HOT TOPIC: Industrial Revolution
Volume 1, Issue 21 - February 13, 2005

"While we can trace back mankind’s advancements in developing technology back to prehistoric times, it wasn’t until the 1800s that Great Britain (and in short order following, the United States) witnessed a dramatic proliferation of engines and machines which actually made labor easier and faster. In the context of the time, this made sense. The great empires had used up much of their natural resources in their exploits of the past centuries, and there was a need to find new ways to productively generate materials. Whereas lumber was becoming less abundant, minerals offered new promise in providing the means to fuel further progress. Also, the demands of a succession of wars on the European continent drove the demand for new ways to become efficient and effective in managing resources.

You’ll note that in many of this week’s recommended resources, treatment of the industrial revolution begins with the preceding agricultural revolution, in which farms became enclosed and more manageable. This is when the first advancements in technology began to take shape. As the need for new tools to manage these new farming systems became more and more evident, the opposition to the use of machinery by the artisan guilds of the time receded and by 1800 machines of many types were in use in the British Isles.

Imagine how the world changed with the introduction of the steam engine, from farm equipment to trains and ships. Then came gas engines and transportation advancements which trickled down to the common man. This was followed by the harnessing of electricity and the communications revolution we still benefit from today. All of this, of course, had profound implications on society and how it conducted itself. There is no more fascinating sociological/anthropological study of human history than that of the Victorian age.

We are all children of the industrial age. No matter how quickly we have taken to the rise of digital technology, it is the legacy of the assembly line with its ideals of standardization and efficiency which shaped our childhoods and our educational careers. As we begin to prepare a new generation of citizens to take their place in what is becoming a global work force, we owe it to each student to share how we have arrived at this point in time. This week’s resources will provide you with the resources you need to bring science and history alive in compelling combinations. Enjoy! ....."


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