“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers…

An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers……….
An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

The Knowledge Library

OUR PAST PART – IV Rise of Machines

World History

Industrial Revolution was the beginning of a period in which many improvements and inventions were brought by men who neither were educated in sciences nor wealthy but these inventions changed the way production of goods was made in Europe. The industrial revolution in Britain from 1780 to 1850 saw an increase in production by changing the means of production i.e. men to machines. The economy was Britain grew and it affected the economy of European and American countries too. However, before the development, the initial period of the industrial revolution also saw the poor conditions of workers, bad living conditions, and exploitation of labor by industrialists this forced the government to pass laws to reform the situation.

England was the birthplace of the industrial revolution due to a stable political system since the 17th century, a unified market of England, Scotland, and Wales, and hence lesser taxes. Money was recognized as a medium of exchange and people received wages or salaries for their services which meant there was a larger choice to spend their earnings and expand the market for the sale of goods.

Agricultural revolution too emerged in England and the big landlords enclosed the village common lands and consolidated their landholdings. The smaller farmers were evicted, and landless peasants and herders then moved to towns to seek other employment.

London became the center of trade as it developed into financial capital. The indented coastline, sheltered bays, and inland rivers provided a cheaper mode of transportation than land as railways weren’t invented yet. The banks would finance the investment needs of industrialists and soon a number of banks were built in England. The position of financial capital boosted the importance of London.

Impact of Industrial Revolution

The coal and iron industry
was the starting place of the revolution. England was fortunate to have coal and iron in the same seams. Iron earlier was obtained by melting the ore by smelting using charcoal obtained from timber. But as forests depleted a second means of production was devised using coke. Coke was obtained from coal and it gave a highly pure form of iron than charcoal. The dependence on forests was reduced and the coal industry and iron industry developed together. Innovation in iron led to the building of many useful instruments and iron replaced wooden articles. The shipping industry too developed with this as coastal coalfields were linked by ports and coal could be transported through them. By 1848 England smelted more iron than the rest of the world together.

The cotton spinning and weaving industry developed due to better inventions like spinning jenny, and power loom. Earlier East India company would import cloth from India and sell it in England but soon it imported raw cotton and manufactured cloth and sold it to the colonies. The industry of cotton became dominated by England and soon its machine-made cloth was unmatched. the colonization ensured a smooth inflow of raw materials and consumption of finished goods.

Steam Power replaced the traditional hydraulic power obtained from water. James Watt developed steam power and then it replaced traditional sources and soon became a source of energy that was responsible for 70% of the total production.

Canals and Railways were responsible for taking industrialization to its next phase. As road transport was slow and costly the first canal was built with the sole purpose of transporting coal from source to industry. After this canal was complete it reduced the cost of coal by half. The canal revolution had begun and when that too saw a bottleneck conditions were created for a new mode of transport – Railways.

The railway engine saw the birth of a faster and cheaper mode of transport. It increase the pace of industrialization as now goods could be moved to different places easily. It led to the construction of more railways and soon entire of England was connected by rail.

Effects of the Revolution

The industrial revolution created a wealthy class that owned the means of production. This class wanted to increase profits and so took the risks of investing in production. The wealth often multiplied. But on the other hand, the other face of the industrial revolution also reared its head. The laborers of these industries didn’t own anything and worked for a wage. Due to unemployment in villages, people migrated to towns and this led to overcrowding.

Unhealthy conditions and outbreaks of diseases made the life expectancy very short for these people. The workers were paid poor wages and so often women and children were employed as they didn’t rile at such wages. Entire families had to work as single-member and couldn’t sustain all.

The government was indifferent to the labor problems. It passed acts to ensure industrial production continued uninterrupted. It also made the right to strike, and the right to form unions illegal. The workers were with no rights and no vote and hence the Parliament only appeased the owners. However, protests grew and workers would burn machines and factories. Bread being a staple food was looted and sold at a normal affordable rate instead of the high price demanded by traders. A peaceful rally demanding rights were crushed brutally and Combination Acts were passed to crush their demands.

Nationalist Movement in Indo – China

Indo – China refers to the place which has the three countries Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. It was earlier under Chinese influence and used to be an important destination on the maritime silk route. However, it was colonized by France, and to liberate itself a freedom struggle was fought between the rulers and the ruled. Even after independence in 1945, there was turmoil and it took another 30 years to get the Republic of Vietnam.

Beginning of Colonization

The French defeated the Chinese and dominated this region by the 1850s. Like other imperialist nations, they too felt that colonies were a sign of prestige and that they should bring the fruits of development to the backward people in those regions. The Vietnamese then felt the increasing interference in social and cultural aspects. The French wanted to increase rice cultivation and built infrastructure for this. Soon Vietnam became a major rice exporter.

The French traders pressurized the government to colonize Indo – China to bring stability and protect their investments. The French believed that to ensure more profits to the mother country from colonialism the region had to be developed. this would have increased the income of the natives and led them to make more money to purchase French goods. But France did little to industrialize Vietnam and it remained a backward rice exporting country.

Like British, French too were motivated by the civilizing mission. They wanted to educate natives but were worried that education would make them question colonial domination and even threaten the employment of the French who resided in Indo – China.

Education as a Weapon for colonization

The French used education to show the superiority of French civilization and make the natives feel inferior. The natives would then be compelled to accept the French as masters and respected the french culture and traditions. The French also followed a carrot and stick approach by punishing Vietnamese intellectuals and rewarding those who studied in French with government jobs. However to ensure the Vietnamese didn’t capture jobs held by French residents most of the students failed the school-leaving test.

Vietnamese intellectuals believed that this system led to intellectual subjugation. However, as the number of Vietnamese teachers in schools increased they criticized the content and preached against the french rule. This led to protests by people against colonial rule. Similarly French too built cities where French elites lived. These were built as architectural marvels and other parts where natives lived became poorly built. The spread of the Bubonic plague in 1903 saw the French employing Viet workers to kill rats but the Viets used their collective bargaining to get higher benefits from the French. Protests against the French interference in religious matters also were seen as Christian missionaries were attacked for hurting the religious beliefs of natives who believed in Buddhism, and Confucian tradition.

Rise of Communism

A new turn of events against french rule developed after the communists entered the scene. Ho Chi Minh was the leader who organized the communists and formed the Party. He resisted French rule and was inspired by the Communist protests in Europe. During WWII, Japan occupied the Indo – China region and now Vietminh had to fight two enemies. Soon in 1945, the established self-rule over Indo-China, and the war was over.

The French reentered Indo-China and installed a puppet government there. This led to a civil war in which the French lost and in 1954 the Peace treaty was signed. The Vietminh had to accept a division of the country into the south and north. North was communist-ruled. South became under civil war as the democratic government was replaced by an autocrat. The National Liberation Front of rebels fought against it with the help of the North. The US was afraid of a communist takeover of a democratic country and entered the war on side of the South.

US War in Vietnam

The world’s most advanced country entered the war and it was isolated right from the beginning. No ally supported it and Americans too criticized the policy of their own government for going into an indefensible war. Chemical weapons and air bombs have been used and scores of people were killed. But the US underestimated the power of the Vietnamese to fight and soon the US lost.

After the US exit, the NLF occupied the presidential palace and unified the North and South. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City and became the capital of united Vietnam.

Indentured labor Migration from India

The 19th-century world was a fast-paced world with high economic growth and higher misery. An increase in incomes for some also meant poverty for others. Thus the story of indentured labor migration was a two-sided story.

Indian workers were recruited in large numbers by agents of employers like Railroad firms, canal-building, or plantations. These workers usually belonged to areas like UP, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu that saw famine and poverty. In order to escape from the harsh life at home, the people agreed to indentured labor. Many times they were fooled by agents without revealing their destination, type of work, pay, etc.

The workers would sometimes escape from harsh work or blended into local cultures. Thus indentured labor became the second type of slave trade. After the contracts were over the workers preferred living in these new places and so the Caribbean, Fiji, Malaya, Ceylon, and Mauritius see a large number of Indian origin inhabitants. This system was finally abolished in 1921.

Consumerism, Post War Economic boom, and finally Great Depression

The Great war saw a crisis in production as usual producing grounds were now disrupted due to the war. The European countries which were exporters saw turmoil and most of them reorganized their industries to fuel armament manufacturing. Agriculture was disrupted and now countries outside Europe saw an increase in manufacturing and export. This wartime boom led to more investments, more jobs, and a rise in incomes. But when the war ended in 1919 the economic activity was stopped and so people lost jobs. In Europe, a large number of working-age men died and so labor problems emerged. In colonies, domestic manufacturing rose and mother countries couldn’t regain their upper hand in this.

The US saw an increase in manufacturing activity. The US banks had financed European countries during the war and so the US became an international creditor from an international debtor. The US saw a faster recovery after the war and so industrial production increased. The Assembly line came and faster production emerged. To increase consumption banks started increasing credit is cheap and easy installments.

This consumerism also increased jobs, exports, and incomes but lasted only till 1929.

The US banks had extended large credit to Europe and now at the first sight of trouble, they started reducing the loans given. The reduction in loans meant no investments in production and people started losing jobs. Consumerism also reduced and so factories reduced production. Layoffs increased. The people who lost jobs couldn’t purchase industrial goods due to low purchasing power. This cycle resulted in fewer jobs and so in turn less production.

The loans cost European banks to shut down and people lost their savings.

Agriculture too saw a glut as farmers had to increase production to maintain incomes from the falling price of commodities. This led to a further fall in prices but so the farmers started burning excess stocks to keep prices from crashing. So this cycle led to depression.


Great Depression in USA in 1928

Fig 1: Great Depression

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