a few weeks ago i gave a talk on the arts & crafts movement that emerged during the latter part of victorian britain, from roughly 1860 to 1900, and i was taken with the similarities between now and then, in relation to the changes and/or transformation our culture has undergone over the past twenty years or so; and i think i’m still in teacher-mode, so this is a bit of a long post. while the circumstances and contexts are very different, there are arguable parallels in the nature of how people responded. lately i find myself more and more fascinated by the past incidents of massive change, thinking about what insights into the future can be gained by looking back.
bit of history…. originating a few centuries prior with the printing press, the industrial revolution took hold in the early 1800’s with the advent of mechanized innovations in the textile industry, and the mechanization of labour quickly spread to other industries and spurred the production of goods towards extraordinary volumes, creating a greater need for regulated tradeways (rail, road, canal, etc) and urban development. mass production of goods was rampant, newly established factories hired workforces in the thousands, and a new middle class of entrepreneurs and nouveau riche emerged.
by mid-century, the industrial revolution was reaching the crest of its first wave, transforming every aspect of british culture while it gained strength as a global empire. it’s critical to remember that these changes were happening for the first time ever, accelerating human life into the modern age at a pace that barely allowed time to gain vantage on the present before hurtling into the future, all the while changing the expectations of what that future might hold.
more after the jump…