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Britain’s wealth was built in the backbone of child labour and hardship, making the Industrial revolution the greatest story in history, highlighting the transition from hand production methods to machine manufacturing. Economic historians identify 4 separate industrial revolutions, providing an understanding of the world economy as it is today.
In the early 18th century, cotton was regarded as a luxurious, exotic fabric, only to be wore by upper class citizens, but with the help of technological advances, this fashionable fabric became readily available for all working classes, as demand in cotton industries witnessed a boom. Quarry Bank Mill, established in 1784 by Samuel Greg, seized the opportunity to take advantage of the desperate need for the expansion and industrialization of the cotton industry. Sekers. D (2018), expresses, ‘The factory system was revolutionary with a combination of investment in water power sides and a fast labour force, working to the rhythm of this machinery.’ By the early 19th century, the cotton industry was expanding at a blistering pace, accounting for almost half of Britain’s exports. However, the constant pressure for productivity, resulted in factories becoming dangerous work places. Furthermore, with no law and regulations implemented, working human rights and freedom was crushed, but none-the-less Gregg cotton mill business was booming, leaving Britain to be the wealthiest nation.
It wasn’t long before the use of the Steam Engine was introduced into the economy, allowing Britain to make goods at a cheaper cost, spurning great profits for factories. According to Kelly, R (2019), the steam engine kept surfacing and improving the industrial revolution until 1773 when J Watt and M Boulton produced the classical double acting steam engine. The power of the steam engine operated spinning machines, allowing high quality and quantities of yarn to be produced, more efficiently and reach the high demand. It is important to note that the adaption of the steam engine was not only an essential tool in manufacturing but also in the transportation industry. Steam engines allowed trains to offer a quicker service, transporting raw and finished goods to other industries enabling them to be more efficient in their production stages. Furthermore, the new means of travel, became more assessible to individuals from rural areas, who would be able to use the new, fast transportation to urban areas for work. It is important to note that by 1850, almost half of Britain resided in towns, due to a rapid incline in employment opportunities.
By early 1900’s, the second industrial revolution was evolving, with Henry Ford introducing the assembly line. From the help of the steam engine, formally produced in Britain, the US used it to their benefit in the production, of which was later known as Fords T model. Henry Ford had mastered mass production techniques, enabling the manufacturing plant to produce, one fully assembled T model every 24 seconds. However, Ford and his engineers were constantly searching for new ways to speed up the car production process. By 1923, Ford had perfected the assembly line, boosting overall production levels to over 15million, and cut production time from over 12 hours to 2 hours and 30 minutes. Furthermore, costs were cut from $850 to only $260, meaning that Fords cars were affordable for almost every family. In effect, demand was increasing, therefore Ford was able to provide more jobs, increasing disposable incomes and overall standard of living of the economy.
In Jeremy Rifkin’s 2013 book, he examines how technology and renewable energy are merging together, establishing the Third Industrial Revolution (TIR). By 1970, the first computer was introduced to family homes for household use and the first mobile phone was produced, several years later, generating new ways for individuals to communicate with each other. Closing the 1900’s the internet platform had witnessed a great increase in its participant level, resulting in ecommerce being the new normality. There is no doubt that the digital revolution led to several inventions becoming dated. Furthermore, J. Rifkin highlights that unlike the first and second revolution, the third was a hinderance to the economy rather than a development. He expresses the continual slow growth of GDP, not only in the Uk but all over the world, was a result of the rise in unemployment levels. It is important to note that the 3rd revolution began with digitalization and robotics, which undoubtably became a more efficient way of production methods, replacing workers in manufacturing plants. BBC News reporter, J. Wakefield, (2015) expresses that companies like Foxconn, producer of electronic devices such as Apple iPhone, plan a robotic army workforce, replacing 30% of its human labour by 2021.
Many economists exclaim that every advancement or technical innovation today is contributing to the fourth industrial revolution, however in later chapters of his book, J. Rifkin (2013) expresses there will be no such thing as a fourth revolution. In a 2013 interview, Rifkin explains that by 2050, capitalism will be on our doorstep. Furthermore, a case study published by S. Zuboff (2019) expresses that we are already experiencing a rise in surveillance capitalism. Businesses and organisations are processing data, shaping the way we think and our consumer behaviour. It is important to note that almost every technical industry today is operating on a capitalistic platform. Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and many more are working through the digital media architecture which is now saturating our economy. S. Zuboff (2019) expresses that this platform is not normality and it is not what was planned from the first industrial revolution.
Technological innovations from the beginning, in 1700’s till present, was supposed to guide businesses and the economy to increase productivity, efficiency and employment levels. Instead it has caused corruption, mass unemployment and causing knock on effects of climate change. Despite the issues which arose after the revolutions, all in all they portrayed a number of positive effects. By creating jobs, technical progress and innovation, contributed to the wealth of the nation through an increase in the production of goods and increasing the living standards.
The long-term growth of the economy following the aftermath of revolutions are still evident today. The working conditions for many industries have improved immensely, as the labour force has been given employee rights. Furthermore, the increase of profits, produced by industrialization has generated tax revenues. According to a report, published by the BBC (2012), tax revenues are divided amongst several segments in an economy, such as Pensions, NHS, Education and Infrastructure. In addition, this has provided the economy with an incentive to continually adapt and improve the economy we live in.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that each Industrial Revolution has brought economic success as well as economic downturns. However, it is rational to declare, without the Revolutions, we wouldn’t be living within the high-tech economy we have today.
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