According to Engelman (2015), there exists no other development in the modern history which impacted the lives of humans more than the Industrial Revolution (I.R). I.R began in Manchester England then spread to the rest of the world. The first Industrial Revolution (IR1) lasted between 1760 and 1840 followed by the second Industrial Revolution (I.R2) between 1870 and 1914. This paper explores the social, economic and political impact of the Second Industrial Revolution on the human race.
Contrary to the I.R1 which instigated the growth of industries such as railroads, coal, iron and textile, the I.R2 witnessed an expansive development in the electricity, steel and petroleum sectors. The period was characterized by rapid technological path-breaking revolutions (Engelman, 2015). People engaged in constant research leading to the introduction of new inventions in a bid to ease the production of the supplied goods. Most retailers who were struggling to meet the requirements of the masses initiated the idea of creating factories. Thus, new products were manufactured to replace the old ones, for instance, steel gradually substituted iron.
Engelman (2015) observes that the beginning of I.R2 was a time when electricity was not a common luxury. Candles and lamps were the major sources of lighting at home and industries. Therefore, electricity inventions and improvements marked a critical step towards the betterment of people’s lives. Electricity fundamentally changed the way humans lived and worked. Great Britain was the first country to install a public power station. As a result of the introduction of public electricity, Alexander Graham Bell, invented the telephone in 1876 and by 1879, Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison finally perfected their lighting bulb (Engelman, 2015). Edison’s version was the first to receive universal acceptance for practical use at home even so, a less efficient invention existed decades before.
Electricity was indeed a momentous technology because it abetted revolutionary inventions in the transport sector. For instance, in 1879, Germany displayed the first electric railroad in its capital Berlin. Engelman (2015) states that by 1880, the electric street-cars found their way into the roads in major European cities thus replacing the horse-drawn carriages. However, the most monumental invention of this era was the internal combustion engine. The first of its kind debuted in 1878 and was powered by air and gas. Those geared by the urge to make the world a better place improved the initial technology to use liquid fuels such as petroleum. The engine gave insight in the development of automobiles and planes. Karl Benz, a German inventor was the first to patent an automobile in 1886.
I.R2 was also characterized by social reforms. Capitalism thrived and the societal norms and people’s ways of thinking were challenged significantly. Monopolies and particular individuals took control of the new economic order. There was inter-social class tension and many average citizens remained enfettered by social evils. Some sections of the population continued living in laborious, impoverished and pitiful lives. According to Engelman (2015), capitalism, a popular ideology of the time, shaped the lives of a few individuals positively, but majority, negatively. Employers perceived their employees as mere living parts of a complex machine known as factory.
In America, I.R2 brought with it endless political misunderstandings. The idea of separation of people on the basis of class was at its peak between the factory owners and the industrial workers (Engelman, 2015). Besides, the right to suffrage was another pertinent issue at the time. Americans felt it unfair to grant immigrants the right to elect political leaders. On the other hand, scholars advocated for self-governance as opposed to the popular monarch governments which were operational at the time. Moreover, labor unions were introduced to protect the rights of employees. They pushed for critical issues like pension and strike.
Generally, I.R was a mixed blessing. Even so, without the two eras, the entire human race would be living an absolute savagery lifestyle. The economies, Ideals and politics of various societies around the world advanced greatly during this period.
- Engelman, R. (2015). The Second Industrial Revolution, 1870-1914.