Great Britain: the Tiny Island that Started a Revolution

“Industry is the mother and father of science, literature, the arts, entertainment, freedom, useful institutions, and national power, and independence.” Friedrich List

If it were not for Great Britain the industrial revolution would have been completely different and would not have taken place until half a decade later. The small nation has always been a forerunner in cultural growth in Europe. Thanks to an almost endless supply of water around the island, the people of England were able to capture the water’s power and use it for the advancement of some of the first commercialized industry. This increased industry allowed for a blossoming of ideals across England. Because of the increase of industry people were more often able to have free time where they could do more than just work. This allowed for the first time in history for people to be able to learn new skills or be introduced to new ideas.

This new spark of interests would lead to a new age of modernization and exploration not just in England but across Europe over the 19th Century as well. Friedrich List’s quote exemplifies the new sentiments of people across the continent as many more ideas and institutions were introduced and grown throughout the century.

3 Replies to “Great Britain: the Tiny Island that Started a Revolution”

  1. I think you touched upon a couple important details about the benefits of the industrial revolution and while I do think it is good to acknowledge them, I think it is equally important to discuss the harmful consequences that followed. A lot of the systems in place today whose origins can be traced back to the industrial revolution in Great Britain, and later the rest of the world, have had an extremely deadly impact on the people who operate in these industries and those repercussions have permeated to almost every aspect of modern society (not just the economic system). One common thread is that these systems rely on the exploitation of workers and that encourages dangerous working conditions and low pay, in the name of maximizing profit for those who do control the means of production. These systems are also in a large part responsible for the ever growing wealth divide in many places.

    I think a lot of people view the negative effects of the industrial revolution as something that we as a society have progressed past. In the case of child labor, I think a lot of people in the United States have the idea child labor is a former problem that was eliminated after legislation was passed in the thirties, however the reality is that, American businesses continue to use such methods in different places (usually developing countries) and then we benefit from it as a consumer. One thing that I think people are only recently starting to grasp is the large environmental impact that these systems have had on the globe and I think that can also be traced back to a few hundred years ago in Great Britain.

    On strictly a moral standpoint, do you think that the industrial revolution has had more positive or negative consequences on the world?

    1. I think the answer depends on how the world is defined. If the world refers to planet earth, then I would argue that the Industrial Revolution has had a negative consequence on the world. CO2 emissions, water pollution, and species endangerment are all results of advancements in industry. According to the Kuznets environmental curve, as advancements in technology further, the environmental degradation as a result will increase and then decrease once it hits a certain point. As of 2020, we are beginning to see the curve decline, implying that environmental degradation will actually begin to decrease over time with the advancement of industry. This was not the case before recent years, however, and some of the worst environmental devastations in Great Britain happened as a result of the Industrial Revolution, such as the Great Smog of London in 1952.

      1. I think that is a really interesting and valid point but I wonder if we are at a point where we can not clearly separate the world itself from the living things on it like you suggested. For instance, if we look at the rising water levels due to climate change, that not only directly affects the planet and wildlife but the people living on islands and coastlines. However, I definitely think it is a harder question when combining the two (people and planet) because you have to ask yourself whether the negative impact on the planet was worth the undeniable positive effect on technology and therefore quality of life of people. I definitely understand where the idea that in the recent future, the technological advances will start to help the environment in some ways but I also see potential backlash to those ideas and an uneven implementation of environmental friendly technology among different places in the world, specifically with developing nations continuing to bear the more harmful after effects of these technological developments. I also think there is a problem with public perception, not everyone agrees that the environmental problems we have been seeing recently and that researches have predicted to continue, like fires, floods, and storms, as a product of climate change that has been caused by human involvement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *