This post is part of Human History series. Start with introduction.
I didn’t say much about Asia. To be honest, I know little about it. From what I read and watched, it was not that important. Asia was prosperous and enjoying about 80% of the world economy before industrialization. Asians had their own civilized culture and didn’t care what is happening elsewhere. That’s why Europe could declare colonies everywhere around the world.
Today we can meet the European model (language, politics, and economy) everywhere. Even if a country with a different background (let’s say China) becomes a new leading global power, the European economic model would stay. Why has Europe overtaken Asia? Because of new resources from new places and modern science. It started two revolutions, going hand in hand.
Expansion and new sources fed more people and all of them wanted warm houses. There was not enough wood for everyone, and we already know people mined coal to fix the problem. Coal is basically an ancient compact tree. There was a problem with water, though: deeper the coal mine, more water inside. Manual work was out of the question. Another invention was needed.
Several people noticed how hot water transforms into steam creating pressure. People slowly created designs until Thomas Newcomen was the first to make functional atmospheric pump to solve the water issue in coal mines. If people didn’t need a steam engine, maybe we wouldn’t have it till today. Either way, the steam engine was a generic tool that could be applied in many places. The steam engine started the Industrial Revolution (the first mentioned revolution).
The steam engine was needed by private companies and thus controlled by them. It was adopted quickly everywhere. Other important works that no one was interested in were ongoing in royal universities. Scientists were just curious to understand God’s physical laws. There was no practical application. Would you guess that people didn’t care about the electricity of Alessandro Volta or the magnetometer of Carl Friedrich Gauss? Both fundamental inventions for the foundation of the electric motor by Michael Faraday.
Interest in electricity increased when Samuel Morse perfected the telegraph using electricity and introduced Morse code. That changed everything. Just imagine when you wanted to send a letter to someone before the telegraph. You had to wait for days or weeks or even months to receive a response. With the telegraph, people could know what is happening on the other side of the nation or even continent. People rarely cared that much about what is happening beyond their neighborhood. When they could know about the situation in real-time, they cared.
To use electricity safely, people needed some isolation. Indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica used rubber for several applications (one of them was impregnating textiles to make it waterproof), and colonies picked it up. Rubber is protection for trees, and we use it as protection for all kinds of cables.
People built big factories full of machines. Machines replaced humans and speeded up the production a lot. Anyway, many workers were needed to operate machines. Conditions in factories were terrible; insufficient ventilation, noise, hard work, long hours. People lost their connection with the final product. Everyone knew only a small part of the production. People worked as slaves. If Agriculture Revolution was the biggest fraud in human history, I would say Industrial Revolution was the second biggest fraud.
Jobs in factories were not that straightforward as before. In an ancient world such as Ancient Egypt or Greek or Rome, you didn’t need to know much. You learned everything necessary for your life before you turned the age you could work. Attending school was not required at all. People attending the Academy or Lyceum did it voluntarily because they wanted to think about life. It was their choice, and no one supported them; they had to earn a living alone.
But with new inventions, people were required to have at least some primary education, not the one provided by Church, but a practical one which can be used in factories. States started to use taxes to protect their monopolies and to deliver educated people working for those monopolies.
Another usage of the steam engine sped up the move of both people and goods. Before this point, the maximum speed was the speed of horses on the ground or speed of ships on the river. James Watt improved the steam engine and replaced real horses with horsepower. Suddenly, people could travel much faster with steam locomotives or steamboats. From 15 km/h up to 40 km/h! People could sail against the wind. Europe and America were building many railway tracks everywhere around the world.
The end of the 119th century HE (19th century CE) is the time of the Second Industrial Revolution with an even more dynamic period. Everything was even faster than before. Many machines were powered by electricity from one place, from newly created power plants. Machines created machines. Maybe we don’t notice this anymore, but a simple tool like a bike is actually a very complicated product. You need many machines to build one.
Bike was just tip of the iceberg: first steam or electric cars appeared on the streets. But to fill streets by cars, people needed better engine using something else than coal (because that was too big and heavy). As said before, coal is a compact tree. Oil, petroleum, is an even more compact source of energy. Henry Ford was the first to use petroleum for cars, and his most iconic car Ford Model T filled the streets. In parallel, Wright brothers took off first heavier-than-air aircraft with other light gasoline engine.
Everything was fast, and time was crucial than ever before. People used mostly sun for orientation, and being off by few minutes was fine. Clocks were not in sync at all. That was not working anymore, and companies and nations had to unite the time. Companies needed workers on site on time. Trains and later buses had to take them on time. After a hard shift, workers needed open pubs on time. London, Liverpool, and Manchester adjusted their time according to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. More and more companies and nations followed them. Time is another invention besides money that controls and simplifies our life at the same time.
By the end of the Second Industrial Revolution, half of the population lived in cities, and that brought new problems with a supply of clean water, city transport, and so on. That needed new positions (managers and professionals of all kinds) and new types of offices (open offices).
Next time, I will explain how colonies and industrialization changed the economy.