Modern World History 3.1 Oh, to Industrialize in England

Sure, we owe the conveniences of modern life to the Industrial Revolution, but it still had its fair share of problems. 

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That was the year a Scottish mechanical engineer named

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James Watt took Thomas Newcomen's

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1712 version of the steam engine,

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fiddled with the separate condenser, switched the machine over to rotary motion, and...

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Voila. Life got easier for a whole lot of people.

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For the first time, products, like clothing, were being turned out in mass quantities.

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Imagine: no more flipping your dirty tighty-whities inside out so you could get another day's wear out of them.

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Unless you're lazy, well then, keep on keeping on.

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Building materials were also abruptly in abundance,

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thanks to the inventor Henry Bessemer.

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The Bessemer process involved blowing air through iron to create steel. Lots and lots and lots of steel.

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This enabled businessmen to construct everything from skyscrapers to Superman.

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And how did the folks of this era get in touch with one another to talk about the very latest whatchamacallits and doohickeys?

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Not with letters. Those were so 1836.

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Instead, people turned to portrait-painter Samuel Morse,

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who is less known today for his artwork than he is

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for Morse code and the single-wire telegraph system.

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And fun fact:

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Thomas Edison, who would go on to invent pretty much

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everything, except alternating current, got his start as a telegraph operator.

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So, yeah, life was good.

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Ships didn't have to wait on the wind anymore

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to get from Point A to Point B.

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Travelers could take trains instead of horses to their destination.

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Farmhands had the option of leaving the fields where they'd worked for pennies a day,

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to work in a factory for...pennies a day.

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But not every invention produced during the Industrial Revolution was pure magic for everyone involved.

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Take Eli Whitney's cotton gin.

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Sure, this 1793 product of mechanical genius made the

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mass production of cotton, and therefore clothing, possible.

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However, the cotton gin also expanded slavery in the American South.

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Planters wanted to make more money, which meant they needed to grow more cotton lickety-split, which meant they needed more slaves to plant and pick in the fields.

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Stellar job there, Eli.

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Furthermore, the marvelous machines of the Industrial Revolution couldn't prevent major societal upheaval.

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For example, factory conditions were bad and often downright dangerous.

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As cities grew more and more crowded, the lack of sanitation sparked frequent and deadly epidemics.

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Families came apart at the seams as parents died or were forced to work endless hours on factory floors to make ends meet.

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We owe the conveniences of modern life to the Industrial Revolution.

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Seriously, there are cities in this country that couldn't function without air conditioning.

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But the Industrial Revolution, awesome as it was, had its fair share of problems, some of which are still hanging around.

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Here's looking at you, climate change. Here's looking at you.