Sunday, April 05, 2009

Help needed with the Cloud ...

I'm writing a piece on cloud computing and I'm stuck on a particular analogy. I need to know who invented the "industrial revolution" and who actually first coined the phrase?

Also, I'm still looking for a short and catchy definition for the "industrial revolution" which explains everything in a single sentence rather than requiring me to read several volumes of enlightened historical writings.

Come on people, it has been over two hundred years now. Surely we've got this one nailed down to 140 characters or less.


Anonymous said...

"The modern Corporation has grown out of the industrial age. The industrial age began in 1712 when an Englishman named Thomas Newcumen
invented a steam driven pump to pump water out of the English coalmine, so the English coalminers could get more coal to mine, rather than hauling buckets of water out of the mine.

It was all about productivity, more coal per man-hour. That was the dawn of the industrial age. And then it became more steel per man hour, more textiles per man hour, more automobiles per man hour, and today, it’s more chips per man hour, more gizmos per man hour, the system is basically the same, producing more sophisticated products today."

Ray Anderson, CEO
Interface, world’s largest commercial carpet manufacturer


Ian Pouncey said...

Engels wrote about 'an industrial revolution' in 1845 in Condition of the Working Class in England. I don't know if this was the first, but I suspect it is quite an early use.

You may be able to find a short definition in this work, but I doubt it.

As to who invented it - it was a long process over decades, if not centuries, culminating in what we consider the industrial revolution. Technology wise Gutenberg's printing press is a form of mass production, and I'm sure the later mechanisation of the industial revolution owes much to it.

Alex said...

In the OED (thanks for Anna for checking this through her Stanford account), the phrase "industrial revolution"'s first recorded use is in Mill's 1848 Pol. Econ II. If Engels did indeed publish it in 1845 I guess he scooped JS Mill (the OED does sometimes miss the very earliest uses of a word of phrase, after all).

Alex said...

Anna kept researching and through Anne Bezanson's 1922 article "The early uses of the term 'Industrial Revolution'" (in Quarterly Journal of Economics 36, p. 343-49) firmly sited it in France (which makes sense, as the French had "Revolution" on their mind at the time!); earliest use in a 1827 article in a Rouen newspaper (author unknown), earliest book use in 1837 by Adolphe Blanqui. No doubt from French use it moved into German, and Engels may have been the one introducing it into English 10 years later.

Simon said...

Engels mentioned "an industrial revolution, a revolution which at the same time changed the whole of civil society." in "The Conditions of the English Working Class" in 1844 but in 1837 Louis-Auguste Blanqui wrote about "la révolution industrielle"

Ian Pouncey said...

Alex / Simon that makes sense. I don't know much about Blanqui but I believe he did have some direct contact with Marx, and it is almost certain that Marx and Engels would have read his work.

Aurélien Pelletier said...

>"I need to know who invented the industrial revolution" and who actually first coined the phrase?"

The more you search the most likely you are to find someone who had said it before... I believe I've heard this in a presentation by Simon Wardley ;)

dujiv3a said...

How about this -

Driven by mechanization, the industrial revolution is the combinatorial explosion of advances in manufacturing coupled with greater access to markets through advances in transportation

Sorry if this sounds like pseuds corner

swardley said...


I have heard rumours that the steam engine goes even further back, possibly as far as 1693. I'm looking into this.

I agree with your analysis that the change resulted in greater productivity but was this purely a technological change or did it also require a change in cultural attitudes and the economic environment?

swardley said...


Good to hear from you.

I asked the question, fully aware of Eliot Sivowitch's:- The Law of Firsts

“Whenever you prove who was first, the harder you look you will find someone else who was more first. And if you persist in your efforts you find that the person whom you thought was first was third.”

I was curious to what others thought on the subject and fully hoped to find earlier examples of the use of the term, beyond my own reading.

swardley said...

@Ian Pouncey, @Simon & @Alex,

Thank you for your comments, this is very much appreciated.

I was aware that both Engels and Mills had been beaten to the post by Blanqui but I hadn't come across the 1827 article. Can you direct me to a source for that Alex?

Also, Ian, I agree this process of transformation was not a single identifiable moment but a transition over a considerable period of time. What is interesting here is that the speed of transition depended upon information flows. Even if you debate whether the printing press was the origin of the change, it certainly accelerated the process for communication of these ideas and hence the subsequent innovations.

I happen to agree with you that the industrial revolution was set in motion by the printing press but the industrial revolution itself was a convergence of both technological, economic and cultural change.

swardley said...

@dujiv3a : it's not pseuds corner, it's an apt description - thank you.

My favourite to date is "it's like building with machines, innit".