The Open Door Web Site
The Agricultural Revolution Index
The Industrial Revolution Index
The Search for New Power Sources Index
Chronology of the development of
TWO CENTURIES OF REVOLUTIONARY CHANGE
The Industrial Revolution
The Search for New Power Sources
Early Forms of Power
Windmill ceramic © Shirley Burchill
At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution there were very few forms of power, other than human or animal power. The only two other power sources available were wind and water. Of the two, water was the older power source. Water wheels had been in use since the Roman period. Windmills had only came into general use in Europe around the 12th century.
Although water was a useful and free energy source, the mill wheels relied upon a constant source of water in order to operate. Ancient texts are full of references to people starving because the mills could not grind flour, either because the water level was too low in summer or because the mills were frozen up in winter. (This was more of a problem in the Middle Ages because winters were more severe than they are today).
The need for new power sources
The mills that first provided the power for the water frames that spun the yarn, and later for the power looms, were subject to the same problems with the water supply. Also, these mills tended to be in remote mountain areas, next to the water supply. This meant that it was difficult to find a sufficient number of people to work the mills and it created transport problems.
Indeed, mill owners were constantly advertising for staff, some of them going as far as to advertise in national newspapers for orphans to be sent to them. These children, from seven years upwards, would be together housed in barrack-like buildings and made to work between 12 to 18 hour days.
Water wheel ceramic © Shirley Burchill
So there was a need to find a new source of power, not only because of the problems with regard to water during the different seasons, but also because the number of places where water could be found in sufficient quantities were becoming much scarcer.
The Open Door Web Site is non-profit making. Your donations help towards the cost of maintaining this free service on-line.
Donate to the Open Door Web Site using PayPal