The Pros and Cons of the Industrial Revolution Explored

Pros and Cons of the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution is known as the time period where mass production of goods became possible through various technological innovations. The first Industrial Revolution began in the mid-18th century and ended when the start of the second Industrial Revolution came in the mid-19th century, which lasted up until the early 20th century. There are many great things that came from the Industrial Revolution, but it also caused major issues as well. The question is: What are the pros and cons of the Industrial Revolution?

Pros of the Industrial Revolution

  • Established a working class
  • Faster production of goods and materials (mass production)
  • Allowed most people to gain access to goods that enhanced quality of life
  • New technological innovations (key advancements in communication and transportation)

Cons of the Industrial Revolution

  • Negative impacts on the environment caused by factory emissions
  • Poor living and working conditions due to rapid urbanization
  • Low working wages

What Life Was Like Before the Industrial Revolution

What Life Was Like Before the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution has many pros that have improved the quality of our everyday life and offered individuals working opportunities that were less present beforehand. Without the Industrial Revolution taking off in the mid-18th century, we may not have the same luxuries of technological innovations that we use in our everyday modern lives. Negative impacts to the environment is arguably the biggest con of the Industrial Revolution because it still affects the Earth to this day.

Before the Industrial Revolution, there was little opportunity for growth which created a clear separation from the upper and lower classes. Many individuals were peasants, farmers, or worked as artisans in a specific craft and produced materials in a small shop or in their home. The upper-class consisted mostly of landowners and would make considerably more money than the lower-class people.

Historians called the time period before the Industrial Revolution the ‘cottage industry’. This industry was made up of artisans who produced textiles from their homes or small shops. Without any factories around at the time, production was very slow and the need for goods was rising due to an increasing population. This is when investors and entrepreneurs stepped in to come up with ways to increase production.

Pros of the Industrial Revolution

Establishment of the Working and Middle Class

The Industrial Revolution is known for the time when a working class was officially established. Factories in England began popping up after the steam engine was invented, which was used to power the factories. Shortly after, factories would be built in the United States and other countries looking to expand in the production industry.

Once factories were built, the need for workers opened up job opportunities to many looking for a new way to make a living. This was a huge step for social and economic classes that had never existed before. Jobs in factories, mining, and railroads began to open up and agricultural workers and families began moving to cities where these jobs were available. Thus, the working and middle class was created, with the middle class in skilled labor or managerial positions and the working class being the people who worked under the middle class.

Technological Innovations

Major technological innovations helped make the operations of factories possible and kickstarted the mass production of textiles and goods that made the quality of life better. James Watt improved the atmospheric steam engine that was invented by Thomas Newcomen to be more efficient and would be used to power factories. The unit of power used to measure most electronic devices today is called the watt (W), which was named after James Watt, in the International System of Units (SI).

James Hargreaves invented the ‘Spinning Jenny’ in the 1760’s which made spinning wool and cotton much more efficient because it was powered by an engine and could spin eight threads simultaneously instead of just one. In the early 19th century, railways had major innovations including the Stephenson’s Rocket which was a steam-powered locomotive. The Stepehenson’s Rocket was an improved locomotive that proved to be more efficient than previous steam locomotives and would be used as a model for future steam locomotives.

The invention of the first battery by an Italian physicist in 1800 would contribute to the first telegraph that would help with long-distance communications. Morse code was created by Samuel Morse and Leonard Gale which would be used as a communication method when sending messages over a telegraph system. The first message in the United States using the telegraph system was sent from Washington D.C. to Baltimore, Maryland. This invention gave people the ability to communicate on a global scale. The invention of the telephone in the latter half of the 19th century was a direct result of the telegraph system.

Centuries of technological innovations and improvements gave way to better forms of communication and power. The first Industrial Revolution brought changes that people of the past could have never imagined which led us to the modern world we live in today. Such technological innovations made things such as television, the computer, phones, and other everyday items possible.

Mass Production of Goods

Mass Production of Goods

The invention of the assembly line, created by Henry Ford, would be the beginning of mass production. Not only did the assembly line improve efficiency and allow products to be made in significantly less time, it also improved labor conditions that were very poor prior to its creation. Many factory workers beforehand were working excruciatingly long hours and the ability to produce products at a faster rate helped to reduce labor hours.

In the early 20th century, Ford created mass-production methods which made the Model T the first affordable car. Because the assembly line reduced production times, the cost of producing the automobile was made affordable to most people. Cars were widely available to many in the 1920’s and became the new mode of transportation.

Rather than workers making products by hand and having to learn how to do several tasks, the automated assembly line allowed each worker to perform one or two tasks to be completed for each product that came down the line. This helped reduce the amount of training and work that was needed to make a product. The innovation of the assembly line led to the mass production of goods, better working conditions, and is still used today in factories as the predominant method to produce goods on a large scale.

Cons of the Industrial Revolution

Although the first and second Industrial Revolution brought major advancements to help create the modern world, there are some disadvantages that came with it. The biggest con of the Industrial Revolution is the negative impact it has had on the environment. The Industrial Revolution caused major air and water pollution that still heavily affects the environment to this day.

A few other cons of the Industrial Revolution were low working wages, poor working conditions, unhealthy lifestyles, and loss of artisanship. Many people were working 10 to 12 hour shifts in the factories with little to no breaks. The conditions of factories and housing in cities were very poor due to rapid urbanization. Injury, infection, diseases, exposure to toxins, and poor air ventilation were a number of risks that came with the Industrial Revolution.

Poor Working and Living Conditions

New and exciting innovations came with a cost in the Industrial Revolution. Workers in factories and mines dealt with very low wages and poor working conditions. Due to rapid urbanization caused by so many people moving to cities for work, the housing conditions were also very poor. Health code enforcements and safer conditions developed over time, but at the start of the revolution these problems wreaked havoc on the lives of the working class.

Industrial towns were made up of poorly built housing and did not meet basic sanitation standards. There was no running water and filth and waste lined the streets creating risk for infection and diseases. Inside factories and mines, the working class was forced to work very long hours for very little pay that barely covered the cost of living. Mining was one of the many jobs that required people to work in extremely dangerous environments and risk major injuries.

Loss of Artisanship

With the Industrial Revolution came mass production, which then led to the production of goods using low-quality materials. Many products and goods that were handmade before the Industrial Revolution took much longer to make, but they were of higher-quality materials than what we see today.

The work of skilled artisans became more rare over time as cheaper goods were becoming more available since mass production took over various industries. That does not mean there aren’t any artisans present today, but it is easier and cheaper for people to shop for items that are available at big-box retail stores such as Walmart or Target.

Negative Impacts on the Environment

Negative Impacts on the Environment

The burning of coal and other fossil fuels that helped power factories became a significant problem as the Earth’s air became polluted by factory emissions. Major industrial areas were described as having a thick smog over the city because the air was so polluted. Continuously breathing in the pollution caused health risks to increase and people became vulnerable to respiratory illnesses.

Waterways were also becoming heavily polluted with filth and debris as rapid urbanization formed overcrowded cities and waste was being dumped into the waters. The pollution from the Industrial Revolution caused decades of environmental turmoil that led to a movement in the 1970’s. The goal of the environmental movement was to enforce major policies in an effort to better the Earth’s environment by preventing further damage to the Earth’s atmosphere and fragile ecosystems.

Overview: Pros and Cons of the Industrial Revolution

There were many glooming effects caused by the first and second Industrial Revolution. The Earth’s environment and the people living during the era suffered major repercussions. Workers had to endure long, strenuous work days, risk major injury to barely make a living, and then go home to poor housing conditions. The health of the Earth’s environment was rapidly declining due to the amount of pollution that was released into the air and waterways. After many decades of policies and actions implemented in an attempt to save it, we are finally seeing the environment beginning to recover.

Despite the negative effects, the Industrial Revolution was a time in history that quickly changed how the entire world operated. The cottage industry slowly began to disappear as new technological innovations were changing the way people worked and how goods were produced. The revolution helped the working and middle classes emerge, communication and travel became easier, and goods that enhanced quality of life became more accessible. It was a booming era that led to many amazing creations that are present in our everyday lives.

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