The Industrial Revolution, 1750-1914

Environmental consequences

Industrialisation had a profound impact on the natural world. While humans had always exploited natural resources it was in the eighteenth century that this came to be done on a massive and organised scale. Huge areas of land were cleared to make way for factories and large-scale farms. Timber was devoured for housing and construction. Coal became the dominant source of fuel, thus creating a dependency that continues to this day.

Pollution was a part of daily life. In 1771, Tobias Smollet wrote that the River Thames was filled with 'all the drugs, minerals, and poisons used in mechanics and manufacture, enriched with the putrefying carcases of beasts and men', while American Quaker Jabez Maud Fisher said that the copper works in the Swansea Valley in 1776 'vomit[ed] out vast clouds of thick smoak, which, curling as they rise, mount up to the clouds.'

Activity 12

  1. Examine the following sources:
    The Industrial Age (follow prompts to ‘Students’, then ‘Timeline’, then ‘Industrial Revolution’)
    The Chromatic Effects of Late Nineteenth-Century London Fog
  2. Create a diagram or picture showing the major environmental problems that faced Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Indicate links between these problems and current environmental challenges.