How were the first machines made

Industrial revolution

In a machine shop in a factory in Zurich. The picture is from 1875.

The Industrial Revolution is an epoch, a period in human history. Many inventions were made during this time. That changed the economy: many mines and factories were built. Human handwork has been replaced by machines. This was a big change, that's why it's called a revolution.

The Industrial Revolution began in England first. That was around the year 1750. Instead of water power, wind power and horse power, steam engines were now also used. It was used to drive the machines in the factories. Such machines were, for example, looms that were used to produce fabrics, textiles. So you could produce a lot more than before and needed fewer people.

However, it took decades for the Industrial Revolution to really take hold. Outside of England, she first came to Belgium. In Germany, too, there were new types of factories and machines quite early on. However, the industry was only really widespread in Germany since around 1850.

What were the big changes?

An old spinning machine in the Cromford textile factory, which is located in Ratingen in North Rhine-Westphalia. It was one of the first factories in Germany.
Steam engines were also used in agriculture. This was particularly useful in the USA because of the huge fields there.

The steam engine was particularly important. James Watt from Scotland is often called the inventor today. However, it was already known in ancient times that you can create a powerful movement with steam. In the time of Watt there were other inventors who built steam engines. Watt's steam engines, however, worked much more efficiently than the others.

Not only did a lot change in the factories, but also in agriculture. Better plows were built and, above all, modern fertilizers were invented. Thanks to fertilization, plants grow much better. In 1913 Germany harvested almost twice as much as forty years earlier.

Medicine also got better, and you learned that tiny creatures make you sick, bacteria. People learned the importance of washing. People lived longer and fewer young children died. As a result, the countries in Europe had many more inhabitants from before over time.

The railways and telegraphy were also important for people's lives. The railroad made it easier to get goods to where buyers lived. Also, workers no longer had to live very close to the factory in which they worked. Anyone wishing to travel from Berlin to Cologne around 1830 would need more than a week in a horse-drawn carriage. Around the year 1860, the railroad took a single day.

Through telegraphy, people learned what was happening in the world much faster than before. Whenever an official in London wanted to know what was going on in the British colony of India, it took a few minutes around 1880. Forty years earlier it had taken two months to get the news from London to India and back.

Did the industrial revolution make people live better?

Many people found work in a factory and were able to earn money with it. That was important: if a farmer divided up his land among his many children, there wasn't really enough for any of them. That is why the poorest people lived where there was no industry. That is why many people moved from the countryside to the cities.

However, work in the factories was often difficult and dirty. It was bad for your health, especially the children. For example, child labor was not partially banned in Prussia until 1839: in order to work in a factory or in a mine, you had to be at least 9 years old from then on. You have to keep in mind that it was quite normal back then for small children to work hard on the farm.

Communists like Karl Marx believed that poverty came from the industrial revolution back then. The workers in the factories received little wages and could not ask for more because they had no training. The workers were called proletarians because they had nothing but many children. The Latin word "proles" means "children". However, it is not that all workers had no training: many were artisans. They formed unions and also went on strike when treated badly.

Over time, people earned better and got some wealth. That was good for the state too. With the taxes he could, for example, build schools and hospitals. There were hardly any famines in Germany after 1850, except as a result of wars.

When did the industrial revolution end?

Inventions are still being made and more and more countries are building an industry. So seen in this way, the revolution continues. However, the actual industrial revolution ended around 1900.

That was when a second industrial revolution began, some researchers say. There were also inventions such as the assembly line. As a result, a worker had to know even less than before how to make something: He only did a small part of the work, but did it over and over again. In addition, from this time on electricity played an increasingly important role. Some researchers also speak of other industrial revolutions.

  • In 1855, at the World Exhibition in Paris: Manufacturers show their new machines. The exhibition hall, made of glass and steel, is reminiscent of factories.

  • Tall chimneys are a sign of the new industry. They were built to help the wind disperse the unhealthy smoke.

  • Steam ships are powered by steam instead of sails.


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