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Social Sciences
English (U.K.)
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Science and Technology and The Industrial Revolution (Essay Sample)


The role of science and technology in initiating the industrial revolution remains highly contested. This paper contributes to this debate by answering the question, "Did science or technology drive the industrial revolution?" The article starts by defining key terms such as revolution, science, and technology as used in this context. Then the paper examines the first wave of trade globalisation and the factory system, including the emergence of Manchester as Cottonopolis and the associated decline of the textiles industry in other places such as India. The contributions of political economists such as Marx, Smith, and Ricardo are also highlighted. The author argues that both science and technology were fundamental in the Industrial Revolution, and none was superior to the other.


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The Industrial Revolution
Generally, historians use the term industrial revolution to refer to social and economic changes of the 18th century. According to Smith (1971), this period was characterised by a rapid shift from a stable commercial and agricultural society to modern industrial society. The Industrial Revolution led to a new community that relied on complex machinery rather than simple tools (1). Many scholars believe that marvelous inventions and innovations caused the changes in the world’s social and economic structures witnessed during this era. However, the role of science and technology in initiating this industrial revolution remains highly contested. While scholars who focus on the textiles sector assert that talented and skilled artisans lacking scientific training led to significant inventions, authors with steam power in minds argue that the association between science and inventions was fundamental during the First Industrial Revolution.
The use of the term “Industrial Revolution” to refer to this era has attracted numerous criticisms among scholars. The word “revolution” refers to sudden, violent, and unparalleled change (2). Research has shown that the change was neither sudden nor violent. According to Smith (1971), the so-called "First Industrial Revolution" did not occur at a glance but spanned the period between 1780 and 1830, during which Great Britain witnessed rapid industrial activities. Historians such as Tomory (2016) believe that the First Industrial Revolution might have occurred even much earlier than 1780. Drawing from these arguments, it may be observed that the social and economic change that happened during this era was not strictly a revolution but a gradual evolutionary change. More specifically, the most appropriate term that should be used to describe 

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