The improvement in the means of transport and communication was a great encouragement to the Industrial Revolution. The raw materials, finished products, food and people needed a reliable system of transportation. Improvements in bridges and road construction were made early in the 1700’s. They helped to transport the raw materials and factory made products to their destinations. In 1814, George Stephenson built the first steam locomotive engine to run on railway tracks. Soon the steam engines and railways were transporting goods over tracks throughout England and supporting the canal transportation.
During the mid-19th century, wooden steam-powered ships took over the sailing ship. Soon after the iron ship was used for traveling across the ocean. If the first phase of the Industrial Revolution depended on steam, then the second phase depended on electricity. Do you know Michael Faraday had the distinction of inventing the first electric motor? Electricity now became commercially available and was used to run the factories. Faster means of transportation and communication speeding up business transactions, contacts between army units, colonies, countries, and even common people. The invention of the telegraph and the telephone made it possible to communicate anywhere in the world instantly.
The steam engine, coal and iron laid the foundation for modern industry. It was believed that only people with ‘death wish’ worked in mines. Coal was moved along horizontal tunnels in baskets and then hauled up a vertical shaft to the surface. The movement of coal from mines was totally dependent on muscle power – animals, men, women and children. The coal mines had dangerous working conditions. Unfortunately the children were preferred because of their small size.
The demand for coal went up with the increase in the use of steam power. Great progress was made in coal mining such as tunnel ventilation, transportation of coal, use of gunpowder to blast away ridges and the use of safety lamps. But the coal miners suffered from many hazards and health problems like lung disease.
Significant improvements were made in the iron industry during this time. In 1709, Abraham Darby produced pig iron smelted with coke. Earlier pig iron was smelted with charcoal which was derived from wood which resulted in fast depletion of England’s forests. In 1784, Henry Cort, an ironmaster, developed a process for producing a less brittle iron. It was called wrought iron. It proved to be a very useful metal in industrial processes. In 1774, John Wilkinson invented the drilling machine that could drill holes with great accuracy. Between 1788 and 1806, the production of iron increased many times and the use of iron spread to farm machinery, hardware, shipbuilding, etc.
The development in the iron and textile industries made it necessary to invent better transportation facilities for cheaper and quicker movement of goods. It was urgently required to fulfill the need of domestic and foreign markets
Another major achievement of the Industrial Revolution was the development and application of steam power. Even the earlier devices were improved upon and developed into machines as the number of industries had increased. So, enormous power was needed for production. In 1705, Thomas Newcomen built an engine for pumping water from coal mines. In 1764, James Watt improved upon the design and improved the efficiency of Newcomen’s engine fourfold. He introduced a chamber with a jet of cold water to condense the steam and cause vacuum. This was also a period of transfer of one technology to another. Watt used John Wilkinson’s drill gun to bore the large cylinder for his engine. The steam engine soon replaced the earlier locomotive coal engines. It increased the demand for railway lines. The steam engine made the technology portable and was in demand by other industries. Now there was no need to locate the factories along rivers or lakes any longer.
The Industrial Revolution had led to an unequal society. On the one hand were the workers who were poor, exploited and without any rights; and on the other were the capitalists who enjoyed all the privileges. At that time, some people began to think about the society that should be based on equality in social and economic terms. Ideas like equality, freedom of speech and democracy gave encouragement in this regard. The idea of socialism, which tries to establish equal society, began to take root. The most powerful and influential ideas of socialism was given by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In the book Das Capital, Marx pointed out that history of all societies is the history of class struggle. According to him the capitalists always try to increase their profits by reducing the wages of the workers which leads to class conflict. He predicted that the struggle will be successful with the end of capitalism and the coming of socialism. This will result in the control of the ownership of the means of production in the hands of the state and the birth of an equal society.
The first practical example of this was the Russian revolution which resulted in the establishment of the first socialist government of the world. Russia was industrially backward and was based on an agrarian economy. Tsar was an autocratic and oppressive ruler; hence the workers and the peasants suffered a lot. The Revolution of 1905 led to the formation of a constitutional monarchy with the formation of the Duma; the members of whom were representatives of peasants, townsmen and gentry. Even after the Revolution of 1905 , the civil rights and democratic representation was limited and hence the unrest continued.
In 1917, occurred another revolution in Russia. It happened because the condition of the Russian workers and peasants, and non Russians living in Russia had become quite miserable under the autocratic rule of Tsar Nicholas II. Exploitation along with inhuman working conditions and huge amount of taxes had made the people rise against him. People were also denied any political rights. Russia had also entered World War I for imperialist gains. But she was unequipped to do so. Thousands of Russian soldiers were killed in World War I as they were ill equipped with no proper warm uniforms and arms to fight in the cold desert of Siberia. Many skilled workers were forced to enlist in the army and fight in the battlefields resulting in their deaths. The nobility were also dissatisfied with Tsar Nicholas II due to his autocratic ways. Famines further worsened the situation in the country. This resulted in labor riots and strikes. Striking crowds attacked courts, prisons and office premises. There was widespread unrest among all sections of society. The army lacked ammunition, the cities lacked food while the peasants failed to get proper return for their produce. The government in the meantime had printed millions of Rouble notes leading to inflation. The situation slipped out of Tsar’s hands.
This situation was further worsened by the writings of Marx and Tolstoy which influenced the people, especially the workers, and led to their political awakening. This led to the formation of the Council of Workers called the Soviets. In February 1917, Tsar was deposed and a Provisional Government was established under the control of the Menshevik Party. But the Government failed to fulfill the demands of the people. Another Party called the Bolshevik headed by Lenin organised the Soviets and replaced the Government in October 1917. This October Revolution was the final stage of the Russian Revolution. It brought to an end the rule of the Tsar and led to the formation of the USSR and a new world order.
In the next lesson you will read more about Industrialisation, Imperialism and the World Wars. You will be able to understand how the Industrial Revolution changed the face of the world and brought about tremendous changes in the life of the people. You will also read the impact it had on the non-industrialised countries of the world and how it led to conflicts which are till today considered to be some of the most horrible wars faced by the world.
Mains Syllabus : GS 1 – History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawing of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.