پادکستLeonard English: انقلاب صنعتی

1401/02/25 1003

00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about The Industrial Revolution. 

[00:00:29] There are few events in history that have had such a transformational impact on the world we live in, and it is hard to overestimate the importance of The Industrial Revolution.

[00:00:41] So today we are going to talk about what actually happened, why it happened first in Britain, what its impact was on society and people at the time, as well as now, with the aim that this will help us better understand the present, as well as the future.

[00:01:00] This episode has been incredibly interesting to make, and I’m thrilled to be sharing it with you today. 

[00:01:07] It’s also going to be the first of a three-part mini series on The Age of Revolution - part two will be The American Revolution, and part three will be on The French Revolution.

[00:01:20] And, for the members among you, the bonus episode before this was on The Enlightenment, a knowledge of which can be really helpful when it comes to understanding all of these three revolutions.

[00:01:33] Before we get right into today’s episode, let me just quickly remind you that you can get all of the bonus episodes, plus the subtitles, the transcript, and the key vocabulary for this episode and all of our other ones over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:51] This is also where you can check out becoming a member of Leonardo English, and join a community of curious minds from all over the world, doing meetups, exchanging ideas, and generally, improving their English in a more interesting way.

[00:02:06] So if that's of interest, and I certainly hope it is, then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:02:16] OK then, The Industrial Revolution. 

[00:02:19] What was it, how did it start, what actually happened, who was affected, and how, and what can it tell us about the world we live in right now, and the world our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will live in in years to come?

[00:02:36] There are some big questions there, but let’s start with one that crops up quite frequently, one that we hear quite frequently, and is important to the nature of this mini series on ‘revolution’.

[00:02:49] And that question is “was The Industrial Revolution actually a revolution?” or was it an evolution”?

[00:02:59] Certainly, there was no one great military event, no storming of the Bastille, no battles, no overthrowing of the ruling class

[00:03:09] And there was not one single definite start date, or end date. 

[00:03:15] It was, compared to many other revolutions, quite gradual, and indeed historians don’t agree on exactly when it started and ended in Great Britain. 

[00:03:27] Most agree that it started somewhere in the mid 18th century, and went on until around the mid 19th century.

[00:03:37] So, it wasn’t an overthrow of a government, it wasn’t a rebellion led by the people, and therefore there are arguments to be made that it wasn’t really a revolution at all. 

[00:03:49] It was much more of an evolution.

[00:03:52] But if we think of a revolution as being a huge, seismic shift in society, a complete change in the way things worked, there are arguably few revolutions more deserving of the term ‘revolution’ than The Industrial Revolution.

[00:04:11] Over the space of around 100 years Britain, as the first country that was undergoing this shift, was irreversibly changed, and with it, the world.

[00:04:23] People living in the early 18th century lived a very similar day-to-day life to people who had lived 100, 500, even 1000 years before them. 

[00:04:36] The relationship that most people had with the land was a close one. 

[00:04:41] Most people lived in villages, in the countryside, and worked in agriculture. 

[00:04:47] The food you ate came from the land around you. 

[00:04:50] The clothes you wore were made by someone in your village, or perhaps you even made them. 

[00:04:58] The products you engaged with were limited, there wasn’t a huge amount that someone had in 1750 that was so massively different to what someone might have had a thousand years before.

[00:05:13] Yet just 100 years later, everything had changed. 

[00:05:18] There had been mass migration to the cities, and for the first time in history over half the British population lived in urban areas. 

[00:05:30] Instead of working in the fields, people worked in factories or in mines.

[00:05:36] Instead of people making their own clothes, they were produced in a factory.

[00:05:41] Instead of living your life by the seasons and the weather, you lived it by a clock.

[00:05:49] There were huge productivity gains, things got so much more efficient, that The Industrial Revolution allowed people to do so much more with so much less stuff. 

[00:06:01] From better machines that could produce more cotton through to inventions like the steam engine, Britain turned from a society where people had spent most of their lives working with their hands through to one where they worked with machines to achieve results that were so much greater than before.

[00:06:22] And The Industrial Revolution is the story of what actually happened.

[00:06:27] Now, today’s episode isn’t going to go into huge detail on the inventions that propelled The Industrial Revolution forward, because there are too many to name, and there wasn’t one single invention, it was more of a case of continual improvement.

[00:06:46] The most common inventions that you probably associate with The Industrial Revolution would be the steam enginetextile factories, and machines that helped people make things in a more efficient way.

[00:07:01] But there are two points that are particularly worthy of note, two particularly important points, when it comes to the inventions that enabled the Industrial Revolution.

[00:07:14] Firstly, there was no one single invention, no one thing that is responsible for The Industrial Revolution. If we take the example of the steam engine, the first instance of the steam engine was actually in the 17th century. 

[00:07:32] Then throughout the 18th century it was improved and improved, inventors looked for ways to make it more efficient, and through trial and error, it got better and better.

[00:07:45] By 1778, when the Englishman James Watt showed his new and improved version of the steam engine, it was about 5 times more efficient than the previous one. 

[00:07:57] And although Watt is credited with inventing the steam engine, his version was far from the final one, and he spent his entire life working on improving his invention.

[00:08:11] And the second point is just how much more efficient the inventions of The Industrial Revolution were, compared to the status quo.

[00:08:21] This wasn’t that difficult to do, as the status quo was, for the main part, people working by hand.

[00:08:29] Throughout history, people had laboured with their own muscle, their own bodies. 

[00:08:35] Then, we enlisted some animals to help, from horses to carry heavy stuff to oxen to pull ploughs in the fields.

[00:08:45] But we were reliant on animal strength.

[00:08:49] The inventions of the Industrial Revolution enlisted the help of machines, and this caused a huge leap in productivity. 

[00:08:58] When it comes to the textile industry, the amount of cotton a worker could process was increased by a factor of 500 when the steam-powered cotton spinning machine was invented, these spinning machines could produce 500 times what a person could.

[00:09:18] And even simpler, non-mechanical things like canals caused huge improvements in productivity.

[00:09:26] Now, canals have existed throughout history, they aren’t unique to The Industrial Revolution. 

[00:09:33] They are useful when it comes to transporting large amounts of heavy goods within a country, as it’s obviously a lot easier to transport something on water than to pull it on land.

[00:09:46] But in a society that doesn’t have the ability to mass produce stuff, canals aren’t really that useful, because you don’t need to transport large amounts of goods.

[00:09:58] Suddenly, when you have factories that can produce vast amounts of goods, being able to take them to different places to sell becomes important.

[00:10:08] And to do this, Britain built thousands of miles of canals, which were full of boats transporting goods to and from the factories.

[00:10:18] And why were these canals important? 

[00:10:22] Because it meant that the same amount of goods could be transported by just one man and a horse as it would take at least 100 horses carrying them on their backs by road.

[00:10:35] So the point to remember here is that these weren’t small productivity gains, it wasn’t a case of things getting 20, 30 or 50 percent better, things got 50, 100, or 500 times better, in terms of productivity at least. 

[00:10:54] Producing stuff became so much easier, every person could produce more of it, because of all of these fantastic technological advances.

[00:11:05] Now, if you are thinking that this meant people would be out of work because machines were now doing their jobs, you actually couldn’t be further from the truth, you couldn't be more wrong.

[00:11:17] In Britain The Industrial Revolution actually caused a boom in the demand for labour, so that there was an increase in average wages, people were paid more.

[00:11:30] Before The Industrial Revolution work had been primarily agricultural - most people would work on the land, growing crops, raising animals, and not doing a huge amount else. 

[00:11:43] There would be - what's called - cottage industries, many women would make clothes at home, but working life was based around what you needed to make to survive.

[00:11:55] With The Industrial Revolution, there were suddenly huge factories that sprung up in the cities, offering higher pay, more money, and fixed hours. 

[00:12:06] People flocked to the cities in droves, especially the northern English cities with large textile industries.

[00:12:14] And the populations of these cities swelled.

[00:12:18] Manchester grew from 20,000 people in the 1750s through to 400,000 people 100 years later, an increase of 20 times. 

[00:12:30] Birmingham had 71,000 people in 1801. Within 40 years the population had doubled to 140,000, and just 20 years later it had more than doubled again, to 296,000 people.

[00:12:48] And in England alone, from 1750 to 1850 the population nearly tripled, it increased by a factor of three.

[00:12:58] This alone was a really interesting phenomenon, as philosophers and economists had believed that a population couldn’t continue growing and growing, because it would run out of food, then the poorest would die, and the population would revert to its correct level, it would go back to the right amount of people.

[00:13:21] The leading proponent of this theory was an Englishman called Thomas Malthus, and it’s from him that we get the idea of the Malthusian catastrophe.

[00:13:33] Malthus believed that the country wouldn’t be able to produce enough food to feed its growing population. 

[00:13:40] The population of Britain continued to grow and grow, but the country didn’t run out of food, its people didn’t starve, and although the rate of growth has slowed, it hasn’t stopped growing ever since.

[00:13:54] The mistake Malthus made was to assume that there was a limited amount of food that the land could produce.

[00:14:02] In fact, improvements in agricultural technology meant that crop yields increased, that the land could produce much more food, and there wasn’t some huge food crisis that meant that people starved.

[00:14:18] At the same time, there were great improvements with infant mortality, so fewer and fewer babies were dying.

[00:14:26] The result of this was this huge increase in population, and a demographic shift in the population, where children now made up the largest part.

[00:14:34] To be precise, in 1826, 40% of the entire population of Britain was under 15 years old. 

[00:14:34] For reference, now it’s around 13%.

[00:14:50] These children, as you will probably know, were instrumental in The Industrial Revolution. They worked in the coal mines, and in the factories. 

[00:14:59] They worked 12 hour days, being taken out of school by their parents, and were put to work from a very young age.

[00:15:07] When it comes to criticisms of The Industrial Revolution, one thing that is often pointed at is child labour, that it is hideously cruel to put a child to work in a factory, where they would spend their days doing mindless work at best, or at worst, they might lose a finger, a hand, or die, either through industrial accidents or through diseases by breathing in poisonous air in the factories.

[00:15:39] Of course, a factory is no place for a child.

[00:15:43] But what most people don’t necessarily think about is that children were put to work before The Industrial Revolution, they were just doing different things. 

[00:15:54] They would have been working in the fields, or at home. 

[00:15:57] Their working conditions might not have been much better, and if they were working for their parents, they would probably have been working unpaid, or at least not directly paid.

[00:16:09] The major change that happened during The Industrial Revolution was the types of work that children could do. 

[00:16:17] Given that a large amount of factory work was unskilled, it didn't require particular knowledge and it also didn't require strength, it could be done by children, who could be paid much less than adults.

[00:16:32] Instead of paying 10 adult men to do a job, you could pay 10 children, and pay one adult to look over them. And given the fact that factory work was indoors, it didn’t rely on the weather, and it could happen at any time of the day, working days were very long, with children often working 12 hour days in terrible conditions.

[00:16:58] So, although you might have had a better chance of surviving past infanthood, The Industrial Revolution wasn’t a great time to be a child.

[00:17:09] It also wasn’t a great time to be a woman.

[00:17:12] Before The Industrial Revolution, in an agricultural society, women had enjoyed a similar kind of status to men when it came to work. 

[00:17:22] The men might work in the fields, but women would do all of the housework, they might make or repair clothes, and there was a kind of equality of work, both women and men did work of similar levels of importance.

[00:17:38] And given that women worked at home, they could continue to work after having children. I guess you could claim that an agricultural society was the original work from home, and work-life balance that people talk about today.

[00:17:54] Yet when the Industrial Revolution arrived and people went to the factories, this caused a shift in the way society was structured. 

[00:18:04] A woman might work in a factory as a child, or as young, unmarried woman but as soon as she got married and had children, it was very difficult for her to continue to work, and to continue to have any sort of independence.

[00:18:20] The husband would continue to work, and given that he would be paid quite well, compared to agricultural work, there was suddenly a big imbalance of earnings

[00:18:32] Women were expected to stay at home and look after children, while the man went out and earned all the money. To many people now, this might not sound all that radical, but it was a large shift in the balance of power between men and women.

[00:18:49] Now, we’ve covered some of the inventions of the Industrial Revolution, as well as some of the impacts it had on society, but the one pressing question that you might still have is “why did it happen when it did, and why in Britain?”.

[00:19:05] That’s an excellent question, and one that historians now still aren’t in complete agreement on.

[00:19:12] And it’s not one single factor, but a combination of several things, many of which are related to one another.

[00:19:20] To begin with, Britain has lots of coal

[00:19:24] The machines of the Industrial Revolution were powered by coal, and being able to dig down and literally take the stuff out of the ground is an advantage that many countries, for example neighbouring France, didn’t have.

[00:19:41] Secondly, Britain was going through a pretty stable period politically. 

[00:19:47] Just over 100 years before the start of the Industrial Revolution, in 1649, Britain had gone through a traumatic and bloody civil war, which ended with the public execution of its king, Charles I.

[00:20:03] Since then, it had enjoyed a period of relative domestic peace. Peace is good for business, unless you’re a weapons dealer, and these stable conditions encouraged people to invest.

[00:20:18] Thirdly, and a related point, is that Britain had its empire, which came in very useful in terms of things like importing cotton

[00:20:28] It had also meant that there were a lot of people in Britain with a lot of money to invest in things like new technologies, which ties in with the next point.

[00:20:38] And that is because the political climate in Britain was very entrepreneurial, and the government encouraged entrepreneurs and inventors in Britain to just get on with it, really. 

[00:20:52] When compared to the attitude of the French, for example, the British government didn’t really interfere with inventors, whereas the French wanted new inventions to be standardised, and managed by the government.

[00:21:08] And finally, point number five is that Britain had an excellent system of ports and canals, which makes moving goods around very easy.

[00:21:18] These are some of the main reasons that it was able to start, but once it got going it was clear that there was enormous opportunity, and that these changes were irreversible, there was no going back. 

[00:21:32] Working conditions in the factories might have been pretty awful, but earning a secure wage and having enough food on the table was preferable to working in the fields and going hungry if there was a bad harvest.

[00:21:47] And one final interesting thing about The Industrial Revolution, which I think is particularly relevant to us today, is that at the time that all of this was happening, not everyone knew quite how significant it was to be. 

[00:22:02] Indeed, the term Industrial Revolution first appeared in 1799, but only became commonly used in the late 1830s, about 80 years after it had started.

[00:22:16] And that begs the question of today, tomorrow, and the future.

[00:22:22] There is often talk of us being in the middle of a fourth industrial revolution.

[00:22:27] The first is the one we’ve been talking about, the second was the period just before World War I, with the standardisation of industrial production, and the development of things like the railways. 

[00:22:39] Then the third industrial revolution, or The Digital Revolution, is the use of computers and information technology, starting in the 1940s and 1950s.

[00:22:50] And then today is, or could be, the fourth Industrial Revolution. 

[00:22:56] But as was the case during the first, second, and third industrial revolutions, it’s not clear whether this is actually a revolution, and if it is, it’s not exactly clear what the most important inventions to come out of it will be.

[00:23:12] Artificial Intelligence? Blockchain technologies? 3D printing?

[00:23:17] Perhaps something that the vast majority of people have never heard of, or perhaps something that nobody has even invented yet.

[00:23:25] Of course, nobody can predict the future, but it is fascinating to think about the kind of seismic shifts in society that were caused by The Industrial Revolution, and to ask oneself whether revolutions of the future will cause similar shifts.

[00:23:43] When it comes to questions like the extent to which artificial intelligence will replace our jobs, is this going to be a huge change for society, where hundreds of millions, or even billions, of people are just redundant, replaced by robots? 

[00:23:59] Or do we look at the example of The Industrial Revolution and say that people had exactly the same fears back then, but society developed, new jobs were created, and everyone’s standards of living increased?

[00:24:14] I’ll let you answer that question for yourself, but what is undeniable is that the society we all live in today wouldn’t have been possible without The Industrial Revolution. 

[00:24:25] Whether you live in Birmingham or Bogota, Manchester or Moscow, Liverpool or Lima, for better or worse, the world you live in today was shaped by The Industrial Revolution.

[00:24:39] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The Industrial Revolution.

[00:24:45] I hope it's been an interesting one, that you've learnt something new, and that it’s made you think a little bit more about how society develops, and some of the reasons why.

[00:24:56] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. 

[00:24:59] For the members among you, you can head right in to our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:25:09] And if you are not yet a member of Leonardo English, today might be the day to change that, if you are looking to improve your English in a more interesting way, to join a community of curious minds from all over the world, to unlock the transcripts, the subtitles, and the key vocabulary, then the place to go to for all of that is leonardoenglish.com

[00:25:34] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:25:39] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.