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The Impact of the Industrial Revolution on the American Society

Human history has several turning points that have become crucial for all countries worldwide. Among such is the Industrial Revolution that has started in the 19th century. It has become a highly important event not only for Britain, where it has started, but for the American and European societies as well. It has brought a number of changes and innovations to all spheres of human life. The American society that was previously an agrarian country with farming as the main occupation of population has become completely different with a great number of the urban population and working factories. The crowded cities, land speculation, transportation development and industrial production were rapidly embracing all the territory of America. Metal, machines, fumes and new technologies can be perceived as the “brand identity” of the period. This paper will show how the Industrial Revolution has contributed to the raise of the living standards, and altered the general image of the country, its social and economic position.

In the modern industrialized societies, mass production has become a common phenomenon that helps to meet the demands of the majority of population. Assembly lines with power-driven machines, robots’ work and quick technologies development can hardly become surprising for anyone nowadays. The majority of the products that are used in the United States or other industrialized countries are created by means of mass production. However, before the Industrial Revolution, machine production sounded as something incredible. Hand labor demanded long hours to create even a small amount of the simplest objects. The Industrial Revolution has let machines change the manufacturing methods and people’s lives. Such technologies as printing, metal processing and machines construction have replaced farming and cattle breeding. Before the Industrial Revolution, the United States consisted of small communities, who lived separately, were self-sufficient and relatively equal in terms of economics. However, the technological progress has obviously changed th situation. The ability to work at the factories made more and more people move to the cities. The necessity to change the place of living has altered the composition of families and contributed to the growth of cities’ population. Industrial locations predetermined the well-developed “rail and water systems within the cities and between them” (Walker and Lewis 2001, 6). In order to create the necessary products, machinery was necessary. As a result, the Americans became highly dependent on the market.

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Economic inequality was growing considerably. With the necessity to learn many new things, get skills needed to exploit the machines, and get the job that was necessary, the position of the lower class has become quite difficult. Poor unskilled workers have made up the largest part of the population, while only some people have become rich factory owners with almost unlimited possibilities. Considering such economic division and the number of workers per place, the positions of people on the factories was quite unfavorable. As a result, many labor unions defending the rights of the specialists and labors have appeared (Snooks 2000, 4). Many of them exist even nowadays. The government protected the manufacturers with the protective tariff (Snooks 2000, 6). In such a way, it supported the industrial development in the country. However, it is also important that the growth of mass production led to the products price decrease. As a result, the Americans could buy various items cheaper than previously.

Many goods were produced with enormous speed and volumes. Among the industries that were developing very rapidly, one should pay particular attention to shipbuilding, small arms production, iron manufacturing and textiles. The light metal industry was established at the beginning of the 19th century (Walker and Lewis 2001, 13). Transportation development cannot be neglected as it was the crucial achievement of the period. Thanks to the improved, built and re-built rivers, canals and terrestrial infrastructures, the transportation within and beyond the countrry was effectively rearranged. Mainly, the river and canal routes’ improvements have let the producers decrease the costs for the goods transportation. At the same time, 1830s were marked by the iron industry advances that led not only to the adaptation of the agricultural tools, but also to creation of numerous railway tracks. In such a way, a great contribution to the railway transportations within the country can be observed. The achievements of the USA in the iron industry can be proved with its visible growth of the positions on the international market. American industry became able to compete even with the British one, which has obviously started growing much earlier. As a result, by late 1800s, the United States was considered as the greatest industrial country in the world (Snooks 2000, 33).

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With all the contributions to the social and economic life in America, the effects of the Industrial Revolution can be found even nowadays, and not only considering the level of the country economy, economic position and infrastructure that together with technological development contributes to the world globalization, but also taking into account its impact on the environment. Technological development and machinery have been having a dramatic influence on the Earth’s ecology till nowadays. The Industrial Revolution can be defined as the initial point that made a profoundly negative effect on the environment, causing various problems for human health, decreasing life longevity, polluting environment and natural resources and causing other issues (McLamb 2001). Industrial Revolution did not change everything overnight. However, starting with the mid-1700s in Britain, the machinery replaced manual labor, fuels replaced wind, water and wood and transformed not only the social and economic spheres of the countries, including the US, but the whole natural covering of the Earth (McLamb 2001). Though the full impact of the Industrial revolution could not be realized earlier than 100 years after the revolution, all the above mentioned processes have become a considerable part of the modern life.

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