Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has an M.A in instructional education.
Before the Industrial Revolution
Today's lesson on the origin and regions of the world's industries could fill an entire semester. For this reason, we're going to give a general overview of the topic, specifically highlighting the Industrial Revolution. We'll then talk about some of the most prolific industrial regions around the globe. With so much to cover, let's dive in.
Familiar to anyone who has sat in a high school American history class and even half-heartedly listened, the Industrial Revolution is loosely defined as an era in which the worlds of Europe and America moved from predominately agricultural rural societies to industrialized and urbanized ones. Taking place in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Industrial Revolution had its beginnings in Britain.
Before the huge wave of the Industrial Revolution crashed on Britain's shores, most products, things like clothing, food, and home goods, were manufactured in people's homes. Often coined cottage industries, or simply businesses or manufacturing systems operating in a person's home, this manufacturing employed uncomplicated machines and simple handmade tools. Adding to this, most people lived in small communities and were involved in agriculture.
Revolution Begins in Britain
With this in mind, let's focus in on why the Industrial Revolution first occurred in Britain. For starters, during the late 17th century, Britain was a stable, political powerhouse. This power was only fueled by its vast amount of colonies that were an excellent source of raw materials. Making them an even better candidate to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Britain's earth was rich in iron ore and coal.
Using all of these factors to their advantage, Britain began mechanizing its modes of production from small cottage industries to factories fueled by natural resources. With this, people migrated to cities for employment and better paying jobs, as the cities of Britain saw their factories transformed by self-propelled machines capable of mass production.
When discussing this transformation, many historians focus specifically on the iron, textile, and transportation industries.
Iron, Textile, & Transportation
As for the iron industry, many historians assert that it was an essential element in the success of the Industrial Revolution. For instance, it was the British who figured out how to more cheaply mass produce steel. It was also the British who invented a much cheaper way to manufacture cast iron. Of course, both of these innovations made iron and steel replace things like wood as the crucial materials used to make all sorts of things from machines to household goods.
Many of these new tools became a pivotal part of the textile industry, production focused primarily on the manufacturing of yarns and cloth into clothing. One of the biggest innovations in this industry was the spinning jenny, a machine with the capability to produce several spools of thread all at the same time.
As for the transportation industry, history textbooks are full of pictures of massive steam engines, engines that use the expansion or rapid condensation of steam to create power. Though these engines were used to power everything from factory machines to even ships, they are most famous for powering locomotives that completely revolutionized the train.
Not to be left out, Americans also got in on the steam engine action, being the first to create the first working commercial steamboat! These innovations fueled the Industrial Revolution as they made it infinitely easier to transfer goods from one place to another. Goodbye long wagon rides; hello steam engines!
Speaking of America getting in on the steam engine, it's interesting to note that the British weren't so thrilled about this. In fact, Britain actually tried to legally stop their technological secrets and even some of their leading minds from leaving their shores. However, this proved futile, and by the middle of the 19th century, many of Britain's neighbors and their cousins across the pond (that's the U.S.) were riding the wave of the Industrial Revolution.
This brings us to our last topic: different industrial regions around the globe. Of course, we've already mentioned the U.S. and Western Europe. However, other areas of the world are now very highly industrialized.
For instance, there is the industrial powerhouse of China, which now exports textiles, home goods, plastics, electronics, and so much more to the world. To prove this, just take a look at your closet and odds are you'll find several tags that somehow or somewhere read, 'Made in China.' With this in mind, it's hard to argue that China is an export king! In other words, China's at the top of the ladder when it comes to sending goods to other countries.
Not being left out in the cold, the region of Southeast Asia has also been highly industrialized, specifically Malaysia and Thailand. For instance, Thailand exports things like computers, rubber, and even gold to places like Japan and the U.S. Malaysia joins in with exports of refined petroleum, circuit systems, and even specialized oils, such as palm oil.
The Industrial Revolution was the era in which the worlds of Europe and America moved from predominately agricultural rural societies to industrialized and urbanized ones. Beginning in Britain, the Industrial Revolution is usually linked to the 18th and 19th centuries. Many assert it began in Britain due to its political stability, its many colonies, and its natural resources of iron ore and coal.
The Industrial Revolution saw manufacturing move from cottage industries, manufacturing systems or businesses operated in a person's home, to mechanized factories capable of mass production.
The Revolution saw great changes in the iron, textile, and transportation industry. In the textile industry, or production focused primarily on the manufacturing of yarns and cloth into clothing, was the invention of the spinning jenny, a machine with the capability to produce several spools of thread all at the same time. In the iron industry, there were advancements in the cheap mass production of steel, while the transportation industry was revolutionized by steam engines, engines that use the expansion or rapid condensation of steam to create power.
Although Britain seemed to want to keep the Industrial Revolution within its lands, it could not contain it. For instance, the U.S. was the first to invent a workable commercial steam engine. As time went on, the Industrial Revolution took hold in much of Western Europe. Today, industry has spread to many parts of the globe as places like China, Malaysia, and Thailand export, or send goods to other countries, that have been massed produced through machines that have their origins in the Industrial Revolution.
After you've completed this lesson, you should be able to:
- Explain why the Industrial Revolution began in England
- Summarize the shift from cottage industries to mechanized factories
- Identify the importance of the iron, textile, and transportation industries to the Industrial Revolution
- Describe the United State's role in the Industrial Revolution
- Recall modern-day exporters of goods
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