History (NTSE/Olympiad)  

2. The Age of Industrialisation

Hand Labour And Steam Power

Hand Labour And Steam Power
(i) In Victorian Britain there was no shortage of human labour. Poor peasants and vagrants moved to the cities in large numbers in search of jobs, waiting for work. So industrialists had no problem of labour shortage or high wage costs. They did not want to introduce machines that got rid of human labour and required large capital investments.
(ii) In industries where production fluctuated with the season, industrialists usually preferred hand labour, employing workers for the season. Machines were oriented to producing uniforms, standardised goods for a mass market. But the demand in the market was often for goods with intricate designs and specific shapes, which required human skill, not mechanical technology.
(iii) Handmade products came to symbolise refinement and class. They were better finished, individually produced, and carefully designed. Machine made goods were for export to the colonies.
(iv) In countries with labour shortage, industrialists were keen on using mechanical power so that the need for human labour can be minimised. This was the case in nineteenth-century America. Britain, however had no problem hiring human hands.
After the 1840s, building activity intensified in the cities, opening up greater opportunities of employment. Roads were widened, new railway stations came up railway lines were extended, tunnels dug, drainage and sewers laid, rivers embanked. The number of workers employed in the transport industry doubled in the 1840s, and doubled again in the subsequent 30 years.


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