The Industrial Revolution in World History

By Peter N. Stearns | Go to book overview
redefinitions of how labor is organized quickly create a sense of major change, even among groups not directly involved. Fear of threats to established habits and awe at the profusion of goods that industrialization produces intermingle. Characteristic early attempts to protest the new system show that the magnitude of change strikes home--and the failure of these efforts, forcing redefinition of protest itself, demonstrate how unstoppable this economic machine becomes. In this sense, and in the broader sense of altering the whole context of life, this is revolution indeed. Ultimately, its role in changing the framework of world history shows industrialization's most important face.From the beginning, industrialization has been a set of human changes, and historians' understanding of this human side has informed some of the most exciting research findings of recent decades. Researchers note that among the big factors and large processes there were individual faces, some excited, some in pain. Early developers in factory industry had to depart from their parents' habits, an approach that often required considerable personal sacrifice and generated familial strain.
For example, in northern France in the early 1840s, Motte Bossut set up a large mechanical wool-spinning factory. His parents had run a much smaller, more traditional textile operation, manufacturing with only a simple sort of machinery; they prided themselves on being able to watch over every detail of their operation and directly supervise a small labor force. Motte Bossut, in contrast, aspired to make France the factory equal of England--during a visit there he had illegally taken away the plans for state-of-the-art factory equipment. His large factory quickly became one of the leaders in the region, but his parents would not set foot in it, judging its scale and its riskiness to be genuinely immoral.
In Germany, Alfred Krupp was born in 1812 into a successful merchant family in the city of Essen. His father, a poor businessman, had decimated the family fortune, however; Friedrich Krupp had twice set up steel manufacturing plants with swindling partners, which had led to failure and public disgrace. Alfred was sent to work in a factory at age thirteen, while his sister labored as a governess. In 1826 Alfred began his own firm on the basis of his father's meager inheritance, manufacturing scissors and hand tools. No technical genius, Krupp applied a single-minded devotion to his firm's success, bent on avoiding his father's mistakes. As a result, he built one of the giant metallurgical firms during the crucible decades of German industrialization.
Chung Ju Yung was a South Korean villager who in the 1940s, at age sixteen, walked 150 miles to Seoul to take a job as a humble day laborer. He soon moved into modest business activity and began to help build South Korea's industrial revolution. By the 1980s, when Chung

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