What Was the Most Important Result of the Second Industrial Revolution?
A really old guy named Richard White said, “If a Western Rip Van Winkle had fallen asleep in 1869 and awakened in 1896, he would not have recognized the lands that the railroads had touched.” That’s pretty exciting, right?
But seriously, let’s talk facts.
The Second Industrial Revolution, sometimes referred to as the Technological Revolution, was a period of almost instant industrialization that took place from 1870 all the way through 1914 (the beginning of World War I). This industrial growth took place mainly in Britain, Germany, and the United States, but also in France, Italy, and Japan.
Vaclav Smil even referred to the Second Industrial Revolution as “The Age of Synergy.”
This is because this “I’ll help you if you help me for the greater good” mentality developed between large industries like the iron, steel, and railroad industries. Railroads said “Hey, we will let you guys have cheap transportation if you let us have your product for cheap,” which lead to affordable rails to make more roads. Brilliant!
Thanks to the First Industrial Revolution, we got the telegraph. This played a super impactful role in the Second Industrial Revolution, because now there was a massive expansion of rail and telegraph lines. This lead to a REVOLUTIONARY movement of people and ideas. See what I did there? Industrial Revolution. Revolutionary. Okay, moving on.
This movement of ideas and people began a mass globalization, and this movement of people and ideas across the globe lead to further technological advancements, such as:
- A more efficient form of the Bessemer process to produce a mass amount of steel cheaply.
- The now competitive cost of steel ultimately replaced iron railroads, which lead to more efficient travel, because steel lasted 10 times longer.
- Thanks to scientist Michael Faraday, experimenting with harnessing electrical power, in earlier years; Sir Joseph Swan, in 1881 invented the first workable incandescent light bulb. Laying the foundation for the electrification of industry and home.
- A more efficient form of papermaking came about. The steam-driven rotary printing press made for cheaper paper, schoolbooks, and newspapers.
- The chemical discovery of aniline dyes eventually lead to many medical breakthroughs years after the Second Industrial Revolution.
- The revolutionary naval design from the First Industrial Revolution lead to the first modern battleship during the Second Industrial Revolution. The Engineer, John Pen, introduced the trunk engine for driving screw propellers in naval vessels.
- The first pneumatic tire was invented in 1887. Pneumatic is a fancy way of saying that the tire had pressurized air in it. These tires lead to the invention of the first-ever bicycle!
- Then Carl Benz patented the first automobile in 1886. Then, the infamous Henry Ford designed his first car in 1896 and then introduced the assembly line leading to mass production of automobiles.
- A great amount of attention was paid to applied science; which inevitably lead to a better understanding of the importance of ammonia as fertilizer. I mean obviously, right? Pshh, I knew that.
- The telephone was patented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876.
- The elevator, and structural steel building, which lead to the first skyscrapers in the 1880s.
- Motion pictures and the electric generator in the 1890s, which, contributed to modern household items such as refrigerators and washing machines.
- The development of modern business management. Things like accounting, scientific management, industrial engineering, and manufacturing engineering completely changed the way industries operated. Not to mention the social impact it had. I could go on all day (etc., etc., etc.).
This is all really cool, and exciting stuff, but “with great power comes great responsibility.”
What I mean by that, is that this great industrial boom also had a few setbacks. The second Industrial Revolution set a march into the Gilded Age. The period of really high highs, and really low lows. Economic insecurity was the norm in the 1870s and 1890s.
The Second Industrial Revolution is seen as a period of major breakthroughs and great progress, but those living in that time period, and working in the major factories knew that there was a cost to it.
So, let’s review.
In short, the Second Industrial Revolution was a period that played, maybe, one of the most important roles in the evolving technology that we have today, like smartphones and computers. But, just like with anything, a vast amount of wealth, and industrial expansion can potentially lead to greed, which, in many cases during the Second Industrial Revolution, it did.
It had lots of great benefits, but also lots of negative consequences.
I hope this was helpful. See you next time!