William L. Langer – The Social Question

Langer’s article, titled The Social Question, is about the questioning the impacts of industrialism, specifically targeting the issues of the rise of poverty, hunger, and disease in England during the 1800’s. England had gone through a lot of change during this time after enduring an agricultural revolution followed by an urbanization and subsequent industrialization. The […]

Comment on Fisk, “Arkwright” by elliottmcmahon

I was a little skeptical about Arkwright being portrayed as a moral paragon with regard to how he treated his workers so I looked into it. I found he often encouraged large families to move to Cromford, where his factory was. Often times, whole families were employed with large numbers of children ranging from the age of 7, increasing to 10 by the time Arkwright handed the business to his son. Near the end of his tenure, nearly two-thirds of the 1,150 strong workforce were children. This is the information I have found and I know that it would be wrong of me to say that this seems immoral due to judging from a modern lens but one can’t help but think about the purpose the the proposed school house he founded for the children of his staff when the types of families that worked for him all worked together. There seem to be holes about this man’s actual motivations.

Comment on Guttman – English Longbow by elliottmcmahon

It’s hard to say that the English longbow came around at such a late time in history in the 15th century. Archery was not new to the Britannia at this point as it had become a major place of hunting and conflict. However, it is hard to say where the origin of the English longbow came about. One could say that is was always there or point to the successes of the Norman invasion or the Viking incursions. Both the Vikings and Normans used longbows but the Normans used them at the Battle of Hastings in the same way the English would later use them at the Battle of Agincourt- archers taking the frontline with spearmen behind them. The English longbow did not draw its strength from the actual bow being made of elm (while it did help increase power), it drew strength from how it was used. There was no need to fear of incoming projectiles should your army be the one that holds the more effective projectiles (although there are many cases of bowmen having small shields affixed to the ground in front of them when placed in the front). What needed to be feared by the archers were the cavalry that could decimate light troops but that fear was eliminated by the reinforcing spear men. A military man would realize the whole formation would fall apart should the army be outflanked but that never was a worry due to how the English picked up from William the Bastard. William at Hastings and the English in France would weaken the enemies with a protected vanguard barrage of arrows followed by a deployment of heavy infantry, typically billmen, to break the ranks, which would then be followed by a calvary charge. This type of tactic is remarkably different than what the rest of Europe was doing by adopting the pike and arquebus and, when introduced newly, overcame the mainland armies of Europe.

Comment on Tarkov- Engineering the Erie Canal by David Barney by elliottmcmahon

The impact of the Erie on the Midwest is actually really interesting and I remember hearing about this in my Oklahoma history class I had to take in high school. New York was rapidly growing and needed a large supply of food stuffs. So, lowering the cost of food there made it more desirable to live. However, this canal does not just impact these two regions. The Erie canal connected the bread bowl of the US to the Atlantic, opening new trade connections to Eastern cities and overseas. For example, Great Britain’s repealing of the Corn Law resulted in a huge increase of exports of Midwestern wheat to Britain.

Comment on Getting There – Boorstin by elliottmcmahon

The first part of this article rubs me the wrong way. Having come from a family that has long history in the Midwest, I can say that wagons were not mainly used by transients. The settlers that finally found a place to settle wouldn’t just throw their wagon away. The wagon, due to its light construction, speed, and freedom of movement was too valuable. With these settlers turned farmers spread all across the frontier, these wagons would become invaluable to transport farming and ranching goods to local markets for the sake of the farmer’s financial earnings. This blog post is a reminder to not take information at face value and that historians can be some of the biggest profligates in false information. The author, Boorstin, was a Jew that was reared exclusively in cities, having been born in Atlanta and moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma, my hometown, in the 1930’s and finally living in multiple places along the east coast. So, I can safely say the closest he probably ever came to the country was maybe cars pulling crop and goods to the market, which was far after the use of horses. A further inspection of his life reveals another deep separation from the rural parts of the Midwest- he was a communist. This communist trait might have not been a detriment to his writing if he had been a country communist like Woody Guthrie. But, alas, he is an urban communist like the Bolsheviks, rendering such comments about the background behind this paper dubious.
Tl;dr – the author has serious limitations that need to be reflected upon before taking this article at face value.

Comment on Silver and Gold: Hodgett on Mining by elliottmcmahon

This article explains why entrepreneurs were pressed by the feudal system of Europe to dig deeper rather than wider. If miners were to dig wider mines, then more land would be considered used by the feudal lord, meaning they could legally impose a larger royalty fee for land usage. The same train of thought occurred in the oil industry in the Midwest during the 20th century. Originally, oil barons would try to gyp the land owner by saying that they would only use a small patch of land to build and operate a well when, in reality, some oil pockets were many square miles wide. However, the feudal lords knew better and the miners couldn’t do this. So, they dug deeper and claimed they were only using a small cut out of land to lessen operating costs. Unfortunately, the cost of running the mine would actually increase due to the presence of water and extra power needed to pull stone upwards at great distances. This problem actually helped develop the steam engine.

Comment on Industrial Power Brokers by elliottmcmahon

I’m not sure it is fair to criticize Abraham Darby senior for his “failure” of not being able to convert his iron into wrought iron. Upon further research, I have found there is a bit of a debate as to why he did not use it for wrought iron. One explanation lies in the difference between charcoal cooked iron and coke cooked iron. Pig iron produced using coke was better for casting than charcoal pig iron and I found that Abraham Darby used the majority of his pig iron produced using coke was used in casting. There is evidence that some of Darby’s product was sent to Bristol to be used in its foundries but it does not seem like breaking into that market was his main goal. A hypothesis I have is that Darby did not realize the potential of wrought iron in the future markets but had given his son all of the knowledge and equipment needed to make his mark.

Comment on McNown on Canals by elliottmcmahon

This post is interesting because, while it focuses on the history of canals in the US, canals have been around for much longer yet developed for the same reasons. China, for example, has had the Grand Canal, which linked the Huang He and the Yangtze ri…

Steam Engine Origins

The steam engine is an innovation that had lasting effects on the industrial revolution in Britain and the modern era. Utilizing the properties of steam, thermal energy could be converted to work in a system. However, it is important to consider how this idea resulted in what we all think about today: the Watt engine. […]