Industrial Revolution - World History

By Sudheer Kumar K|Updated : December 2nd, 2020

Industrial Revolution: World History, UPSC IAS GS Mains Paper-I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society). 

In this article, you will learn about:

  • Introduction,
  • Factors responsible for the Industrial Revolution in Britain- political, geographical and technological.
  • Positive and Negative Impact,
  • Reforms undertaken and
  • Conclusion

Industrial Revolution

Introduction

  • Industrial Revolution took place in Britain from 18th C to mid-19th Century.
  • Industrial Revolution means mass production of goods, through the invention of new factors of production – machines and techniques in textiles, iron making and other industries.
  • It brought about a social and economic transition in Britain from stable agriculture to commercial society, cottage industries to mechanised industries, rural to urban life.

Factors responsible for the Industrial Revolution in Britain

Political and economic conditions:

Britain created favourable political conditions, which furthered the process of growth of the Industrial Revolution, including:

  • Enactment of laws to remove trade barriers and create a common market helped the merchants.
  • Capturing the foreign markets largely with the progress achieved in transportation.
  • Policy of Mercantilism: Many European countries had followed this policy since the mid-Eighteenth century. According to this theory:
    • Control over industries and trade by the Government
    • Limited governmental interference in trade
    • This theory advocated that national strength depends on more exports and less imports.
    • This theory assumed that the wealth of a nation depends on the possession of gold and silver.
  • Laws for Trade secrets: In order to safeguard its interests, Britain enacted laws to prohibit technology transfer to other countries.
  • Britain brought about several reforms and inventions boosted agricultural production, including:
    • Enclosure Acts: Britain passed 1000 such laws. It means consolidation of small landholdings to form large fields by taking over all the open or wastelands and community lands.
    • Technological Innovations in agriculture for instance Jethro Tull’s Seed Planting Drill which helped in planting seeds at uniform intervals and depths without any wastage.
    • These reforms and mechanization rendered many labourers landless, which led to the migration of people from agriculture to factories for jobs.
    • These conditions created the availability of cheap and abundant labour to work in the factories

Geographical Location:

Britain enjoys following favourable geographical conditions like:

  • Location advantage i.e. a safe and secured island location with easy proximity to the sea.
  • Humid climate ideal for raising sheep (as we have already discussed outcompeted in textile industries)
  • Navigation channels: Being an island nation, Britain is surrounded by waterways like sea, rivers and canals, which facilitated to have the largest free trade area, without any barriers or tolls. Discovery of trade routes led to the expansion of the market.

These advantages helped Britain a favourable location for the Industrial Revolution.

Technological Innovations:

Till the eighteenth century, Britain economy is characterised by cottage industries and rural life. Government and Businessmen and venture capitalists financed R&D programs, which witnessed breakthroughs in many sectors.

  • Since, Eighteenth-century, innovations such as the spinning jenny, the flying shuttle, the water frame and the power loom made spinning yarn and thread and weaving cloth much easier. This led to more efficient and mechanised production of cloth fabrics.
  • Invention of the steam engine led to the efficient transport of goods like coal and other resources.
  • Developments achieved in coal mining such as tunnel ventilation, transportation of coal, use of gunpowder to blast away ridges and the use of safety lamps.
  • Development of wooden steam-powered ships, Iron built ships, the first steam locomotive engine provided a reliable system of transportation.
  • Faster ways of transport (rail and ships) and communications (telegraph and telephone) made government and business transactions possible instantly.

These effects of the Industrial Revolution were felt worldwide. France after 1830, Germany after 1850 and the U.S. after the Civil War started industrialisation. However, it had both a positive and negative impact on society.

Positive Impact

Industrial Revolution brought significant changes in the quality of life and in production processes.

Economic: 

  • It increased wealth, the production of goods, and improved the quality of living
  • Stimulated the movement of people towards cities which led to the growth of urban society and employment opportunities.

Social:

  • Access to cheaper goods, healthier diets, education and improved housing.
  • Edward Jenner invented a vaccine for smallpox and Louis Pasteur discovered bacteria.
  • Improved healthcare and education increased life span.

Negative impact

  • Industrial Revolution caused competition for colonies among the European countries and rivalry, particularly between Britain and France. Later on Italy, Germany and other countries also competed for colonisation.
  • The imperialist expansions resulted in a struggle for supremacy and these led to two World Wars later.

Economic:

  • Exploitation of colonies and destruction of their traditional social, economic and political systems.
  • Industrialisation left a large number of people

Social:

  • Workers in coal mines suffered from many health complications like lung diseases with blasting technique.
  • long working hours on low wages,
  • Women and children were discriminated and were paid very low wages.
  • Bad working conditions like factories were poorly ventilated, dirty, noisy, dark and damp environment.

Reform Movements

These horrible working conditions in factories, injustice caused to workers and discrimination in wages resulted in social movements.  Many laws were made to reform the working and living conditions.

  • In 1868, Trade Unions Congress was established for collective bargaining and they employed “strike” as a weapon.
  • The Factory Act is extended to include all workplaces employing more than fifty workers.
  • In 1870, the Britain government passed Forster’s Education Act, which enforced compulsory education for the first time.
  • In 1875, a law that prohibited boys from climbing chimneys to clean them.
  • These imperialist expansions led to struggle for supremacy and the two world wars (World War I and World War II) about which you will read in detail in the forthcoming articles.

Conclusion

Industrial Revolution changed the methods of production and transformed social and economic life in a great way. This played an integral role in laying the foundations for the modern society and became a harbinger for future inventions for the betterment of humankind.

However, it created new class divisions that led to economic and social inequalities. The adverse effects of Industrial Revolution later culminated into world wars.

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Sudheer Kumar KSudheer Kumar KMember since Sep 2020
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Zahid Hussain Khan
Is there any course on History?
Durga Choudhary
Thanks you sir

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