The Industrial Revolution refers to the first breakthrough from a rural handicraft economy to a urban machine driven manufacturing economy that took place in England around 1780 C.E., and which, in the course of the next one hundred years, spread and established itself over much of Europe and North America. Massive changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining and transportation wrought about by the Industrial Revolution went on to change every single aspect of human life including human labor, consumption, family structure, social structure, and even the very soul and thoughts of the individual. This revolution therefore marked a turning point in human history, just like the advent of agriculture had done so ten thousand years before.
The precursor to the Industrial Revolution was the spirit of mercantilism that established itself in Renaissance Europe that enabled Europe to free itself from the shackles of the Feudal Economy. Very soon, European traders, merchants, and men of commerce established themselves as the world's foremost manufacturers and traders, and the kings depended on these traders to provide them the ware withal to maintain the economy of their states, both in terms of flourishing commercial activity and the maintenance of armies. These trader-capitalists depended on growth of their trade, and after a point of time when the domestic consumption in Europe was satiated, required an ever expanding market to sell their goods and make additional profits. This gave an impetus for the Europeans to make voyages into distant lands, and eventually led to the establishment of colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The merchant-capitalist soon established flourishing trade with these colonies, and the procurement of raw material from the colonies, and the demand for new products from these colonies necessitated mass production.
[...] IMPACT OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION In terms of social structure, the Industrial Revolution witnessed the triumph of a middle class of industrialists and businessmen over a landed class of nobility and gentry. The Working Class The Industrial Revolution provided opportunities for the peasants uprooted from their land because of the enclosure movement. They flocked to cities and found employment in the new mills and factories. However, such factories often operated under strict working conditions with long hours of labor, dominated by a pace set by machines. [...]
[...] Developments in Agriculture Throughout the 17th and 18th Century, Britain witnessed an agricultural revolution that soon became a part of the Industrial Revolution. The enclosure movement gave the landowners the luxury of adopting new methods of farming and experimenting with new types of vegetables and grains, and in the process learned a great deal about manure and other fertilizers. Developments in agriculture came in the form of invention of new machines and discovery of better agricultural practices. Jethro Tull invented a horse-drawn hoe and a mechanical seeder that allowed planting seeds in orderly rows. [...]
[...] The Industrial Revolution based itself on the concept of mass production in factories, and while overseas markets were necessary for the economy to flourish, success depended on a large domestic market able to consume the manufactured products. Here again, Britain enjoyed a unique advantage of being politically united. Other nations such as France had their markets split up into local regions, which each region imposing their own tolls and tariffs on goods traded amongst them. Thus while movement of goods in continental Europe remained an expensive affair, it was cheep and hassle free in Britain. [...]
[...] Increase in population The influx of more peasants to urban areas as a result of the enclosure movements coincided with much of Europe, and especially England recovering from the debilitating effects of the Black Death that had decimated the population, first in the 1350's and then once every generation. National border controls became more effective, and people began to place more important to sanitation. This lessened the spread of diseases, thereby preventing the epidemics common in previous times. The percentage of children who lived past infancy rose significantly, leading to a larger workforce necessary to operate the factories. [...]
[...] The disagreement on the rate and nature of growth apart, these studies indicate that the Industrial Revolution resulted in a rise in real income per person in England and, as its effects spread, in the rest of the Western world. The benefits of this rise in real income went not only to the factory owners and entrepreneurs, but also to the new middle class, comprising of professionals like lawyers and doctors. This middle class also enjoyed the consumer revolution brought about the industrial revolution, which made more and more consumer goods available to ordinary people with each passing year. [...]
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