The Industrial Revolution: Crash Course European History #24


Hi I’m John Green and this is Crash Course
European History. So we’re going to turn our attention now
to the Industrial Revolution, one of the most significant developments in human history. Like, imagine with me that it’s 1820. I got this idea from the economist Robert
Gordon by the way. You live in, say, England. You probably work in agriculture. When you walk to town, you’re either pulling
your own cart, or if you’re lucky you have a horse. You have no running water or electricity. When you wash your few items of clothing,
you do so by hand. You cook over a fire. You think of time not primarily in minutes
and hours, but mostly in relationship to solar cycles–how close it is to night, or to morning,
or to midwinter. And in all these respects, your life in 1820
is basically identical to the lives of people in 1720, or 1520, or for that matter 1220. That’s not to say life hasn’t changed
in those hundreds of years–as we’ve explored in this series, lots has changed–but as Gregory
Clark observed, in terms of standard of living, Europeans in 1800 basically led lives similar
to those of Neandrathals. Now imagine that you close your eyes in 1820
and wake up in 1920. By now, most people in England do not work
in agriculture. They may work in shops, or transportation,
or mining, oe workshops, or in factories. They measure time in minutes. Cars exist. Some people have radios, which transmitted
information through thin air. A few people even have refrigerators, which
dramatically decrease food spoilage and the risk of foodborne illness. Occasionally you might even see an airplane
flying in the sky. Oh, and also, your country has just emerged
from an astonishingly deadly war fought with highly lethal weapons such as chlorine gas,
weapons that people of 1820 could not possibly have imagined. Welcome to the Industrial Revolution. [Intro]
In this series, we’ve already talked about revolutions in agriculture that increased
European productivity and revolutions in trade that increasingly distributed goods among
people in towns and cities instead of having each individual family produce everything
it needed. And these forces combined to help create more
division of labor: like, farmers could focus on farming, and textile workers could focus
on textile creation, which was more efficient than having each family do every kind of work. So let’s begin in the eighteenth century,
when European industrial production is said to have begun. Europe’s population was growing after centuries
of non-stop wars, plagues, and the worst of the little ice age. Meanwhile, products such as coffee, tea, and
chocolate made with heated water killed bacteria, while products from abroad expanded and varied
the pool of nutrients, with corn and potatoes, for instance, generally more calorie-dense
per acre than wheat. In short, lives were getting longer and populations
rising. This meant that on average people had a little
more time to learn, tinker, and experiment. Many different artisans invented small improvements
to existing mechanical devices. Perhaps most famously, John Kay’s flying
shuttle increased the pace and productivity of weaving. Weavers then needed a greater amount of thread. So tinkerers made that happen by producing
inventions such as the spinning jenny, created around 1764 by craftsman James Hargreaves. The spinning jenny was a machine used by individual
women working at home. And it allowed a person, using just the power
of their hand, to spin not one bobbin of thread, but up to 120 at once. In England, Ellen Hacking and her husband
John were among those devising carding machines to straighten cotton and wool fibers for spinning. And at about the same time, Richard Arkwright
and his partners invented the water frame, another kind of spinning machine that used
water power. And when spinning machines could be linked
to a central power source such as water, many could be placed in a single building. So, the world’s first factories arose in
part from the pressure to increase production of English cloth for global and domestic markets. Did the center of the world just open? Is one of my Polo shirts in there? This cost like $41. Twice a year I go to a Polo outlet in Southern
Indiana and just buy as many of these things as they’ll sell to me. And look, I’m not here to advertise Polo
shirts, but this thing is incredibly comfortable, and also, it’s like dyed a specific color. Everything about this was completely unimaginable
in the early nineteenth century. In fact, you know what? It’s so soft to the touch, I think I’m
going to put it on. Is that weird. Oh yeah! I feel like I’m the bad guy in an 80s movie. How do I look, Stan? Oh, Stan says I look like Steve Bannon. OK. Thus ends that experiment, now back to the
show. Let’s talk about porcelain. Another tinkerer was the alchemist Johann
Friedrich Böttger who promised the king of Saxony that he could figure out how to make
porcelain. Porcelain was such an obsession that wealthy
people collected it and even those with far less would try to buy a piece or two—a cup
or plate—as we see in many Dutch, French, and other paintings. Two things you see a lot in European paintings
of the affluent or those who aspired to affluence: porcelain and pineapples, which were also
quite rare and expensive and difficult to produce domestically. Porcelain was also practical, because Europeans
did not know other ways to make heat resistant dishware for their hot drinks. So Böttger was virtually imprisoned until
around 1708 when he figured out how to make porcelain, although not as beautifully as
the Chinese or Japanese did. What we’re trying to get at here is that
while people love a great story of an inventor and their invention, the Industrial Revolution
was the story of lots and lots of people working together, making a series of incremental improvements,
rather than, like, geniuses from on high creating amazing things. The real genius of humans is collaboration,
and also spying. Like for instance, Industrial spies helped
with every development because other regions were far more advanced than Europe in manufacturing,
for instance, color fast dyes and heat-resistant dishware, fine weaving and spinning, or even
metallurgy. Arkwright, for example, mostly copied designs
from imported textiles. And it was those cotton textiles that caught
the imagination of consumers and filled pockets, first of the people who imported textiles
from India and China, and then of the daring manufacturers who were successful at copying
the lightweight, and colorful, and washable cotton clothing. But industrial production of cotton was really
risky—the rate of business failure during the Industrial Revolution was over 50 percent. Because of that, experimenting manufacturers
worked to keep labor costs as low as they could. One way was to use unpaid orphans from government,
religious or charitable institutions as labour. At a time when people didn’t know a lot
about steam powered machinery and its dangers, industrial accidents happened all the time,
and children were often the victims. Children worked incredibly long hours and
deaths were common. Little Mary Richards was caught up in a machine
and six- and seven- year old orphans working alongside her witnessed the quote “bones
of her arms, legs, thighs, etc successively snap… her head appeared dashed to pieces…
her blood thrown about like water from a twirled mop.”2
Now I know that’s very graphic, but I think it’s important to understand the extent
of industrial oppression, including the industrial oppression of children. Workers lost arms, eyes, breasts, and fingers
or were otherwise disfigured. Production and profits came first to avoid
financial ruin. And industry had other repercussions. It initially increased the demand for slaves
even more. Slaves produced food for workers who had left
farms for factories. Slaves also produced tropical crops such as
sugar, and tobacco, and coffee that boosted the energy of many types of workers. And slaves provided the palm and other tropical
oils to keep machinery running as well as the raw materials for industry, especially
cotton. It’s important to understand that industry
thrived due to slave labor and inexpensive child labor, and also through the labor of
women, who were paid less than men. Over time, more and more people began working
in industrialized settings, or in economic sectors that supported industry due in part
to the development of the steam engine. In 1776, English inventor James Watt launched
a steam engine that improved earlier models. Now as far back as Roman Egypt and then Ottoman
Egypt and China, people had known about steam engines, But Watt’s engine was more efficient,
which made it useful in replacing animal and water power, not just in mines but also powering
textile factories, and then other machinery. For millennia, almost all human power came
from our muscles. Then we harnessed some animal power, and eventually
some wind and water power. But steam power completely revolutionized
how much work could be done on behalf of humans, and also of course changed transportation
when it was attached to covered and uncovered wagons and ships to make trains and steamships
and eventually automobiles. And the train created another kind of demand:
as urbanization soared around railway hubs, small and grand train stations were built
along with all the other buildings to house the railway’s primary and secondary employees. By secondary employees I mean, it wasn’t
just station-masters, ticket-sellers, and conductors, there was a need for shopkeepers,
and pharmacists, and construction workers, and teachers, and doctors, and and drivers
of coaches, not to mention sanitation workers, police, and urban administrators. Industrialization had a snowball effect and
it wasn’t gonna be turned back. And all this mean that everyday life also
transformed. Two classes became prominent alongside the
aristocracy and peasants in the social structure: the bourgeoisie and proletariat or working
class. The bourgeoisie initially referred to people
who lived in towns and cities or burgs/bourgs. But the term came to refer to those who owned
factories, banks, transportation networks, and large tracts of land for raising livestock
and crops. The proletariat comprise the many factory
and other workers who lacked tools or land to support themselves but instead rather labored
for factory owners and others who had the means to produce. In between were the rising professional groups,
called the middle class in Europe: the doctors, lawyers, teachers, and others with special
skills that serviced society as a whole. We will see this configuration change over
the next two centuries and watch tensions unfold among these groups, and at times boil
over. Women also experienced a transformation of
everyday life. In the preceding centuries, they had generally
worked on farms or in workshops alongside their artisan husbands or on their own as
hatmakers, and seamstresses, and weavers, and spinners. During the early days of industrialization,
women who had been spinning or weaving at home often switched to factories. And they did many other kinds of work; for
example, eighteen-year-old Ann Eggly with her younger sister worked twelve-hour days
in the coal mines pushing carriages filled with 800 pounds of coal (which was then used
to make steam power). She had done this kind of work since she was
seven. I don’t know if you know any seven year
olds, but they should not be working in coal mines. Now you’ll recall that the French and American
revolutions, with their emphasis on motherhood and laws stripping women of their property,
led to women being discouraged from work. But many continued to do so even when their
wages belonged to their husbands. Factories also created (and still create)
outwork done by women at home: polishing knives or painting porcelain buttons for example. But, ideology simultaneously shifted to say
that women were to be “angels in the household,” providing comfort from the horrors of industrial
life, a cultural norm that discouraged work outside the home. In the meantime, the classes became aware
of their individual identities. The French had outlawed guilds during the
revolution. Industrial and other workers formed their
own clubs to protect their interests. They created singing, gymnastic, and sports
clubs–this is why early English football teams had names like Royal Engineers AFC and
Civil Service FC. These groups often had a lively cafe culture,
where they discussed politics and read newspapers, often allowed to their comrades because each
cafe usually only had one newspaper. Manufacturers and wealthy individuals in cities
likewise formed groups based on their common class position; they founded chambers of commerce
to protect their financial interests and museums to show off their city’s achievements and
good taste. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. 1. Initially, the rise of factories saw those
left out of industrial work life, 2. such as artisans and small farmers, 3. protest by breaking machinery or threatening
to do so. 4. The “Swing riots” in Britain are one example
of what has been called “primitive” rebellion. 5. Instead of dealing with change by organizing
to benefit from and shape the change, 6. so-called primitive rebels went about breaking
things. 7. Wreckers of machinery were called Luddites 8. (as they still are today) 9. because menacing notes found alongside
sabotage were often signed Ned Ludd. 10. Ludd was an inspirational figure — a weaver
who allegedly smashed a textile machine in the 18th century. 11. But gradually, workers inside the factories
formed mutual aid societies 12. and eventually unions that negotiated
for better terms with owners. And when negotiations failed, 13. they went on strike as a group instead of
wrecking the machines with which they earned their living. 14. All in all, industrialization wreaked havoc
on people’s lives even as it provided many with livelihoods. 15. Towns grew astronomically: like textile center
Manchester England went from 20,000 people in the 1750s to 400,000 a century later. 16. Conditions in Manchester were abominable,
including the development of slums, and the spread of disease. 17. They came to lack fresh and safe supplies
of water. 18. Garbage and sewage, not to mention animal
excrement, filled muddy streets, 19. creating, in the words of one commentator,
“a universal atmosphere of filth and stink.”[1] 20. and Conditions in other industrial cities
hardly differed. Thanks Thought Bubble. So, Industrialization spread from England
and the low countries where it began thanks to the capital raised by worldwide trade,
and because that trade made possible successful imitation of foreign products. But industrialization then spread. It traveled the continent through the 19th
century, although industrialization was less dense in eastern Europe. There, many peasants continued to live hand-to-mouth,
but as we’ve seen, so did the poor in industrial cities. So was the Industrial Revolution a revolution? Well, if a revolution is an event full of
impact on people’s lives, it certainly was. But often historians look at revolutions as,
like, ending, which the Industrial Revolution really hasn’t. Unlike the comparatively brief English Revolution
or American Revolution, many see the Industrial Revolution as continuing to make dramatic
changes in our way of life today. Today, we expect technologies to change dramatically
in our lifetimes. We expect to use different tools to communicate
and work than our parents used. But that expectation is only a couple hundred
years old. It makes you wonder. If you closed your eyes in 2020, and woke
up in 2120, how weird is the world gonna be. Ugh. Thinking about that is stressing me out.Next
time, we’ll look further at the cultural and political aspects of industrialization. I’ll see you then. Thanks for watching. ________________
[1] Quoted in Lynn Hunt et al., The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures, 6th ed. (Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2019) 21.

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