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The Industrial Revolution was a worldwide, loosely defined event that took place during the 18th and 19th centuries. During this time technology advanced rapidly and the world transitioned from a dependence on manual work to machine operation to manufacture goods. Arguably, standard of living increased as well, but there were definitely societal issues and new problems that arose as a direct result of the Industrial Revolution. It set the precedent for the development of the middle class and the onset of globalism. Inventions like the steam engine, the cotton gin, and the power loom, along with new ways to mass produce steel and iron allowed the world to rapidly advance at a rate never seen before then. The textile industry was by far the most widespread and profitable, and factories sprang up across cities rapidly with building having been made easier by technological advancements of the time. Within a hundred years the world had gone from producing all of its’ goods manually to a mechanized industry that brought on many positives and negatives.
Britain, with its large and untapped stores of coal and iron, is where the Revolution began in the 1760s. With its fingers in most of the globe in some way or another, Britain also had access to foreign resources to manufacture with. Gradually, it spread across the globe and especially changed countries like the United States, Britain, and Japan. The United States became possibly the most important country in world politics with their military power and economic strength brought on by the revolution. Britain became much of the same, and the alliance between the two countries produced much mutual benefit and ended up saving the world twice in the early twentieth century. Japan, which up to that point had been mostly behind technologically, suddenly became a force to be reckoned with in Asia. Japan’s Meiji Restoration saw the country return to full monarchy, and with a renewed sense of patriotism and culture, it also saw the country industrialize fully after in 1858 Japan finally stopped being an isolationist nation and began to connect with the rest of the world.
The Revolution also contributed to the creation of a middle class, or a bourgeoisie. Before then everyone was very rich or very poor with no real in between. The Revolution created many new professions that were more lucrative than hard manual labor, but did not contribute quite enough to make people rich. The increased necessity for recordkeeping created more accountants, bookkeepers, and the like.
The Revolution brought much prosperity to the world but also brought much hardship. Life for the poor could be awful in cities, which were growing exponentially as a result of recent technological advancements. The consequences of a lack of proper regulation on the work industry at the time were dire and people suffered. People could work for over half the day six days a week – there were no real labor laws until later. There were also no laws against child labor either until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Children were useful to the factories that had popped up everywhere because of their small frames – they could often reach or fit into machinery that adults could not. Of course, the machinery was even more dangerous then than it was now, and many children were maimed or killed. Despite much outcry against treatment of children in the industry, child labor laws were mostly instituted later because adults needed more work, not for pragmatic reasons. In poorer parts of cities, the area was often dirty and suffering from disease. Workers, who made little money before union reform, were often forced to pack like sardines in tiny apartments just to afford rent.
In response to terrible conditions like this caused by unregulated capitalism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels developed the concept of socialism, which proposed an alternative system in which workers were protected, people had less opportunity to go off the rails with their riches and create a gap, and the state supported its people much more than it currently did. The following of Marx is known as Marxism and covers socialism and a more drastic form known as communism. Unfortunately, their system was mostly on-paper only – every country that has properly adopted communism has collapsed, not without millions of deaths before it.
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