Effects of Industrial Revolution

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 September, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 September, 1999, 12:00am

The Industrial Revolution was a great change which took place in Europe in the 1700s and 1800s. The term Industrial Revolution refers both to the changes that occurred and to the period itself.

Towards the end of the 18th century, a series of changes occurred in England in the methods of industrial technique and in the social and economic organisations.

People began to make things on machines in factories. The new machines were run by steam engines; they made things faster than people could by hand. Mining and metals became more important and the railways began. Many people moved from the countryside and began to work in factories in the towns.

The Industrial Revolution dominated the economic life of the people in Europe in the 19th century. This was the change from hand to machine methods in the production of goods. It brought about social and political changes as well.

The First Industrial Revolution took place mainly in England between 1750 and 1871, and the Second Industrial Revolution in continental European countries from 1871 until now.

England The Industrial Revolution began in England during the 1700s. Productivity in almost every line was limited by ineffective methods and inefficient tools.

In agriculture the appliances in use at the time of the Pharaohs were still being used: grain was sown, fields were tilled with crude wooden ploughs, and the harvest was cut with a sickle and threshed with a flail.

In the textile industry, old methods were used except that the spinning wheel had been substituted for the distaff and spindle, though this still produced only one thread at a time.

In the mineral industry there was promise for the future in some significant changes. In transportation great improvements had already been made to open up new opportunities.

At the end of the 18th century pure research in the physical and chemical sciences had progressed far in continental Europe, especially in France and Holland, but the English excelled in the application of scientific knowledge to practical affairs, particularly in industry. There was a general interest in mechanical improvements.

Political, social and legal conditions in England were also favourable to industrial development. Political liberty, freedom from illegal persecution, sanctity of property rights and of contracts, a patent law, religious freedom, and the opportunity of climbing the economic and social ladder altogether created a climate favourable to enterprises.

This explains why it was possible for England to take the lead in industrial development. The British at this time had the greatest merchant marine in the world and controlled much of the commerce. They possessed, either at home or in the colonies, practically all the raw material necessary for the development of extensive industries.

A large actual market, and a still larger potential one existed for the wares that might be produced from the raw materials.

This condition was appreciated by shippers and traders and most of all by merchants, who saw that the exploitation of the possible market required improvements in the processes of manufacture.

All these materials lent themselves to mass production, lower costs, and larger sales. Strong pressure therefore existed to meet the demand for cheaper methods of production.

Continental Europe In the history of continental Europe, the Industrial Revolution had virtually no place before 1848 and very little before 1871. In England the Industrial Revolution was accompanied by all the excitement of invention, but it was largely a leisurely process of adaption in continental Europe.

Key discoveries were made in Britain - the first looms were driven by power and the first railways were laid.

When railways were first started in Belgium, the work fell largely to the great Anglo-Belgian firm of Cockerill's at Liege. In Austria the first engine drivers were brought over from England and paid large salaries.

The course of the Industrial Revolution in England and on the continent was also different. In England the building of railways was one of the later stages but in many European countries it was almost the first sign of industrialisation.

It was not until the coming of the aircraft and the internal combustion engine that England began to lose its monopoly of invention.