Chapter 18 • Revolutions of Industrialization

Lecture 1: Imagining the Industrial Revolution

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Lecture 1: Imagining the Industrial Revolution

It is often difficult for students to imagine the physical reality of the early Industrial Revolution, so this lecture strategy is intended to help students conceptualize and visualize the new world of machines. It is possible to approach this lecture strategy using images or literature, or a combination of the two. Its objectives are:

• to help students picture the course of the Industrial Revolution—its major inventions and how they were employed

• to encourage students to consider the physical and emotional costs and benefits of industrialization

A good place to start is with a literary figure who will probably be familiar to most students—Bob Cratchit, the lowly clerk in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (you might care to show a clip from one of the movie versions of the novel). Explore with students this depiction of a member of the lower middle class in the 1840s—the difficult conditions of his life, his utter dependence on a skinflint tyrant, and the novelty of jobs like Cratchit’s in the early Industrial Revolution. Go on to consider what had changed in British life by the 1840s, at the time Dickens wrote his novel. From there, you could take a variety of approaches, including the following.

Consider the physical presence of machines, a handy point at which to introduce students to important early industrial inventions and how they affected patterns of work. Some machines to include are:

• the Watt steam engine (How big was it? How loud was it? How hot was it?)

• Arkwright’s water frame

• Hargreaves’s spinning jenny

• the power loom

• the reverberatory furnace

the railroad

Discuss working conditions, taking care to consider the context of the time (e.g., child labor was perfectly normal among the poor). Particular points to include are:

• how physically demanding different sorts of work were

• the danger of death or maiming

• whether wages were sufficient for a family to live decently

Help your students to imagine living conditions in an early industrial city, such as Manchester, England, dubbed “Cottonopolis” in the nineteenth century. Particular points to consider are:

• types of housing available to workers

means of heating or cooling

• the availability of reasonably nutritious food in adequate quantities

• what the city might have smelled like

• the fears of epidemic disease

Consider other social classes, including such points as:

• how enviable Bob Cratchit’s position was compared to that of a factory worker

• the strains that attended life in the middle class

• the satisfactions of a new culture of consumption

Include literary, film, or photographic examples to emphasize your points (see the Further Reading section). It may be useful to refer to the chapter’s Visual Sources feature during your lecture.

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