Between 1780 and 1850, in less than three generations, a far-reaching revolution, without precedent in the history of Mankind, changed the face of England. From then on, the world was no longer the same. Historians have often used and abused the word Revolution to mean a radical change, but no revolution has been as drarnaticaIly revolutionary as the Industrial Revolution-except perhaps the Neolithic Revolution. Both of these changed the course of history, so to speak, each one bringing about a discontinuity in the historic process. The Neolithic Revolution transformed Mankind £rom a scattered collection of savage bands of hunters, whose life in Hobbcs’s famous phrase was ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’, into a collection of more or less interdependent agricultural societies. The Industrial Revolution transformed Man from a farmer-shepherd into a manipuJator of machines worked by inanirnate energy. Before the Industrial Revolution the animal and veg- etable kingdoms had provided the largest part of the energy needed by Man to keep himself alive, propagate the species, and make a living. For thousands of years the Paleolithic hunters bad lived off plants and animals as prey. From the Neolithic age onwards, Man learnt to domesticate animals and cultivate pJants, to improve their quality and to use them in a progressively more rational and efficient way. Separating the Paleolithic hunters and the Neolithic farmers there is a chasm; on one side, the savage state: on the other, civilisation. For centuries, ho,vever, the world of Mankind remained a world of plants and animals. The Industrial Revolution opened up a completely different world of new and untappcd sources of energy such as coal, oil, electricity and the atom, exploited by means of various mechanisms- a world in which Man found himself able to handle great masses of energy to an extent inconceivable in the preceding bucolic age.
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