1IR – the Age of Steam

The First Industrial Revolution, which took place in the 1700s and 1800s, changed our world by introducing steam power. The main driver of this revolution was the invention of the steam engine.

The steam engine provided human beings with a completely new form of power. Prior to steam, all we had was muscle power, and all modes of manufacturing and transport relied on either human or animal strength.

The invention of the steam engine led to the invention of steam-powered factories, which were much grander in scale than any factories prior to them, giving people the ability to manufacture more goods more rapidly than ever before.

Steam-powered farming implements made large-scale farming a reality, allowing them to produce more food than ever before.

Steam trains brought far away towns and cities closer, allowing factories and farms to distribute their products much further than before, and much more quickly.

With steam ships, sailors were no longer reliant on the ever-changing winds to drive their ships forward, making sea travel more predictable and reliable than ever before.

For the first time in history, we saw mass production and mass distribution of commodities. Food, clothing, tools, weapons, household appliances were all mass produced for the first time. And thanks to the ever-growing rail networks and shipping routes, distribution networks extended far beyond country borders and across oceans.

Wider distribution meant more customers, which meant more demand for goods, which meant more production, bigger factories and even wider distribution. It was an unstoppable cycle of growth and prosperity which radically transformed industry and society.

The rich landowners provided the capital to finance the new factories, becoming fabulously wealthy in the process, and giving rise to the age of capitalism.

Cities swelled in size as more and more people left the farms where their forefathers lived for hundreds of years, for better pay in the new factories. Stadards of living went up considerably.

The countries affected by the 1IR, like Britain, France and Germany, thrived and became world trade, commerce and military leaders.

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