"The more we progress the more we tend to progress. We advance not in arithmetical but in geometrical progression. We draw compound interest on the whole capital of knowledge and virtue which has been accumulated since the dawning of time. Some eighty thousand years are supposed to have existed between paleolithic and neolithic man. Yet in all that time he only learned to grind his flint stones instead of chipping them. But within our father's lives what changes have there not been? The railway and the telegraph, chloroform and applied electricity. Ten years now go further than a thousand then, not so much on account of our finer intellects as because the light we have shows us the way to more. Primeval man stumbled along with peering eyes, and slow, uncertain footsteps. Now we walk briskly towards our unknown goal."
- – Arthur Conan Doyle
The Industrial Revolution was a period from about 1776 to 1914 which was a major game changer for humanity. Many periods of history are laid out arbitrarily by Historians for book-keeping purposes. A peasant born at the transition at the tail end of the High Middle Ages in 1340 and lived to see the Renaissance over some 80 years would not think the world he was born in to be too different to the one he died, even if he was glad that the whole "everybody's dropping dead of plague" spell did not come back. But the same could not be said if said fellow was born in England in 1780. In that time the majority of people had moved from the countryside to cities, factories were making everything, you could cross the country in a train in a day and send a message to Canada at the speed of light.
The big thing of note here is Energy. For most of the history of Civilization if humans wanted to get something done like move thing from point A to Point B, dig a hole, grind grain, work iron or whatever they had to do it with muscle power, either their own, other peoples' or by those of some cows or horses. Latter they worked out how to put wind and flowing water to use with sails, watermills and windmills. Both of which were useful in their own right and by the 1700s they were used in a wide variety of operations but both had serious limitations. There are only so many rivers where you can build watermills and even in windy places there are calm days, so they primarilly supplemented wind and water power. A human can produce about 100 watts (joules per second) of motive power continuously, a horse can provide about 750 watts. In contrast a kilogram of wood has about 16-21 megajoules of energy if burned and coal has about 30 megajoules, though this comes in heat. Steam engines use boiling water to turn that heat into motive force which can operate factory machines, propel ships and locomotives to carry cargo, dig ditches and more. Once they had been refined to a level of comparative efficiency they changed the nature of how work got done. First this was done by belts, gears and rods and latter by electrical power generated by steam (or other sources) turning generators to power electric motors and lights.
One of the key advances of the industrial revolution was the assembly line which allowed rapid construction of goods by giving each worker a single task to be repeated instead of requiring they have specialized knowledge of the whole process. While this idea goes back to at least the Venetian Arsenal in 1320, it became the standard during this era thanks to breakthroughs in milling, grinding and lathing metal powered by steam. One side effect of making things on an assembly line is that items were broken into interchangable parts that were replaceable if they broke, where before repairs were specialized work if they could be accomplished at all. It would not be till World War II however that quality control was tight enough that parts were interchangeable between factories. The assembly line lead to widespread and cheap automobiles. The most prominent example was the Ford Model T. These early cars all had unique controls and the modern, standardized control layout would not be invented till 1916, and would not achieve popularity till after 1922.
Education also improved and became more universal during this era. By 1800 literacy was near universal in the United States, though this figure may not be counting slaves. Indeed, high literacy was critical to the American revolution, which made extensive use of mass printed propaganda like Common Sense Public Education further improved this. Democracy would gradually rise in prominance during this period thanks to increased literacy. The abolition of Slavery and Women's emancipation would also make serious progress during this era AS extension of this.
Communications would advance rapidly, with radio quickly becoming a standard possession. The telegraph and later telephone would also be invented during this era. The earliest traces of film recording came here. Photography has matured enough by this time that photographs of most important figures from ~1840 onward exist.
Weapons technology advanced by leaps and bounds. At the start of the Industrial Revolution the average soldier had a flintlock musket that could be shot maybe four times a minute and was accurate up to maybe 100 meters. Breach loading rifles came around very shortly into the period, though complexity of the mechanism made large scale manufacture impossible. Guns became mass produced (and were among the first complex machines with metal mechanisms to be so), but over the early 19th century they gradually became rifled as standard and switched over to percussion locks and were complemented with the first mass produced revolvers. Starting in 1848, muskets began being phased out for breech loading rifles. Metallic cartridge and smokeless powder would arrive towards the end of this era. Since black powder would rapidly foul any repeating action, smokeless powder was critical to the function of any self-loading firearm. Machine guns became common during this era with Sir Hiram Maxim's invention of his famous gun in 1886. Self loading pistols emerged as well. Artillery advanced from simple iron tubes firing iron balls straight ahead to breach loading steel guns which fired explosive shells on predictable ballistic trajectories.
Of course, there was a downside. Industrialization did generate a lot of wealth, but not everyone profited from it. Rural landlords found that their fields were full of surplus farmhands which were not needed which they promptly kicked off their land to go into dirty overcrowded cities full of cheaply made apartments in which people were crammed in like sardines. To get enough to survive people everyone in a poor family older than six would have to work in unsafe conditions for 12 hours or more, often operating dangerous machines that could take the hand off the unwary in the dark, stink and noise of it all while forcibly locked into the building. There were various responses to these conditions, some of which were more extreme than others. The best-known of these is the concept of the Labor Union, which allowed for workers in the same industry to group together and demand better working conditions from their employers, as did regulations against child labor, safety standards and so forth.
Imagine a world where Tom Cruise succeeded in killing Hitler and then Rommel proceeded to do all the conquering that Hitler promised to do except without all the genocide, only to lose it all by invading Russia in winter. Replace Hitler with Maximilien Robespierre and Rommel with Napoleon Bonneparte and that's basically the Napoleonic wars.
France is a shit place to live. It always has been. But the 1790's were particularly shitty. Like "why is my bread made of sawdust" shitty (no, really, that happened). Seeing that America had a good end throwing out the monarchy, a bunch of French people decided they had nothing to lose and tried the same. Things got a little out of hand as they tend to in France and before long a young military officer decided that the best course of action was to shoot some protesters with cannons, and the country loved him for it.
Now that he was in control Emperor Napoleon had a relatively short to-do list, he wanted to: Lead and shape Mankind
into a psychic race and surpass the Eldar Romans by learning from their mistakes, unite Humanity under one aegis and allow for instant communication and travel across all human inhabited worlds, and most importantly, prevent another calamity like the Age of Strife or Fall of the Eldar Romans.
Five coalitions were raised against the Emperor's Great Crusade, and each was smashed to pieces by his
Astartes Horse Artillery and the Solar Auxilia Garde Impériale. This went on until the Emperor was betrayed by Horus the weather. In the disastrous invasion of Isstvan V Russia, the Grand Army would suffer 80% losses, many due to freezing to death.
While Napoleon would fight against two more coalitions against him, the defeat in Russia would prove to be the beginning of the end.
To fund these wars Napoleon sold the United States a huge chunk of land that's now known as the Louisiana Purchase. This was actually controversial in the United States at the time since it wasn't explicitly allowed by the Constitution. Ultimately the argument that the power to make treaties was sufficient to make a treaty exchanging money for land won out and American settlers soon flooded the largely undeveloped land.
The US Civil War
Shortly after achieving independence a split in the new US States became more a more pressing distinction. The Southern Colonies were settled by men who wanted to make a lot of money in the new world and who set up plantations manned by slaves growing tobacco and cotton. The Northern Colonies were settled by groups which wanted to recreate England (or their ideal version there-of) where the cash crops grown on plantations where not profitable and to whom slavery increasingly became unpalatable. Stunts like counting slaves in population censuses to towards legislative representation while they did not vote inflamed issues. There was some hope that it was on it's way out at first, then Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin which made the Slave Owners very wealthy. There was also a growing sense of Abolitionism with the Brits shutting down the Slave Trade in 1807 and Abolishing Slavery in 1833 with France following in 1845. While the number of hardline Abolitionists in the North was comparatively small, there were making some headway and there were various groups opposed to slavery to various degrees. This led to plays to create slave states as fast as possible and other ploys which spiraled things out until the election of Abraham Lincoln on a generalized anti-slavery plan. Fearing that "The Peculiar Institution" would be contained, constrained and eventually brought to inevitable extinction the powers that be in the South pushed for a violent breakaway.
This war is notable for being the most destructive conflict for the United States (700,000 people dead as well as a lot of buildings and infrastructure destroyed) and one of the biggest wars that was fought between industrial powers. One reason for this is the North simultaneously held that South never left the US but total war with intentional targeting of the civilian population and infrastructure was OK. Another was a fear among the North that if the war was not won quickly (regardless of cost in lives) public opinion on it would sour, Lincoln would lose reelection and the war might end without the South's defeat.
The war consisted broadly of two halves, cleanly divided by the Battle of Gettysburg. The first half was characterized by a series of grand maneuver battles in the east in which the CSA tended to win on account of all the really competent generals picking their side. However the west was a different story; a pair of insufferably grimdark bastards named Grant and Sherman were leading the Union on a steady slog of wins up and down the Mississippi river system. After Gettysburg, Lincoln decided he just wanted to win and didn't care how messy it got, so he gave Grant command. Grant knew that the Union had more men, and was perfectly content to win by attrition. The second half of the war consisted of a year of brutal trench warfare in the east, and Sherman rampaging through Georgia like an Eversor with flamers.
While the war was fought over slavery, complete emancipation was not an original war aim of the north. However as territory fell to the Union advance, slaves came into the custody of the Union army. This became troublesome in the later years of the war as it presented a serious logistical challenge to feed not only a fighting army on the move but their ever growing camp follower train of liberated slaves. This problem was particularly acute for Sherman's march to the sea. Some US generals addressed this problem by offering enlistment to liberated slaves, although this practice was not universal.
The American Frontier
"You have died of dysentery."
- – The Oregon Trail
Throughout the mid 1800s Americans spread rapidly westward. This was aided by several large land purchases, Texas joining the union and Mexico giving up a bunch of land after getting its ass kicked. This led the United States to stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Fueling this was several gold rushes and a series of Homestead Acts, which gave ownership of land for free if you lived on it and maintained it. Canada also had a western frontier at the same time, but that part isn't nearly as well remembered (Did you play Yukon Trail? Did you even know it existed?).
This era has long been dramatized to the point it has become its own genre, the Western. This goes so far back The Great Train Robbery, one of the first films with a narrative ever, was a western. Westerns dramatized the "Wild" West as a chaotic wasteland full of bandits and savages where a man would be killed for any or no reason, but historically this was not the case. Statistically the west was actually very peaceful outside of the wars, especially compared to cities out east. The big outlaws, shootouts and murders were simply very publicized because they were unusual.
The British Empire
"On her dominions the sun never sets; before his evening rays leave the spires of Quebec, his morning beams have shone three hours on Port Jackson, and while sinking from the waters of Lake Superior, his eye opens upon the Mouth of the Ganges."
- – The Caledonian Mercury
Remember the East India Company from the Age of Enlightenment? Well, eventually Britain decided to drop the pretense that it was merely an English corporation that was building colonies everywhere and just owned it that, yes, they were trying to take over the world. They hadn't been the only ones; the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, Germans, and Russians were as well, Tecumseh would insist America was too, and near the end Japan would try to get in on the action.
The Napoleonic wars left the British in the enviable position of having the world's biggest, baddest navy. A title they would hold until eventually ceding it to America when they realized they'd never be as into aircraft carriers as America is.
Having a massive navy at its disposal meant that the British could be extremely persuasive in dealing with anyone within sight of the sea. At its height the British Empire had founded colonies or established protectorates on almost every major landmass on Earth, and had presences at the choke points of Gibraltar, the Suez, the Cape of Good Hope, and the Falklands near Cape Horn.
The Boer Wars
After the Napoleonic Wars the British gained control of the former Dutch colony that is now South Africa. A long series of disputes arising from this rose to war between inhabitants and the British Empire. Both wars were disasters for the British (even though they eventually won the second through overwhelming force) thanks to trying Napoleonic tactics in an era of rifled repeating firearms. This was even worse in the first war since the British had not yet ditched their bright red uniforms.
These wars are largely forgotten except by military historians due to its premonitions of things to come. One thing that survives the wars however is the term "Commando", which originally referred to the organization of the Boer forces during the wars and acquired its modern usage due to their unorthodox (for the time) tactics it enabled.
- The agricultural revolution, where machines and other modern technology were applied to farming, accompanied the industrial revolution. Indeed, this fed it by allowing enough food to be produced that the majority of workers could take factory jobs instead of agricultural work.
- Several technologies supported the process of industrialization. Steam Power helped kick things off by revolutionizing manufacturing and transportation, but two others were also important. Large machinery and tall buildings required steel to become cheap enough that it could be made on a massive scale. Historically, making good-quality steel was a time-consuming process that needed the careful attention of expert craftsmen. But with the Bessemer process, bellows would be used to blast hot air directly into the molten iron to get it hot enough to melt impurities. Electricity also helped tremendously, allowing for much longer working cycles through lightbulbs and improved communications through telegraph and radio.
- The invention of air conditioning was also a major innovation of this era. This allowed for much denser and heavily mechanized industrial centers, as well greater population in warmer areas. The flush toilet and toilet paper also originated at this time.
- Vulcanized rubber arose during this era. While important for sealing and tires, one major change this facilitated was in clothing. The elastic waistband brought about modern undergarments among other things. The first plastics also arose during this era, but these early plastics were brittle and had few practical uses, so the true rise of plastics would not be till the era of The World Wars and and beyond.
- Food preservation made large advances. In most of history methods were limited to drying (though methods including salt, smoke and/or sugar), pickling and (in climates that allowed it) freezing food, all of which originated in the Bronze Age at the latest. Now methods like jarring and canning (though early sealing methods turned out to be toxic themselves) food emerged and serious improvements to old methods like like quick freezing, the electric icemaker/freezer/refrigerator (domestic versions won't appear till the interwar though), freeze drying, and spray drying led to food that took less and less space while having lifespans measured in years. These methods continue to be refined in the current era, largely through new materials and understanding of microscopic organisms.
- Japan would emerge from the sakoku during the later part of this era and rapidly consume all the technological advancement of the era. One area they focused on was military advancement, ostensibly to avoid becoming a colony of an existing world power but largely to fuel their own desire of imperialism. They didn't get much attention due to racism till they kicked Russia's ass in 1905, which put a great number of eyes on them.
- The Scramble for Africa begins in 1881 and ends in 1914. Almost all modern "explorer" cliches and imagery began here, Theodore Roosevelt's midadventures, or the Indiana Jones movies. The two main exceptions, the coonskin cap and breastplate clad conquistador, are both strongly linked to a specific type and time of explorer instead of explorers in general.
- Human flight was first achieved in this era. In 1783 the first air balloon flight took place, and was used for military use in 1794. The Wright Flyer took flight in late 1903, marking the first heavier than air flying machine. Zeppelins became practical just before World War I.
- Naval technology went through multiple revolutions. The wooden sailing ships of the Napoleonic Wars gave way to ironclad tallships with steam and sail propulsion, only to be replaced in turn by steel armored warships. The famous duel of the Merrimack and the Monitor marked the end of the sail, and the British dreadnought heralded the modern battleship. The first submarines appeared, although the concept wouldn't be perfected until the great war.
The appeal of the Industrial Revolution
This era produced many things modern people take for granted and have difficulty considering life without. The rise of film and audio recording during this era and mass printing of advertisement and newspapers during this era mean there is no shortage of records of daily life, so this era is fairly well understood. Before this period, Historians were mostly concerned with Big Things: wars, generals, kings, nobles, priests and the occasional artist, merchant, architect, engineer or inventor thrown in. In the Industrial Revolution historians became actively interested in the way people lived their lives day to day, from well-to-do merchants and skilled tradesmen to factory workers to scavengers picking through garbage for bones, rages, scraps of metal and dog turds to sell.
The industrial revolution allowed for inventors to not only create meaningful new creations, but see them become common overnight. Before the Industrial Revolution changes generally happened slowly with various small tweaks on things and methods, the compilation of said tweeks rolling over and the occasional breakthrough like the water wheel or gunpowder every once and a while which would take centuries to come into it's own. A peasant would assume that his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren would till the soil just as he did with what changes that did happen in his lifetime being largely minor stuff that tweaked the board but did not change the game. Industrialization changed all that, lives were changed for better or worse by mechanization suddenly and totally. Progress became an idea that would drive the world, even if problems were also mounting. People came to understand that the past was not just the present which happened beforehand and the future could be more than just more of the same. It's not surprising that science fiction started up in the 19th century, as did horror. Jules Verne, HG Wells, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mary Shelley, and Edgar Allan Poe were all active writers of the era.
This time was also one of upheaval socially and politically. Before the Industrial Revolution people generally operated on the idea that one should "Know One's Station", that society was divided into classes that were (with various degrees of legal formality enforcing this) hereditary, static and instead of trying to get out of them they should stay in them, stay out of the affairs of people of other classes and obey their betters. If you were a peasant you'd work for your lord, obey his orders, treat him with reverence as a higher form of human, be jolly grateful you'd have such a man as your master and avoid thinking about all that politics stuff which is none of your business. While this had not died out in the Industrial Revolution, it was on the decline.
The source of wealth shifted from farms and fields to factories and companies which the merchant classes now owned. To be a noble you needed a peerage at least and preferably a dozen generations of pedigree which your fellow nobs would respect even if you were broke, to be a captain of industry you just needed a lot of money invested in the right companies. It was possible for a poor man to rise to the highest echelons of society in the Industrial Revolution. The down side of it was that these rich buggers tended to view the poor which could not rise from rags as being lazy incompetents that were only fit for ruthless exploitation and that attempting to help them (beyond providing them with education) out was not only useless, but an active evil in the long term since it means only more of them in the long run. To quote a Christmas Carol...
"Many cannot go there [Workhouses and Prisons] and many would rather die."
“If they'd rather die, they'd better do it and decrease the surplus population...."
The industrial revolution people had oppressive rigid order and stability swapped out for opportunities to excel and thrive or crash and burn. You could be born dirt poor and rise to riches, or you might start out as a skilled tradesmen who ends up as just another disposable factory worker.
That attitude about the poor went doubly so for the Colonial Subjects and non white people in general. In 1876 there was a Drought which led to crop failure in much of India, instead of importing food to feed the effected masses (which they'd done not long before successfully) the Raj Government allowed merchants to stockpile grain and sell it abroad to drive the price up. The result was famine and starvation which killed 6-10 million people. The Belgians in the Congo made this look nice.
The Industrial Revolution is the start of the Modern World and many of it's issues still persist to this day. People can relate more to an Industrial Revolution era person more easily than that of a peasant in the middle ages or a scribe at a pharoh's court. The downside of this is that these issues are still politically charged to this day.
Industrial Revolution inspired Games, Factions and Settings
- Much of Discworld
- Eberron before the Last War. After it Eberron is a cross between Industrial Revolution and interwar.
- Iron Kingdoms's whole schtick is that it's a typical fantasy setting that developed into this.
|Historical Time Periods|
|Premodern:||Stone Age - Bronze Age - Classical Period - Dark Age - High Middle Ages - Renaissance|
|Modern:||Age of Enlightenment - Industrial Revolution - The World Wars - The Cold War - Post-Cold War|