Coalbrookdale bridge, 1779-1781
Coalbrookdate bridge, 1779-1781

UCSB Hist 2c, Lectures 3 & 4:
The Industrial Revolution
lectures on Apr. 11 and 13, 2006 (prev., next)

by Professor Harold Marcuse (homepage)
created Apr. 17, 2006, updated

EVN Industrial Revolution video, 1995
Olaudah Equiano video
Prof's Lecture

Introduction (back to top)

  • On Tuesday (4/11) I was in Indiana, presenting some of my research on post-1945 Dachau, the origin of the quotation "First they came for the Communists..." (my Niemöller Quotation page), the Berlin national victims' memorial (1997 essay), and the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance (2001 article).
  • Thus I previewed several videos about the Industrial Revolution that might substitute for my lecture on that topic. To explain my choice, let me begin by describing them:
    1. My first choice was one called "The Factory and Marketplace Revolution" (1985), in the series "The Day the Universe Changed," narrated by James Burke.
      However, neither UCB nor UCSD would loan their copies, and UCSB doesn't have one.
      • I like this one particularly because of the way it presents the various factors--causes--that came together to produce this world-historical change in the late 1700s that set "the West" on the path to becoming the "First World."
      • blurb: "A segment of the PBS broadcast of James Burke's The Day the Universe Changed. This segment was broadcast as Credit Where It's Due. "In 18th century England, the industrial revolution got its impetus from growing wealth and industrious religious Dissenters, barred form all activities but trade. These Dissenters, using innovations in business and credit, created a new industrial society, based chiefly on the steam engine, a Dissenter invention. We see the growth of urbanization, the factory system, an industrial working class, and the exploitation of the planet. Notes: Written and produced by James Burke. Music by Cor Davis. Edited by David Pygram. Researchers: Betinna Lerner, Penelope Fairfax and Joy Hornsby."
      • UNC Western Civ course study guide
      • available for $80 from
    2. Educational Video Network, "Industrial Revolution" (1995) (two parts 22+20 mins., held by UCSB Kerr Hall, V-4206A+B).
      • This is the one I ended up showing, see below.
    3. WGBH (Boston, PBS) "Industrial Revolution" (1989) series narrated by Eugen Weber (UCLA); prog. #41: The Industrial Revolution -- Technology and mass production reduced famine and ushered in higher standards of living," and #42: The Industrial World -- A consumer revolution was fueled by coal, public transportation, and new city services. (two times 30 mins., UCSB Kerr Hall V-2134-EE+FF)
      • this is a very traditional lecture (albeit with lots of good images) by an "old school" professor. He walks the audience through innovations, mostly of the 19th century.
      • I liked best the second half of the 2nd tape, in which Weber talks about how the lives of common people in cities changed because of industrialization.
    4. CNN's Millennium series (1999), 10 hours, narrated by Ben Kingsley.
      • "Episode Nine: Industrialization altered the world's balance of power in the nineteenth century. During the "century of the machine," Western powers established world empires by means of technological superiority and became more powerful than the big-sister civilizations of China, Islam, and India. Other cultures tried to resist the influence of the industrial powers but ultimately failed, losing ground to new modes of living."
      • My colleague, UCSB Prof. Sachsenmeier, who teaches Global 1, a 1-quarter "Global History, Culture, Ideology" overview in the Global Studies program (his homepage), recommended this one, which I did not preview.
      • CNN series website for episode 9 (It appears to focus more on the 19th century.)
      • $8 used at amazon

Industrial Revolution video (EVN, 1995) (back to top)

  • 1750-1850: the film starts by showing how dramatically life in Britain changed over these 100 years, from a predominantly rural to a predominantly urban society
  • Five conditions were necessary for the IR:
    1. good natural resources: fuel (coal, rivers), harbors for raw materials, canals for transportation
    2. large labor force, from a population increase, which needed greater food production
    3. availability of capital
    4. availability of markets (more consumers)
    5. favorable government (landholding for canal building, patent law encouraged inventions, no or low taxes on profits)
  • The video then took us to Iron Bridge Gorge, near the town of Coalbrookdale, about 30 miles west of Birmingham, England, which has been preserved as a museum site (14-page tour, 10 museums). It is now a World Heritage Site (another tour).
  • It showed five of the museums: iron, china/porcelain, tile, open air/life, mine (coal & iron)
  • Then the video portrayed the important inventors and inventions in roughly chronological order:
    • 1709 Abraham Darby smelted iron using coke, not charcoal, for greater purity
    • 1729: cast iron weels for mines; 1767 cast iron rails for the wheels
    • 1777: smelting furnace enlarged to make more iron for a bridge, since the ferry across the river in the gorge couldn't keep up with the amounts needed for production
    • 1779-1781: Abraham Darby III built the bridge (cool close-ups!). It used carpenter's joints for the cast pieces, not rivets like today
  • The video then cut to the textile industry
    • 1750: power-driven machines were introduced
    • 1764: James Hargrove invented the spinning jenny with 8 spinners (80 by 1784)
    • 1769: Arkwright invented the water frame, which spun stronger yarn faster than by hand.
      Spinning was no longer in cottages, but in factories. Thus Arkwright is known as the "father of the factory system."
    • 1771: Crumford, Darbyshire: first spinning mill
    • 1775: Samual Crompton's spinning mule replaced both jenny and water frame, compted with India ( site)
    • 1780s: 100s of spinning villages (1740 was the first)
    • Weaving was done by hand until the 1800s -- it was now the bottleneck
    • 1784 Edmund Cartwright invented the power loom (using 1733 flying shuttle by John Kay)
    • 1803 all-metal loom; by 1820s the bottleneck of weaving was overcome
  • The second part of the video looked at transportation, power generation, and factory organization, ending with a glance at 2 other centers of industrial development (Belgium and the US)
    • canals were the most efficient mode of transportation in the early 1800s
    • locks were an improvement to overcome height differences
    • an inclined plane with rails and wheeled dollies for barges could also be used
    • 1793 in Shropshire an inclined plane raised 207ft (27 locks would have been needed)
    • use of machinery to pull up
    • the steam engine was the greatest single invention (1 engine=100 horses, enough for 1 factory!)
    • 1712: Newcomen's engine to pump water out of mines

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Conclusion (back to top)



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