The Atlantic View of the The Industrial Revolution

When we first hear about the Industrial Revolution in our freshman history classes, we are told that Great Britain achieved extraordinary technological feats like the invention of the first railroad train and the invention of the steam engine. We are also exposed to the miserable conditions the working poor have to deal with by working in the steel and textile mills. So we led to believe that the effects of the Industrial Revolution were only localized to Great Britain or Europe but it is not revealed that the Industrial Revolution had far reaching effects on the rest of the world, especially the Atlantic realm. Even though the textile mills were started in Great Britain, textile production also thrived on the east coast of the United States with the help of Samuel Slater (Egerton et al. 433). Now both of these industries need raw cotton to produce consumer items for a growing middle class and they both procured cotton from the American South. During this time cotton production was a slave based economy. My colleague Tyler Mendoza points out that industrialization did not end slavery but changed what it was. I am in full agreement, but I also think slavery indirectly made the Industrial Revolution possible. Even the archaic establishment of slavery was eventually abolished in the late 1800s, the connection between cotton and textile production was slavery. Hence institution of slavery acted as a bridge or a conduit between not only raw cotton and mass produced textiles, also between mercantilism and capitalism.

What I also found interesting about the chapter was the Atlantic migration. When we study about the Industrial Revolution we are led to believe that the rural populace facing either starvation or being pushed of farm land by the enclosure movement, were forced to move to the cities to find work usually in factory. According to Egerton et al., numerous factors such as the British Corn Laws, the Irish Potato Famine, and technological advancements in transatlantic travel led to the mass exodus of Europeans emigrating to the whole American continent (Egerton et al. 441 – 443). Although Europeans were emigrating to the Americas to find a better life for their families, there was also a sinister aspect behind it. Wanting to “whiten” the mostly African population, the Spanish – American republics were trying to direct the nationality in a more elitist framework (Egerton et al. 445). Republics that shared a border with the Atlantic Ocean, like Brazil who received large numbers of German colonists, where successful while others like Peru were unsuccessful.

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