The Industrial Revolution and Its Effects on America
Throughout history, mankind has always been intent on creating technological advancements that have improved our lives exponentially. But there is one period of time that saw an increase in technological advances that has surpassed any other time in our history. The Industrial Revolution ushered in an entirely new area in our history that changed the face of the nation forever. (1)
As a result of the technological advancements in that period of history, the country’s entire economic landscape changed. We went from villages being the center of financial security to cities becoming the very heart of success. Urban areas began to develop around factories and to survive one needed to be connected to one another. Rather than people working at a trade at home to sustain their households they suddenly became dependent on employers to supply them with what they needed.
As a result of the revolution, young people were no longer expected to follow in the footsteps of their fathers and every other adult in their lives. Instead they were given the freedom to choose their own career path; they could learn to develop skills in areas that interested them, they were able to tap into their own unique talents.
The result of these changes literally led to better transportation, improved communications, and the age of automation, all of which made life much more comfortable than it had ever been.
Still, all of those advantages created a mixed bag of experiences that surpassed anything that mankind in general had ever been exposed to. It was not all a shower of wonders that improved the world for the better. There were definitely challenges to this sudden change of lifestyle.
The Challenges Faced
For the first time in history, mankind suddenly had to deal with the problem of over populated centers in the world. Slums started to sprout up and many cities had to deal with housing shortages.
There was also the challenge faced from dealing with waste control. When the majority of the world lived in individual housing, farmland, and remote areas, sanitation was never a real issue. Now that cities were growing exponentially, dealing with refuse became a major problem that introduced new diseases that had the potential of affecting everyone around them.
People also learned how to take advantage of those less fortunate. Unscrupulous employers began to desire more money and started exploiting others. Child labor became a means of building wealth at the expense of the innocent. This divided the society into classes that have been drifting further and further apart with each successive generation. One was either a member of the ‘Haves’ or the ‘Have nots,’ and changing their lot of life became even more difficult.
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What Triggered the Industrial Revolution
There were of course, many factors leading up to the Industrial Revolution but there were two that made the biggest impact on society as a whole. The first was the Embargo Act of 1807, which was quickly followed by the War of 1812.
The Embargo Act of 1807 seemed to be the impetus that put everything in motion. When President Thomas Jefferson established the Embargo Act, it was during a time when the British government had begun to seize Americans and any cargo they had to help with the war effort. The British navy would open fire if they weren’t permitted to search through any American vessel they came across.
Up until that point, the United States had tried to remain neutral in British affairs. But when the British army began to impress Americans to join them in the war effort, it pushed Jefferson to issue the embargo, restricting trade with all foreign countries. Without trade with other countries, the people were forced to produce their own goods to survive.
A few years later, during the War of 1812, Britain began to provide weapons to the Native Americans forcing many to choose to expel any Britains from American soil. The result was a realization of just how much of the day-to-day life was dependent on foreign help. This created a driving force that led to a new independence and freedom from foreign support. This new attitude ushered in the Industrial Revolution. (2)
One can only guess how the world may have changed had the British government had the forethought to show respect for the newest government in the world. But their lack of respect was actually the very thing that caused America to strive for a better position, which led them to becoming one of the greatest nations in the world.