The Industrial Revolution: From Crafts to Machining

The Industrial Revolution is an ongoing event. Production technology continues to advance, making the manufacture of consumer goods an increasingly mechanical and less human task.

The radical change that occurred in the Industrial Revolution in England between 1780 and 1840 brought about mechanized production.The power-driven equipment of the steam engine invented by James Watt in 1760 replaced human labor in repetitive activity or requiring the use of human force or animal traction. There was born the serial production and the organization of the workforce in the production plant with (long) defined hours and specialized functions.

  • There was a great concentration of wealth in the hands of the English bourgeoisie, as a result of their gains from mercantilist activities;
  • From the seventeenth century England controlled the supply of manufactured goods in colonial markets;
  • Since the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in England, the English government has effectively supported the pursuit of private profit by merchants;
  • England had large deposits of coal and iron, the indispensable raw materials for machine manufacturing and power generation, and extracted them for domestic supply;
  • In English cities there was a concentration of labor, a result of the strong rural exodus

Prior to the emergence of factories, handicrafts were the main means of organizing the production process of basic utensils used in daily life, such as furniture, tools and clothing. Artisans knew all the stages of manufacturing a commodity: they bought the raw material, made the product and sold it.

Productivity depended on the pace and skill of the craftsman. Therefore, handicrafts do not guarantee a large production. We still live with this type of production, however, the craft turned to the production of luxury items, artistic and decoration etc.

In the fifteenth century, the domestic system developed : the artisan received orders from businessmen to produce certain pieces. These entrepreneurs supplied the raw material, paid the craftsman and resold the final product.

Even working in the domestic system, the craftsman still maintained great autonomy, because he knew all the stages of production of the goods and controlled the time needed to perform each task.

Free Class on the Industrial Revolution

Check out now an online summary of Professor Felipe, from the Enem Free Course channel , with a very practical overview for you to learn about the Industrial Revolution. After class, continue to the post to see how the Second Industrial Revolution happened.

Break in control of means of production and family

The new factory and workforce organization processes implemented by the Industrial Revolution have brought about easy changes:

  1. In these systems the craftsman is no longer the owner of the instruments;
  2. The workplace was now in factory sheds; and,
  3. the workers gave in to their workforce in exchange for a salary.

In this work below we see the previous scenario, when a craftsman and his wife worked in a home workshop. We can see that there is a child in the basket and another playing alongside while the parents work. The domestic production system did not separate family life from work tasks.A weaver’s workshop, painting by Gillis Rombouts, 1656. Frans Hals Museum, The Netherlands. In: BRAICK, Patricia Ramos. Studying history: from the origins of man to the digital age. 8th. year. 1. ed. Sao Paulo: Modern, 2011. p. 82.

The manufacturing comes in the same period when these entrepreneurs begin to group the artisans in large warehouses to better control production. In this system the production was divided into different stages, each performed by a worker, with the aid of tools and some simple machines.

In the second half of the eighteenth century, manufacturing was replaced by machining . Traders wanted more merchandise to sell and complained about the slow pace of artisans’ work. They then sought an outlet to increase productivity without relying on the craftsman’s knowledge of the production process: the machine.

The worker’s task was to feed the machine, control its speed and watch over its maintenance. The main consequence of this organization was man’s dependence on technology. The worker ceased to be the owner of the work tools and lost his knowledge of the entire production process.

The image represents a weaving in England. Engraving 1833. Image source: BRAICK, Patricia Ramos. Studying history: from the origins of man to the digital age. 8th. year. 1. ed. Sao Paulo: Modern, 2011. p. 83.

Continuous developments in the field of science and technology have led to the development of increasingly effective machines for mass production and forms of human mastery over energy sources. This continuous cycle brought about a new leap in the 1850s to 1870s, called The Second Industrial