The Industrial Revolution was one of the most significant 'game-changing' periods in human history. A spark set in the heart of the United Kingdom in mid-1700's would create a wildfire that would engulf the world in a matter of decades.
Supported by the massive increase in crop yield provided by the agricultural revolution, the Industrial Revolution was provided with manpower (and fuel) needed to stoke its furnaces.
The old world ways of feudalism and agrarianism would be cast aside. Birth rates would rise, death rates would fall and near-total employment and regular income would be made possible.
New technologies, new ways of thinking, new jobs and opportunities would open up. Nations that didn't adopt industrialization would quickly become obsolete and fall into obscurity.
Many men, women, and children would leave the relative tranquility of the countryside to move to the burgeoning cities in search of work. This would lead to (relative to today) appalling working and living conditions which would, in turn, influence politics, inter-class relations, and the arts.
Being the first adopter, the United Kingdom would become the most advanced nation in the world for a time. This advantage was quickly capitalized upon leading to the largest empire the world had ever seen.
Other nations, both jealous and inspired, would eventually emulate Britain with the United States overtaking her parent nation as the world's industrial powerhouse by the turn of the 1900's. The lives of millions would never be the same again.
Life was good for a time, but by the late 19th and early to mid 20th centuries would soon expose the darker side of humanity.
The following article is intended to act as a guide to the Industrial Revolution and has been written in a frequently asked question (FAQ) format for ease of reference. We have tried to address most of the commonly asked questions about this period of time, but, like the proverbial piece of string, it is not exhaustive.
What was the Industrial Revolution?
The Industrial Revolution, sometimes termed as the Industrial Age, was a period of immense technological, socio-economic and cultural change. It marks the mass introduction and adoption of power-driven machinery to replace hand tools and concentration of industry into large establishments around the world.
When was the Industrial Revolution?
The Industrial Revolution (generally agreed to have been the industrialization of the British Isles) began in around 1760 and ended, it is is also generally agreed, in 1914. This period includes both the so-called First and Second phases of the industrial revolution.
Once the revolution has begun in the United Kingdom, it would eventually spread to Europe and the UK's growing colonies very quickly.
Definition of the Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution is widely defined as:-
"The rapid development of [an] industry that occurred in Britain in the late 18th and 19th centuries, brought about by the introduction of machinery. It was characterized by the use of steam power, the growth of factories, and the mass production of manufactured goods." - Oxford English Dictionary.
Where did the Industrial Revolution happen?
The Industrial Revolution is widely agreed to have begun in around 1760 in England. It would later spread to many other countries around Europe and the world and is an ongoing process today.
Years, Dates and Time Periods of Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution occurred over a period of roughly 250 years beginning in 1760 in England, UK. Before this time, manufacturing was primarily conducted by hand in small factories or peoples homes.
The process of industrialization would quickly spread across Europe and the world and is still ongoing today.
Industrial Revolution Technologies
Industrial Revolution technologies ranged from humble textile manufacturing innovations, like the flying shuttle, to the enormous steam engine driven ocean-going ships of the period.
Although the process began in the cottage industries of England in the mid 17th Century it would soon spread around Europe and the world. In many countries, like France, forward-thinking entrepreneurs, inventors, and industrialists would quickly develop technologies that many take for granted today.
Many of the technologies invented in this period have, literally and figurately, built the modern world.
Industrial Revolution Inventions
Industrial Revolution inventions have come from every country that has undergone the process since the mid 17th Century in England. Most notably amongst them are what we commonly term 'developed nations' today.
Countries like The United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, Russia and, of course, the United States of America, have created an enormous amount of technologies and inventions, thanks to the process which began over 250 years ago.
Several third world countries currently going through this process and are beginning to reap the socio-economic, scientific and technological benefits from it.
The Industrial Age (Era)
The Industrial Age is sometimes used as a synonym for the Industrial Revolution. It is, however, more accurately defined as the period of time between 1760 and the beginning of the 'Information Age' in the late 20th Century.
Like the general definition of the Industrial Revolution, the Industrial Age is characterized by a period of significant changes in the economic and social organization of adopting nations around the world.
Industrial Revolutions - How many Industrial Revolutions took place?
Just how many Industrial Revolutions took place? This can be a somewhat controversial question to answer. Some historians recognize two revolutions with others as classifying as many as six - the last of which we are currently living through.
The answer tends to be a matter of opinion but generally, there are several distinct phases that occurred throughout the 'Industrial Era'.
The first revolution occurred between 1760 and the Early-19th Century and is commonly called as the Industrial Revolution. After this phase, a noticeable decline in macro-invention occurred prior to the so-called Second Industrial Revolution began.
A second phase, or the Second Industrial Revolution, was sparked in the United States just after the Civil War in the latter half of the 19th Century. This is generally considered to have continued on until the start of the First World War in 1914.
First Industrial Revolution
The First Industrial Revolution, otherwise known as The Industrial Revolution, was a period of great socio-economic and technological change between 1760 and the early 19th Century.
Between this period and the American Civil War, a period of limited large-scale invention occurred, relative to the period preceding it. This era is widely seen as a transition period between the First and the Second Industrial Revolutions.
Where did the First Industrial Revolution start?
The First Industrial Revolution started in Britain and was largely confined to it for most of the period between 1760 and the early 19th Century.
When did the First Industrial Revolution start?
The First Industrial Revolution, or The Industrial Revolution, started in 1760 in England, UK.
How did the First Industrial Revolution start?
The First Industrial Revolution started due to the culmination of a series of events prior to 1760 and after it. For example, population growth and the promise of employment pushed more people into cities.
This, in turn, increased demand for products, and luxuries in some cases, as peoples' time was consumed in specialized roles.
Financial institutions and investors began to make, and encourage, more investment risk-taking providing much-needed capital for startups and R&D.
Transportation had also improved considerably. This allowed for easier movement of people and goods throughout the land and around the world.
The United Kingdom's government policies also began favoring free and foreign trade accelerating the eventual onset of the Industrial Revolution.
Second Industrial Revolution
The Second Industrial Revolution sometimes referred to as the Technological Revolution, marks a phase of rapid industrializing in the final period of the 19th Century. It is often considered to have ended at the start of the first world war in 1914.
History of the Industrial Revolution
The history of the Industrial Revolution began in 1760 and ended at the start of WW1 in 1914. It would be a period filled with enormous technological, socioeconomic and geopolitical change around the world.
Where did the Industrial Revolution start?
The Industrial Revolution started in England in about 1760.
Why did the Industrial Revolution start in England?
The Industrial Revolution started in England and was the consequence of several factors in Britain at that time. For this reason, there is no single attributing factor but the culmination of a series of developments and events that occurred over time.
These included (but were not excluded to):
- The British Isles had plentiful access to key natural resources like coal and iron
- Agriculture had steadily grown throughout the 18th Century allowing for good population growth
- Larger population provided Britain with a bigger labor market
- Britain cultivated an atmosphere of freedom of thought and markets allowing for scientists to dedicate their time to study and allowing entrepreneurs the ability to take risks in new enterprises. This was, in part, the consequence of economic stability and peace 'at home' that led to the development of liberalism (not to be confused with the modern corruption of the term)
- Good transportation. Adam Smith was one of the first to recognize this when he observed that the well-developed canals and the plethora of navigable rivers in the British Isles allowed ease of transport of raw materials.
Smith would later write "Good roads, canals, and navigable rivers, by diminishing the expense of carriage, put the remote parts of the country more nearly upon a level with those in the neighborhood of the town. They are upon that account the greatest of all improvements” - Adam Smith: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776.
- The United Kingdom, being an island nation and people, are geographically from mainland Europe. This insulated them, in part, from the constant wars on the continent and fostered the need for a strong military and civilian navy.
All of these factors, and others, effectively made Britain of the 17th Century the 'land of opportunity'.
When did the Industrial Revolution start?
The Industrial Revolution started, it is widely agreed, around 1760. Although this is the widely accepted and quoted time, it should be considered as a period of advancement rather than a discrete event.
What is Industrialization?
Industrialization is the process of large-scale adoption and usage of manufacturing with associated development of socio-economic necessary to support it in a given area, society or country.
It is, in effect, the transition from an agrarian society (economy based on agriculture) to an industrial one. This transition necessarily fosters the demand for consumer goods and services as workers incomes rise.
This is often a positive feedback loop with the area's/country's GDP and GNP increasing exponentially over time.
What caused the Industrial Revolution?
The cause of the Industrial Revolution was not a single event but series of contributing factors that combined to make the 'perfect storm' for a revolution to begin.
Broadly speaking, this consisted of just the right mix of the philosophical, economical, societal, technological and geopolitical situation of the times in Great Britain. It was no mere coincidence that the revolution began there at that time.
What exactly started the Industrial Revolution?
What exactly started the Industrial Revolution? As previously mentioned, there was no single cause or event that sparked the Industrial Revolution.
It took the alignment of a collection of factors to 'get the ball rolling'. Britain during the 18th Century was just such a place. Its geography, resources, political policy, national mindset, economics and scientific and technological progress had progressed to such a degree that the revolution was likely inevitable.
Causes of Industrial Revolution
Causes of the Industrial Revolution include, but are not limited to:
- Economic and societal liberalism (socioeconomics)
- Large, stable and peaceful population with good food supply
- Migration to, and growth of, cities and consumer goods and services
- The concentration of required resources in one place
- Pre-requisite technology and scientific inquiry were in place
- Good transportation network was in place (navigable rivers and canals)
- Political policies encouraged entrepreneurship
- Financial institutions and investors started taking risks.
Industrial Revolution Factories
One key event that occurred during the Industrial Revolution was the development of true factories. The first documented one was opened by John Lombe in Derby in around 1721.
This early factory was powered using water and was opened to mass produce silk products. It was built on an island in the River Derwent in Derby and the idea of it came to Lombe during a tour of Italy.
Using the services of architect George Sorocold the new "Factory" was built and employed around 300 people during peak production. It would be the first of many factories the world over.
So successful was Lombe's factory it is believed his untimely death could be due to the jealous machinations of the King of Sardinia who was enraged at commercialization of silk production in the UK.
Effects of Industrial Revolution
The effects of the Industrial Revolution, like any other enormous change from the status quo, were both positive and negative. The most obvious effect would be the growth of cities into large municipalities and people flocked from the country in search of work.
The contributing factors of increases in income and fall in prices for products, from mass production, eventually meant surplusses in income were possible. This would ultimately lead to the emergence of the concept of professionalism (through the division of labor), and by extension the middle class.
Transporation and communication infrastructure greatly improved throughout this period. This would eventually slash the time taken to transport and deliver people and goods around the world.
Agriculture would also benefit from the revolution allowing for huge increases in efficiency and crop yields. Food surpluses could be achieved which, in part, shrank death rates.
Of course, some effects were also negative (e.g. overcrowding, occupational hazard, pollution and disease from urbanization and poor sanitation).
It has had other less obvious effects on our everyday lives from housework to war.
Impact and Consequences of the Industrial Revolution
The impact of the Industrial Revolution was very positive and negative at the same time. It would ultimately mean that products could be produced faster and cheaper producing enormous changes to the environmental, socioeconomic, and geopolitical nature of a nation.
Despite the revolution providing enormous opportunities for employment, mass migration to cities led to serious overcrowding, disease, and poor sanitation. Factories were also hazardous places to work for men, children and even women.
Despite this, the revolution has, on balance, greatly improved the lives and standards of living for a countries citizens over time. Many innovations such as improved transportation, electricity and mass production reduced the costs for many items including essentials like medicine, heat, and power, to name but a few.
But of course, innovations in warfare would drastically increase the killing potential of weapons. On the other hand, education progressively became available to the poor.
On balance, the Industrial Revolution drastically improved the quality of life of a nation's populace in ways hitherto never seen before. But did produce entirely new swathes of problems for society to tackle issues like child labor, poor air quality, and disease.
Industrial Revolution around the world - List of countries
The following nations, according to the leading economists and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Fact Book, are classified as industrialized or developed countries*:-
*Note (NIC) = Newly Industrialised Countries.
- Brazil (NIC)
- China (NIC)
- The Faroe Islands
- Holy See
- Hong Kong – China
- India (NIC)
- Malaysia (NIC)
- Mexico (NIC)
- New Zealand
- The Philippines (NIC)
- San Marino
- South Africa (NIC)
- South Korea
- Thailand (NIC)
- Turkey (NIC)
- The United Kingdom
- The United States
Industrial Revolution in Britain (UK, England)
The Industrial Revolution began in Britain during the 18th Century. It would drive enormous changes to the fortunes of the nation ultimately resulting in the creation of largest empire the world has ever seen.
When did the Industrial Revolution start in England?
The Industrial Revolution is widely agreed to have begun in around 1760 in England.
How did the Industrial Revolution start in England?
Just prior to the mid 18th Century, most people in Britain and around Europe lived and worked in small, rural communities. Global nations were, generally speaking, agrarian in nature and any industry that did exist was small-scale and limited.
Peoples lives were generally miserable with extreme poverty, starvation, and disease commonplace. The people tended to make or produce their own food, clothing, furniture, and tools.
Most industry and manufacturing at this time was conducted in small rural shops or peoples homes (so-called cottage industries) using hard work, hand tools and/or simple machines.
Gradual changes in attitude, freeing up of capital and encouragement of entrepreneurship and technological developments ultimately lit the match that would spark the beginning of the revolution.
The British Isles were also rich in vital resources like iron and coal and, at this time, Britain was growing colonial power.
The political stability and access to raw materials ultimately provided the fuel for the growth in demand for manufactured goods and demand for British goods abroad.
This would ultimately build a demand for British goods that would lead merchants to find the most effective means of production that ultimately led to the development of mechanization and factories commonly associated with this period.
Industrialization in England (Britain)
Prior to the industrial revolution, most 'industry' in Britain and Europe occurred in small foundries or peoples homes.
These 'cottage industries' would be very labor intensive processes with raw materials supplied by merchants and the final products collected later on. This process would prove to be a very inefficient and proved difficult for merchants to regulate and control their cottage industry 'contractors'.
These self-employed workers would often have other commitments and tended to set their own schedules.
Several key innovations would occur in the 18th century that would lead to enormous increases in production efficiency. These included James Hargreaves' spinning Jenny in 1764. This device would prove so successful that by the time of his death around 20,000 units was estimated to be in operation around the UK.
Samual Crompton would later improve on the 'jenny' with his 'spinning mule'. Other key innovations occurred including the invention of the power loom in the 1780's by Edmund Cartwright.
Improvements in the textile industry would quickly spur developments in other fields like the iron industry. Darby developed an early means of cheap and easy cast iron production that would be supplemented, in some cases superseded, by the Bessemer process to produce steel.
Iron and steel became essential materials for the revolution and would be used to make, effectively, everything from cooking appliances to ships.
Thomas Newcomen would kick the revolution into overdrive with his groundbreaking steam engine. This was improved upon by James Watt during the late 1700's that would ultimately lead to the development of steam locomotives and ships characteristic of the period.
Industrial Revolution in the USA (America)
The Industrial Revolution would spread to all corners of the British Empire and would continue in the fledgling United States after their independence in 1776.
When did the Industrial Revolution start in the USA?
The Industrial Revolution started in the USA in the mid to late 1800's, circa 1870. This phase of the larger era of global industrialization is often termed the Second Industrial Revolution.
How did the Industrial Revolution start in the USA?
The Industrial Revolution sometimes called the Second Industrial Revolution, started in the USA for a variety of reasons. There was no single causal event rather, like the first Industrial Revolution, it was the culmination of a series of events over a period of time.
Throughout the 1800's, the face of North America was changing rapidly. Between about 1820 and 1860, the United States saw a period of unprecedented urbanization and rapid territorial expansion.
This would continue apace until domestic political tensions exploded into open civil disorder. This culminated in the commencement of the bloody American Civil War between 1861 and 1865.
The merciful conclusion of this conflict led to a period of enormous socio-economic and technological growth and mass industrialization, called the second (or technological) revolution of the United States.
One of the key industrial processes that would fuel the Second Industrial Revolution was the Bessemer Steel Process, patented in 1856. This would literally and figurately feed the revolution and enabled the rapid expansion of vital transport links like the transcontinental railroads.
This further propelled the speed of industrialization pushing the expansion of utilities like the telegraph, gas and water suppliers and sewers from the big cities to more rural areas.
The enormous expansion of rail and telegraph lines after 1870 allowed unprecedented movement of people and ideas, which culminated in a new wave of immigration to the states. In the same period, new systems were introduced, most significantly electrical power and telephones.
Industrialization in America
Industrialization began in the early 1800's in America and steadily grew until the Civil War. At this time industry was very small scale with hand/manual labor remaining widespread across the nation.
Many businesses served their local communities and lacked access to capital to enable expansion.
After the Civil War, however, things changed forever. Mass adoption of machinery replaced traditional craft manufacture and increased the output of goods exponentially.
A drive for better transportation fuelled the building of the transcontinental railroad fuelling more demand for goods and labor. The growth in demand for goods promoted inventors and entrepreneurs to develop new techniques and technologies and seek investment to grow their businesses.
The new demand for capital investment were fed by banks and other investors who supplied the enormous amount of money needed to build and expand businesses.
Just like the industrial revolution in the United Kingdom, the growth in the industry in the cities led to widescale migration into them. Cities grew faster than ever, changing demographics and the quality of life for millions.
This enormous change from a primarily agrarian society to an industrial one was mainly concentrated in the North. The South would take longer to recover from the devastation of the Civil War and lagged behind from the rest of country economically.
Western expansion had largely burnt out and frontier life was beginning to come to an end. During this period, America's star began to rise and its role in foreign affairs began to change throughout the late 1800's and early 1900's.
It would begin to build up its military strength through this period until it would, ultimately, become the world power we know today.
Industrial Revolution in Europe
The Industrial Revolution in Europe occurred much the same as it had in the United Kingdom albeit slightly later. Inspired by the advancements in technology, wealth and power of the British, other European nations quickly began to import steam engines and seek advice from British engineers and industrialists.
Europe, like the UK and her colonies, would quickly benefit from the process of industrialization and begin to make significant technological and scientific advancements of their own. This would lead to ever increasing 'cross-pollination' of ideas and across Europe and the flowering British Empire.
When did the Industrial Revolution start in Europe?
The Industrial Revolution started in Europe after Watt's steam engines began to be exported to the continent in around 1800. Using the new engines, many European countries like France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Sweden and other Western nations eagerly embraced the process of industrialization.
How did the Industrial Revolution start in Europe?
Similar to its birthplace in the United Kingdom, the Industrial Revolution started in different countries in Europe for a variety of reasons. Although the socioeconomic, geopolitical and natural resources of each nation varied widely, they were all united by their desire to 'catch up' with the growing power of the United Kingdom.
As soon as Watt steam engines and British expertise began to be exported into Europe at the turn of the 19th Century, industrialization began to spread at a pace across the continent. The level of development and rate of change differed from country to country on the continent but was generally well under way by the mid-19th Century.
Germany, for example, was a late adopter but by the end of the later 19th Century, it had risen to become a great industrial power.
Industrialization in Europe
Around the turn of the 19th Century, mass export of Watt's steam engine to the continent began to spread industrialization in Europe. The process was accelerated by British engineers and experts who performed consulting roles on the continent to help develop and encourage industrial development throughout this period.
The process of industrialization took different courses and paces depending on the European country in question. This was directly dependent on the local resources, political will and socioeconomic situation in each nation.
For example in France, the Industrial Revolution was heavily delayed by the political upheavals of the French Revolution. Not to mention the tumultuous rule of Napolean Bonaparte in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.
France also lacked the abundant coal resources of other countries like the United Kingdom - this serious hampered the progression of the revolution in the country. Britain also saw the mass adoption of mechanization in most areas of industry and trades, this was not the case in France where its economy relied on handmade produce.
This was also a centrally protected and privileged industry by the government.
In other nations like Prussia, later Germany, a completely different set of circumstances delayed their adoption of industrialization.
Industrial Revolution in Japan
The Industrial Revolution in Japan occurred very differently from the UK, Europe, and America. Although initially forced upon them by American envoys, the Japanese would quickly realize its potential and completely overturned centuries of feudal tradition to become one of the worlds most modern nations.
By embracing industrialization Japan would make itself a world power that would ultimately set them on a collision course with the world's superpowers in the 20th Century.
When did the Industrial Revolution start in Japan?
The Industrial Revolution is widely agreed to have started in Japan in around 1853 when a squadron of American warships forced trade negotiations with Japan. This started a cascade of events that would ultimately lead to the full industrialization of Japan by 1900.
How did the Industrial Revolution start in Japan?
The Japanese Shogunate was in steep decline in the first half of the 19th Century. Although the Shogunate still continued to command through central bureaucracy and semi-feudal alliances Japan had started to be affected by financial pressures from within and without.
Japan had historically maintained a policy of isolation but growing issues at home and interference from Western powers began to take their toll on Japan. An American Naval squadron under the command of Matthew Perry forced Japan to open up negotiations for trade in 1853.
This lead to domestic internal disputes that would ultimately lead to the dissolution of the Shogunate by proclamation from the Emperor Mutsuhito (Meiji) in 1868. The mighty Samurai would quickly follow with a new centralized administration being formed in the 1870's.
After abolishing feudalism, a Ministry of Industry was created in 1870 to establish overall economic policy and operate certain industries. Model factories were created to provide industrial experience, and an expanded education system offered technical training.
Following the Samurai revolt in 1877, social and political reconstruction of Japan was more or less complete by 1889.
Private enterprise was soon involved in the growing economy, especially in textiles. Entrepreneurs came from all social ranks and by the 1890s, huge industrial combines (called zaibatsu) had been formed.
By the turn of the 20th Century, Japan, freed from its previous shackles of feudalism, had now fully embraced and engaged in its industrial revolution. An event that would soon dictate the history of the 20th Century.
Industrialization in Japan
The process of industrialization in Japan led to a massive reorganization of the nation - politically, militarily, socio-economical and, of course, technologically. A western style army and navy were commissioned and built, new banks were established, railroad networks and steam vessel dramatically improved transportation and communication across the nation.
Previous restrictions on trades and feudal guilds were abolished and sweeping land reforms were swiftly adopted. All of these changes and many more led to a subsequent boom in Japanese population growth that supplied more labor but put pressure on Japan's resources.
Western culture was widely adopted across the nation, notably Western Fashion, and the government quickly adopted a universal education system stressing importance on STEM fields.
These changes would ultimately fuel a growing nationalism in Japan and by the 1890's they had officially joined the imperialist powers of the world. This would ultimately lead to conflicts with China for Korea between 1894 and 1895 and Russia in 1904 (again for Korea).
These two victories cemented their place as a new world power at the turn of the 20th Century and brought an Alliance with Britain in 1902.
Throughout this period, domestic unrest between the more traditional older generations and younger, western looking youth was rife. This would ultimately spark a period of political disputes that would see frequent elections, and in some cases, political assassinations.
Complete List of Inventions During The Industrial Revolution
A complete list of inventions created during the Industrial Revolution is out of the scope of this article, it would, after all, fill many large tomes. Despite that many, critically important inventions during this period are still in use today.
Some of the more important inventions throughout this period are as follows:
- The Steam Engine
- The Flying Shuttle
- The Spinning Jenny
- The Cotton Gin
- The Telegraph
- Portland Cement
- Modern Roads
- Bessemer Process
- Steam Locomotives
- Power Loom
- Water Frame
- Tin Can/Canning
- The Camera
- The Typewriter
- The Dynamo
And many more.
Industrial Revolution Facts
- The two commonly cited Primary and Secondary phases of the industrial revolution occurred between 1760 and 1914.
- The First Industrial Revolution began in England in 1760 and continued on until the mid to early 1800's. This period was characterized by the mass adoption of steam technology and iron and the move from agriculture to industry.
- The Second Industrial Revolution commenced after the Amerian Civil War and extended to the start of WW1. This era can be characterized by the development of new technologies like electricity, combustion engines, and steel.
- Even today, there are still some countries that are yet to experience industrialization. These are often referred to as "third world" or "developing" countries today.
- The industrial revolution is intimately linked with the concept of capitalism. Since the inception of both the human quality of life, wealth, life expectancy and other factors like literacy have increased exponentially.
- The industrial revolution was initially driven by the textile industry in the United Kingdom. Developments in this sector would ultimately drive improvements in other industries across the UK.
- By the end of the 19th Century, 8 out of 10 Brits lived in cities. Prior to 1760 85% of the population lived off the land.
- Between 1700 and the year 2000 the Earth's human population grew 10 times.
- Throughout the 1900's, global economy increased by 14 times its previous level.
- Per capita income, throughout the 20th Century, would increase 4-fold compared to previous levels.
Social Effects and Consequences of The Industrial Revolution
The Social Effects and Consequences of the Industrial Revolution were widespread and enormous. Rapid urbanization and every increasing demand for labor led to large portions of the population migrated from the country to the cities.
This movement of people led to serious overcrowding, disease, and poor sanitation prior to infrastructure catching up with needs. Injuries and deaths were also not uncommon in factories as they were hazardous places to work for men, children and even women.
Social structures were also changed forever. New social classes began to emerge people began to specialize in jobs or take risks to start businesses.
This would ultimately lead to the emergence of the industrialist (capitalist), middle class and working classes (sometimes called the proletariat).
On balance, the Industrial Revolution drastically improved the quality of life of a nation's populace in ways hitherto never seen before. But did produce entirely new swathes of problems such as child labor, poor air quality, and disease to tackle.
Social and Cultural Structure During The Industrial Revolution
Social and Cultural Structure during the Industrial Revolution changed significantly during this period. Apart from the landed gentry and royalty, new social classes were formed and society generally reformed into the following:
- Working Class,
- Middle Class,
This would have a profound effect on any nation that industrialized. Where feudalism still existed it was quickly overthrown.
Labor system of the Industrial Revolution
The labor system of the Industrial Revolution was much broader than any time before it. The enormous increase in productivity and need for labor rapidly swelled the populations of cities from the countryside and included members of the population from young children to women.
Although men, women, and children had long been involved in work in some kind or other since the dawn of the time, the level of intensity, type of work and concentration of workers in one place, was something very new indeed. Also, the division of labor in the workforce would allow for the rise of 'specialist' professional and led to the creation of the 'middle class'.
Despite the less than desirable working conditions of the period, many workers enjoyed a massive increase in, and regular supply of, pay and living conditions compared to their agrarian ancestors.
Working conditions during Industrial Revolution
Working conditions during the Industrial Revolution were far from desirable.
Occupational health and safety were less than ideal during the Industrial Revolution. Work tended to be monotonous and in some cases very dangerous.
Factories tended to be damp, noisy, filthy, poorly ventilated and lit. Long hours were common for men, women, and children who were offered wages commensurate with their level of expertise.
These issues were partially addressed during the mid-19th Century and Unions were founded to help improve the workers' lot. Early health and safety legislation was passed during this time but issues like child labor continued to be an issue up until the 20th Century.
Family Life and Standards of Living during the Industrial Revolution
Family life and standards of living during the Industrial Revolution varied depending on where people were placed in society. For the growing middle classes, living standards began to improve markedly.
More availability of cheaply produced goods allowed some to live like kings compared to their forebears.
For lower income families who toiled in the factories and lived in the crowded cities living standards were pretty bleak. Most workers were huddled into closely packed, rapidly built, housing with little concern for public health.
These living conditions were perfect breeding grounds for diseases like cholera and typhoid.
Education and Training during Industrial Revolution
Education and training during the Industrial Revolution were actually widely available. However, for children, it tended to be a paid for service.
Whilst wealthy families could afford to homeschool via a tutor they were also sent to private schools. Poorer children would be taught in Dame Schools or Church schools.
Often lower-income families would prioritize bringing in an income rather than getting an education, but not always.
In 1883, the British Government passed the "Factory Act" to allocate funds to promote education in schools as well as limit their working hours to a maximum of 9 a day. Money was given to charities who would heavily subsidize tuition.
In 1844, the government-established Ragged Schools Union focused on educating poor children, while the Public Schools Act, created in 1868, brought reform to the public school system in Britain by establishing basic requirements for educational standards.
A similar story bore out in the United States with 50 schools founded in 1837.
Slavery and Colonization during Industrial Revolution
Slavery and Colonization during the Industrial Revolution began to decline thanks to the massed adoption of machinery to replace human labor.
The increased demand for labor during the early stages of the revolution did increase demand for slaves initially, but this would dramatically fall over time.
Throughout this period, near full employment was achieved and many began to receive regular payments - an almost alien concept at the time. This shined a light on the clear differences between 'free' laborers and indentured slaves - this would eventually force society to consider the morality of the age-old practice of slavery.
This came to a head by 1807 when it was obvious that slavery was a moral abomination and it was abolished in the UK. After this time the British Navy and Government used "aggressive negotiations" to persuade other nations to follow suit and would spend the next 60 years policing slave trade routes around the world.
By 1850, legal factory reforms also restricted the use of child labor.
Urbanization and Housing during the Industrial Revolution
Urbanization and housing during the Industrial Revolution was a defining feature of the period. Mass migration from the countryside to the cities caused their populations to swell.
The process would often begin with the construction of a single or limited number of factories in one region. This would later provide a 'draw' or 'magnet' for other supplementary enterprises that can supply the factory, and its supply chain, directly with goods or provide goods and services to the workers.
This exponential growth in job opportunities further accelerates the 'draw' of people to the area.
These people would need to be housed in some fashion. Before large volumes of cheap and quick housing and tenements could be built slums would become commonplace in cities around industrializing nations.
Such large numbers of people in one place led to the construction of densely packed and cramped housing. These would prove to be ideal places for the spread of disease, as well as, the creation of new social orders.
Housing would vary widely depending on the occupant's means. Those with money often lived in splendor with poorer workers living in small homes with shared toilet facilities.
Housing quality would improve throughout the 19th Century as a number of public health acts were introduced. These would include the construction of sewerage systems and put restrictions on the construction of new homes as well as clearing out and improvement of slum areas.
Population Increase during Industrial Revolution
Between 1700 and 1750, the population of England was pretty much stable with relatively small growth. As no official records exist for this period precise figures are impossible to calculate but what is clear is that there was a population explosion after around 1750 AD.
Estimates vary but most tend to agree that the population doubled over the century between 1750 and 1850. It is no coincidence that this is the period, more or less, of the first industrial revolution.
This increase in population was the result of various factors, like the revolution itself. This included changes in the legal age of marriage, improvements in health and medicine that decreased child mortality and an increase in birth rate.
Interestingly at this time, Brits married relatively late, if at all, compared to Europe. This was completely changed during the second half of the 18th century. More and younger couples began to tie the knot which, ultimately, led to a dramatic increase in birth rates.
This was, in turn, a direct result of the increase in relative income for much of the population during this period. In short, people could actually afford to start families and have more children.
Despite the fact that cities had become filthy and disease-ridden places to live, death rates actually fell. Improvements to diets, medicine, the introduction of hospitals, and improvements in general living conditions, dramatically improved during the revolution.
Life of women during Industrial Revolution
The life of women was much the same as the rest of the population wherever industrialization occurred. Huge demands for labor would often see women joining the workforce, albeit in less physically demanded roles (for obvious reasons).
Economic necessity of many women, single and married, led to the need for them to find waged work outside their home. Most of their occupation included domestic service, textile factories, and workshops.
Some would even work in the coal mines.
For some, the Industrial Revolution provided independent wages, mobility and a better standard of living. For the majority, however, factory work in the early years of the 19th century resulted in a life of hardship.
Popular Writers during Industrial Revolution
Popular writers during the Industrial Revolution included political thinkers, philosophers, and the pioneers of science fiction. Like many of the arts, literature was heavily influenced by the Industrial Revolution.
Of the period one of the most influential was Adam Smith with his seminal n Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations published in 1776.
Generally speaking, in Europe, popular literature throughout this period was a reaction to the revolution. Many were concerned about the move away from nature (and its perceived destruction), and wide socioeconomic changes.
The revolution was also partly because of but also a catalyst for the scientific "Enlightenment". This fusion of British and French literature was inspired by the massive explosion in scientific and technological understanding of the world, the retreat of religious fervor.
Its rise is widely attributed to, and optimized by, the works of great political philosophers like John Locke.
More reactionary literature included the writings of the English Novelist Blake. He would often speak of "dark satanic mills" and other authors like Shelley's Frankenstein would serve as a warning to humanities rapid scientific advancement (and in part gave birth to the Sci-Fi genre).
Other highly influential texts came from Germany in the writing of Goethe and Schiller, and in England in the poetry of Wordsworth, Shelley, Byron, Coleridge, and Keats.
This would also be a time of enormous political change with the rise of new philosophies as a reaction to the perceived suffering of the working man. Karl Marx and his patron Freidrich Engels would write their highly inflammatory criticisms of capitalism and industrialization.
This would lead to other influential writers like Charles Dickens with his legendary criticisms of industrialized society at the time - notably Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol.
These are, of course, but a few of the many great writers throughout this period.
Popular Artists during the Industrial Revolution
Popular artists during the Industrial Revolution is very broad subject and it is out of the scope of this guide to list them all. You can, however, view a reasonably complete list here
The period between 1750 and 1914 completely changed the political, economic, societal and artistic landscape of Europe. These changes also influenced how people viewed, read, or heard artistic creations and what they expected from them.
Throughout this period, callbacks to previous forms "from a simpler time" were commonplace as well as the development of new styles. Classicism, Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, and Modernism can trace their origin from this time.
The architecture of Europe was one area that changed considerably throughout this era.
By the outbreak of the first world war styles like Classicism that massively dominated at the start of the Industrial Revolution was just a memory in the wake of the dominance of Modernism at the time.
Popular Politicians during the Industrial Revolution
Popular Politicians during the Industrial Revolution or not, would for most seem to be a contradiction in terms today, but, believe it or not, many prominent politicians have garnered widespread respect from the populace in times gone by.
The most notable change on the political landscape during this period was the introduction and growth of classic British Liberalism. This philosophy would spread to Britain's colonies and ultimately lead to the American Revolution and writing of the Declaration of Independence.
In the United Kingdom, two of the most influential politicians ever (and bitter rivals), Sir William Gladstone and Sir Benjamin Disraeli would advocate for massive reforms and lead some of the most productive governments of all time.
Elsewhere the founding fathers of America were held in high regard in their time and are still honored and remembered today.
Political Consequences of Industrial Revolution
The political consequences of the Industrial Revolution varied around the world. As a general rule, wherever industrialization occurred, the massive advancements in technology fostered a sense of a national pride, and identity.
Other political changes included an increase in colonization of less developed nations, like in Africa. The technological superiority of European nations enabled a far easier expansion into the continent that would have been possible during the Middle Ages.
This was mirrored in the United States, where the technological superiority of the European Americans enabled them to quickly and efficiently spread from East to West across the country. Often to the detriment of the indigenous peoples.
In Japan, their traditional feudal system was cast aside in favor of aligning their politics in a similar fashion to European nations.
Other notable political changes include:
- A marked increase in literacy and education also increased political awareness amongst the populace. This would ultimately lead to the development of new political theories from democracy, anarchism to socialism/communism.
- The Industrial Revolution would ultimately pave the way for slave and female emancipation. Women's increased representation in the workforce would ultimately fuel political movements for fairer representation in political spheres.
- The abolition of slavery is probably the most fundamentally important political changes throughout this period.
- Nationalism led to the development of the concept of the citizen rather than the subject. This would ultimately lead to the abolition of feudalism around the world.
World War I and Industrial Revolution
World War 1 is widely considered to be the end of Second Industrial Revolution. The ability to mass produce products to very high engineering standards meant that, from a military perspective, things would never be the same again.
Technological development and their manufacture would be greatly accelerated throughout this period. New technologies like aircraft and tanks would be developed and built in huge numbers.
The ability to manufacture en masse artillery pieces and machine guns would mean the first world war would, effectively, descend into industrial-scale mass slaughter on both sides. In fact, the majority of battlefield mortalities during this period was the result of artillery not small arms fire from weapons like the machine gun.
This explains the seemingly counterproductive tendency of troops to walk rather than run or crawl when assaulting enemy positions. Crawling exposed men to artillery, running would mean they might not have the energy to fight the enemy, therefore walking was a logical trade-off.
In conclusion, the enormous death tolls of the first world war were, in part, the product of the manufacturing prowess of the industrialized nations. war and society at large would never be the same again.
World War II and Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution is widely agreed to have occurred between 1760 and 1914. As WWII began in 1939 it was, therefore, after the Industrial Revolution.
Colonization, Slavery and Industrial Revolution
The British Empire and her American Colonies would initially benefit from slavery during the early stages of the Industrial Revolution. This was because industrialized regions became magnets for labor leaving the need for additional workers in the factories and on the farms.
The greater efficiency of technology over human labor soon became apparent. Philosophical changes in the 'Anglo-sphere' also began to hold a dim view of slavery across the societal hierarchy.
For this reason, slavery was eventually abolished in the United Kingdom in 1807 after a long period of campaigning an lobbying by interest groups. The British would spend the next 60 years policing the seas and persuading other nations to follow suit.
Industrial Revolution Summary
The Industrial Revolution began in in the United Kingdom in the mid-18th Century and quickly spread around the world. It would literally transform the world as everyone knew it at the time.
Some historians like J. Clapham and N. Craft, reasonably argue that rather than a single event, this period of history should be considered more of an evolution or culmination of successive advancements.
Whatever the case may be, this was undoubtedly one of the most rapid periods of change in human history. It is easy for us today to take this period of time for granted, after all, it was several hundred years ago, but the modern world would be very different without it.
The changes it would bring to the world would be both positive and negative.
Birth rates rose, death rates plunged and cities grew to sizes unseen since the Roman Empire. Such enormous increases in population would also create new problems.
Overcrowding was common, disease and poor sanitation a regular everyday occurrence, death and injury part of the working day. This was coupled with long working hours and the conscription of children and women into the workforce to help ends meet.
This era led to revolutionary changes in socioeconomic, geo- and domestic political changes and scientific advancements. New ways of thinking would sprout up.
Classic liberalism emerged leading to the liberal democratic societies once symbolic of the developed western hemisphere as well as the notion of national pride.
Poor living and working conditions would lead to inter-class grievances that would ultimately provide fertile ground for new political theories. It would also significantly influence the arts and produce some of the finest composers, artists, and writers of all time.
This would ultimately lead to the emancipation of slaves of all colors and creeds, women would become equal under the law and children (for the first time in history) would be taken, at least partially, out of the workforce and educated.
The rapid development of technology had its darker side too. It would, ultimately, lead to the industrial scale killing seen in the American Revolutionary Wars and World Wars of the early to mid 20th Century.
Despite the very reasonable criticisms of the period, most historians agree that the Industrial Revolution has been greatly beneficial for mankind in the long run. Afterall you wouldn't be able to read this sentence without it having occurred.