Some may point to other events, but as one looks back, no era could have more importance than the Industrial Revolution.
This revolution lured people from the land to factories and cities in massive numbers. It changed the way people worked and lived. The introduction of machines allowed for quicker, more efficient production of goods. New inventions, such as the steam engine, improved the speed and efficiency of transportation. The Industrial Revolution opened doors to wealth and advancement for inventors and investors alike. In short, this era set the stage for unparalleled economic, political, and intellectual growth that still continues today.
These benefits did not come without cost. The machines and factories that brought great wealth to many also brought misery to others and severely damaged the environment. Children were funneled into dangerous jobs in mines and mills, and even adult workers labored in unsafe condions.
Many voices were appalled at these negative effects of the Industrial Revolution and spoke out against them and acted to change them. The revolutions in politics—seen in America and in France—coupled with the revolution in industry, forced political attitudes to alter and adapt. Socialism, communism, unions, and strikes led to decades of periodic unrest, culminating in the Russian Revolution in 1917.
As the dust settled, capitalism—regulated by the people through their governments—emerged as the most successful social and economic system.
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