 19th centuries, was a time of great economic change in Europe and North America. It saw a shift from a predominantly agricultural economy to one based on manufacturing. This also ushered in an era of growth for cities as jobs shifted from the rural farming areas to urban centers of production.
A few key developments that made this revolution possible are worthy of note:
1. The Steam Engine - this basic engine was used to provide power to locamotives, production machinery, and construction equipment.
2. Electricity - certainly not "invented" during this era, it was during the 19th Century that it was truly harnessed and made widely available for manufacturing - running machinery and lighting the factories and production plants.
3. The Assembly Line - a method of production where each worker is assigned a specific job, which is performed repeatedly. This is in contrast to each worker creating an object from start to finish, which was much slower.
4. Interchangeable Parts - using identical elements to create items ensured that the products would be uniform in quality and that if a single element failed or broke it could be easily replaced.
The result of the Industrial Revolution was an economic boom and in many ways an increased quality of life for the upper class, but at the same time it had a negative impact on the quality of life for workers.
Working conditions were deplorable: factories were hot, dangerous places with poor air quality. There were few breaks and the work day was 12 hours or more. There was no minimum wage, no medical benefits, and no compensation if a worker was injured on the job. Without child labor laws there was nothing to keep children from the same miserable working conditions, and what's worse - if children were working then they weren't in school. The lack of education only perpetuated the cycle of poverty from one generation to the next.
Often the factory owners also owned the tenaments and apartment buildings that were inhabited by their workers, keeping them practically enslaved to their bosses.
These negative aspects of the Industrial Revolution, coupled with a capitalist economy was influential in the formation of a rival system in the minds of Karl Marx and Fredreich Engles, the fathers of Communism. It is their idea that we will explore next time.
Ad Jesum per Mariam,