The first industrial revolution is considered as one of the most fundamental changes that took place in a society where economies throughout the world stopped being based on crafts and agriculture to depend on industries. The Industrial Revolution was born in Great Britain and then extended to the rest of Europe.
Background of the First Industrial Revolution
The economy that existed before the industrial revolution was based on the agrarian and artisanal world; three-quarters of the population subsisted on agricultural work. It was mainly based on self-consumption and not on the commercialization of the products obtained since productivity was also very low.
The cities were few, small and underdeveloped. It is necessary to remember that the regime of the government of these societies was the absolutist monarchies, in which everything, including the people, was considered a property of the king.
Origin and birth of the Industrial Revolution
The industrial revolution was born in Great Britain in the mid-eighteenth century. It was possible because of the existence of a liberal and non-absolutist monarchy, which avoided the panorama of revolutions spreading in many other countries.
At that time, Great Britain was practically free of wars, because although it was involved in some, these wars did not develop in its territory. This was joined by a stable currency as well as a very well-organized banking system.
The Bank of England was founded in 1694.
Main characteristics of the Industrial Revolution
There was a rapid and in-depth change during the industrial revolution that affected all the structures of society. These changes were technological, socio-economic, and cultural.
The technology went from the use of new materials such as steel to energy sources such as coal and motor machines like the steam engine, which was considered the initial engine of the Industrial Revolution.
Spinning and weaving machines appeared next, which quickly increased the production with little personnel and workers. Techniques for the development of work and the specialization of the workforce also arose.
Transportation was carried out both by trains and ships, which together with other inventions, enhanced the role of industry and commerce during that time.
Cultural changes also translated into an impressive increase in knowledge in all branches, both scientific & technical and health. The most notable social changes were derived from the growth of cities and the consequent exodus in rural areas.
At the same time, there was a strong demographic increase as a consequence of the high birth rate and the decrease in catastrophic mortality (thanks to health advances such as vaccines and better nutrition of the population). This caused the European population to multiply in a few years since the advent of the industrial revolution.
While the bourgeois class developed, the exodus of the rural population to the cities (the agricultural revolution diminished the needs of labor in the countryside) gave rise to the appearance of a new working class that was grouped in the suburbs close to the factories, from the barracks in which the workers lived.
The living conditions of these employees were painful, both in the factories where they worked and in the suburbs in which they lived. In the factories, they faced humidity, little ventilation, no job security, and days that exceeded twelve hours a day, seven days a week.
In overcrowded and dirty suburbs, they were victims of easily spread epidemics. The number of people affected by these conditions led them to organize for the defense of their interests, and workers' protest movements also appeared during that time.
Consequences of the industrial revolution
In principle, the Industrial Revolution produced a radical change in all areas of English society and, later, the rest of the European societies as well, creating a new model of life. The industrial and mining development, the increase in productivity, the growth of the cities and the improvement of the national and international commerce contributed to a tremendous demographic growth due to the increase of the birth rate and life expectancy.
The industrial revolution in Spain was much later than in the rest of Europe. Spain was still immersed in a rural world in which changes were minimal. Bad communication, both internal and with Europe, accentuated the delay.
The workshops remained artisanal, and the production was specialized by zones depending on the available resources. In this context, it would not be wrong to say that Spain was one of the countries that struggled during the first industrial revolution.
Other European countries like Austria, Italy, Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire were also slow with industrialization.
Russia was another country that struggled plenty during that time. They were home to an utter and absolute monarchy with a rather inflexible government, and hence, people in the country had next to no rights.
It was after 1860 that the emancipation reform brought about a major transformation and industrialized Russian society. By 1890, Russia’s coal, iron and steel production capacity grew exponentially, and the country started building large-scale steel and textile factories.
The industrial revolution outside Europe
In the United States, the industrial revolution began at the end of the civil war during the late nineteenth century. The United States had reached Great Britain in industrial potential and had a very dynamic internal market in a vast territory.
The construction of the rail network allowed the colonization of the West and industrialization was based on the early application of technological innovations and a strong business concentration. In Japan, industrialization began with textile activity.
The main characteristics were the sponsorship of the State in the construction of railroads and banks, the existence of a cheap and disciplined labor force, easy adaptation to Western technology and large, highly competitive, export-oriented industrial groups.
Despite the fact that some countries led the industrial revolution in Europe while others struggled, what cannot be disputed is that this event in the history of the world left a significant mark on how industries operate today.