The Industrial Revolution, Slavery and Free Labor

Posted on: 10th May 2023


REQUIRED READING: Read Chapter 1 in the following text:

- Walvin, J. (1996). Forging the Link: Europe, Africa and the Americas and But Why Slavery? In Questioning Slavery (pp. 1–18, 19–28) New York: Routledge.

- More, C. (2000). Understanding the Industrial Revolution (pp 1-5 of Introduction). New York: Routledge.

**After looking through the recommended lecture and assigned readings ...

~ Describe the Industrial Revolution and the new forms of economic activity it created, including mass production, and mass consumption.

~ How was this connected to slavery?


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The Industrial Revolution, Slavery and Free Labor

The Industrial Revolution is often considered to begin in Britain in the eighteenth century, but its roots can be traced back to Europe’s global discoveries, the emergence of new ideologies, thriving trade and the introduction of machinery (More, 2000). The Industrial Revolution, sometimes known as the First Industrial Revolution, spanned roughly 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840 in Europe and the US when new assembly processes were introduced. According to Walvin’s work, three main characteristics define the Revolution: A new zeal for technological development stemmed from the thinkers of the Renaissance, along with an increased global trading network that had newly emerged during this period. This paper seeks to discuss the industrial revolution,  the new forms of economic activity, including mass production and mass consumption.

Effects of Industrial Revolution

Overall, the Industrial Revolution was both good and bad for several reasons. For one thing, it dealt with the enormous amount of pollution in the area. Due to the high amounts of pollution, respiratory illnesses and disease were noticeably more common. With the implementation of factories, workers no longer had to breathe too much toxic air all day long. The Industrial Revolution also brought on urbanization and overall higher livability across many areas of England (as well as other countries as well). For example, cities transformed greatly into communities that offered basic needs such as food markets, libraries, and schools.

The Industrial Revolution brought changes in agriculture, science, and technology that affected the lives and homes of everyone. People moved from working on farms to working in factories. Powerful men like Robert Fulton invented new ways to navigate boats, steam trains, and telegraphs. Men now could send messages across seas and oceans without walking to post offices. The Industrial Revolution also produced inequality. More people had access to education. However, it was only for white males or women or African Americans. People also faced economic hardships when labor groups such as the National Labor Union were changed by having their demands ignored at workplaces between 1869-1872 (Walvin, 1996). People now needed more survival skills because they moved from fields and farms to dangerous cities with insufficient housing and poor sanitation.

Economic Activities and Production

The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain, and many mechanical advances were developed there. Through the East India Company’s operations, Britain had become the world’s leading corporate country by the mid-eighteenth millennium, trying to control a world trade realm with nations in North America and the Caribbean, as well as a substantial political and military power on the Parts of India, particularly with the civilization of Mughal Bengal. The Industrial Revolution was fueled by various factors, including improving trade and the rise of commerce. The Industrial Revolution was a watershed moment in human history, affecting almost every aspect of daily life somehow. Normal pay and the population, in particular, began to demonstrate astonishing sustained growth (Bleutaeva and Dyrka, 2019). Moreover, steam-powered presses and mechanized textile machinery encouraged mass production. These changes also promoted the development of a new class of industrial workers--the factory worker. It was not long before the factory system spread to other industries, such as coal mining, ironmaking and shipbuilding. The increasing demand for raw materials, machinery and manufactured goods strengthened Great Britain’s place as an economic leader in the world.

Although some financial analysts claim that the Industrial Revolution had a huge impact on the manner of life for today’s society, others claim that it didn’t improve significantly until the late 19th and 20th centuries. Before the Industrial Uprise of the developed entrepreneurial sector, gross domestic output per capita was relatively stable, whereas the Industrial Revolution ushered in an era of per-capita capital accumulation in entrepreneur countries. Students of economics recognize that the start of the Industrial Revolution is the most meaningful event in human history since the domestication of animals and plants. Production became a big factor in the industrial revolution because when factories started to produce more goods for cheaper prices, people could buy items at much lower costs.

This transformation comprised the transition from manual to automated production, new material assembly and iron production methods, increased use of steam and water power, progress of machine equipment, and the rise of the mechanized plant structure. The Industrial Revolution also ushered in an unprecedented increase in the rate of population growth. Materials were the most important enterprise of the Industrial Revolution in terms of labor, yield projection, and capital contribution (Bleutaeva and Dyrka, 2019). The material industry was also the first to use modern production methods. There was an immediate focus on metals such as iron and coal, followed by materials in France. The exploitation of the early breakthroughs of the Industrial Revolution, such as mechanized spinning and weaving, eased back, and their economic sectors expanded, resulting in a financial crisis. Late in the time, improvements such as increased acceptance of railways, steamboats, ocean liners, hot impact iron refinement, and discoveries such as the electrical telegraph, which were widely exhibited throughout the 1850s, were not remarkable enough to propel rapid progress.

Connection of the Industrial Revolution and Slavery

The industrial revolution is also connected to slavery. People who owned factories needed more workers, and there was an increase in the number of enslaved people brought into the United States. Technology improved due to new ways of thinking, and with more workers, factory owners needed even better machines. Men who managed the factories started buying enslaved people. Slavery provided a huge labor force. Factories and mills opened up throughout the north and needed large amounts of labor to run the machines and maintain productivity levels. The factories would not have been able to keep up with production if it weren’t for cheap slave labor supplied by the south. Some historians believe that plantations enslaved people aided in the birth of the Industrial Revolution (Walvin, 1996). Scholars have demonstrated how slave-trade earnings were used to build and create technology such as the steam engine conceived by James Watt. The sugarcane enslavers employed this device to substitute horses and boost efficiency levels after it was sufficiently developed. Slavery on estates made huge earnings, funneled into new enterprises that processed goods. Others, like Thomas Hide, exploited the earnings from slave trading to establish fabric mills in 1795. Therefore, it can be seen that slavery had a significant role in the Industrial Revolution, and I believe that without it, we would never have progressed as quickly.

Conclusively, this paper discussed the industrial revolution,  the new forms of economic activity, including mass production and mass consumption and how they are linked to slavery.

The Industrial Revolution was a time of enormous change and drastic social, economic, political and cultural changes. There were also significant advances in agriculture, manufacturing, transport and technology that transformed the way people lived their lives. Therefore, with a deeper comprehension of Industrialization, we can see why it was quite an important heritage, giving us a plethora of fantastic and beneficial technologies to mass-produce items which we all utilize nowadays at an almost unbelievable pace Humans started thinking smarter, not tougher and built yet more gadgets and technologies as time went on, as well as the times of actual hard-working effort, became such a distant memory. For these advancements, additional jobs have been generated, providing more opportunities for humans to improve their lives and communities.



Bleutaeva, K. B., & Dyrka, S. (2019). The development of foreign economic activities under the fourth industrial revolution. News of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Series of social and human sciences, 1(323), 228-238.

Walvin, J. (1996). Forging the Link: Europe, Africa and the Americas and But Why Slavery? In Questioning Slavery (pp. 1–18, 19–28) New York: Routledge.

More, C. (2000). Understanding the Industrial Revolution (pp 1-5 of introduction). New York: Routledge

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