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Dylan Barrick

Mr. Bellos

AP World History B

26 February 2016

Continuities and Changes in Industrial and Technological Development in Britain and the United

States from the Beginnings of the Industrial Revolution to 1900

In Britain and the United States, from the beginning of the industrial revolution (about

1770) to 1900, major industrial and technological changes were made. In regard to industry, the

largest change brought about by the industrial revolution was made in the work force, whether it

be location or employment. New power supplies were introduced as well. In regard to

technology, efficiency was boosted as machines started replacing people, and communication

and transportation became easier. Continuities in those fields remained as well. The focus of

goods being manufactured during the industrial revolution, textiles and iron, persisted despite

changes in the processes used to manufacture them.

The largest change in industry during the industrial revolution was the work force. It was

realized that many workers coming together and working with machines would produce

manufactured goods much more efficiently, so the majority of labor in those countries shifted

from farms to factories. Just before the industrial revolution, 80% of the worlds population

worked at farms. By 1900, 41% of the U.S. work force farmed. This was possible because of the

new technologies being produced and applied to agriculture, like the steam engine which could

power tractors. This change in location led to consolidation under company leaders who held

monopolies and shipped manufactured goods all over the world. Britain was at this time heavily

involved in trade with China.


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On a similar scale to those of industry, large technological changes were made as well in

both nations. First introduced in Britain (and then illegally brought to the United States by

Samuel Slater) were textile machines. These machines, such as the flying shuttle, spinning jenny,

and water frame, all made manufacturing textiles much easier and much less time-consuming.

The United States produced its own innovations as well, such as the cotton gin, which separated

cotton from the seeds. This invention led to a higher demand for slaves in the U.S., which had

large effects on African peoples. It is widely debated as to why the industrial revolution

essentially began in Britain (and Europe for that matter), but a leading explanation is that it

simply had the most available natural resources when its society was prepared to industrialize.

Britain had an abundance of coal, and connections with India that in turn entitled them with all

the natural resources found there as well. This coal is related to another technological change

made during the industrial revolution, the introduction of new power sources. Coal (and later

coke) replaced wood as fuel, and the steam engine replaced inferior water-related power supplies

like the water wheel. The steam engine has been the main source of power since its introduction,

and is used in most electrical plants.

Although the industrial revolution is correlated (deservingly so) with huge scale changes,

there exists the continuity of the focus of industry for the two countries, textiles and iron. Besides

farming, working-class citizens put a lot of effort into textiles and metalworking, where women

would knit cloth to sell among their communities, and men would hammer away at metal parts to

refine and sell them. Even as the industrial revolution continued on, the focus of manufacturing

did not shift from these two industries. The first industrial machines and factories were focused

on textiles, and new technologies such as the rolling and puddling processes introduced by

Englishman Henry Cort. Rolling allowed raw iron to be thinned out much more efficiently than
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hammering it out, and puddling allowed for the manufacture of fine iron bars. These processes

allowed the textile and metalwork industries to persist and grow. The iron, now being more

easily refined and turned into steel, made way for easier transportation like railroads and more

solid infrastructure such as large bridges. Textiles were important in India as well, which helped

Britain grow, and iron was important to the U.S. as the country expanded and needed more

buildings.