extract from the essay:
When you think of the word ‘Revolution’ another word automatically springs to mind to precede it. American is one, French and Russian perhaps are others. These Revolutions involved violence, out right war and sudden social changes. Few people automatically think to put the word ‘Industrial’ in front of that emotive word. Maybe because the ‘Industrial Revolution’ was more of a ‘slow burn’ and happened over time, a slow change to society rather than a dramatic instant thrust of evident and far reaching dramatic changes of the social fabric like the well known revolutions.
Yet the industrial revolution was by far the most important and influential revolution that has ever happened to civilisation since someone in the middle east discovered that a seed bearing plant could be turned into food (bread). That particular amazing ‘discovery’ enabled ‘spare-time’ for humanity to develop other skills and helped to propel a human society beyond the limitations of living as the nomadic hunter gatherers that humans had been living for millenniums up to that point.
Why did the industrial revolution come about?
For our story, about how the industrial revolution affected Art and Artists, let’s start by making some educated assumptions as to why the Industrial Revolution came about. Without labouring on the individual details too much, you could say it was the need to increase productivity for goods to trade with for a growing population. Initially, the energy needed for these goods was provided by manual labour, mules or horses to haul the wood that gave-up it’s stored energy, directly or through the making of charcoal that provided the power to make other things, like smelting metals or firing pottery. Manufacturers also used ‘water driven’ machinery to increase productivity in food production (i.e. bread).
And then the most important source of energy of all was unearthed (literally) as the best energy source of all, Coal. This was, by far, the most important of all the energy sources, because it was cheap, plentiful, efficient and England, in particular, had plenty of it. The fact that ‘Coal Power’ greatly expanded the production of goods is unquestionable and it was to change the face of Western Civilisation as much as ‘ Crude Oil’ did in the latter part of the 20th century. read more…