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published on april 13, 2020
Last updated on June 22, 2020
Humans always, since the beginning of history, interacted with the environment. In some ways, the environment influenced human activity, and in other ways, humans, positively or negatively, shaped the environment. As industrialization begins, human activity radically alters the environment.
The environment did provide necessary elements for the start of the Industrial Revolution. First, agricultural productivity increased in the 1700s with new techniques such as crop rotation (to not overuse the soil), seed drill, and using the potato as a major calories source. Second, coal, iron, and timber (all environmental features) provided places with necessary natural resources to utilize for the creation and sustainability of factories. Third, close proximity to waterways, rivers, and canals provided factories with sources of power, transportation, and places to discharge waste.
"Iron and Coal" by William Bell Scott, 1855-1860. Image courtesy of Wikimedia
In addition to the environment, other factors for the start of the Industrial Revolution include urbanization, legal protection of private property, and wealth from colonies. As factories started, people moved in large numbers to cities, and this process intensified with more factories, thus more people moving to cities. Governments created laws to protect property, an Enlightenment natural right, and that enabled wealthy individuals to make major investments in factories. Lastly, nations that industrialized benefited from their colonies by extracting wealth and resources from them for a long time, resulting in accumulation of capital (💰) and resources.
All of these factors were found in Great Britain, and this is the place where the Industrial Revolution begins. Among all the reasons, the Enclosure Act restricted land ownership in rural areas, Britain had lots of colonies which provided a market to sell goods and places to extract natural resources, and Britain had an abundance of coal to power their factories.
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A broad tagline for the Industrial Revolution would be the transition in human society from farms to factories. Before the Industrial Revolution, people often grew their own food, lived outside the city, and families often interacted with each other throughout the day. The Industrial Revolution radically changes human society with factories.
The factory involved having labor and production taking place in a single location. People had to move to the factory location, which was mostly in urban areas and close to rivers. This created a concentrated amount of people in a specific area. Also, as part of a desire for efficiency, workers concentrated on one specific skill or task in the factory. This specialization of labor, like an assembly line, saw workers focus on one thing in order to maximize production. This also meant workers relied on the factory system for finished products since they no longer possessed the skills necessary to produce a finished good.
🎥Watch: WHAP - Industrialization in World History
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