Industrial Revolution UPSC: World History UPSC Notes

Industrial Revolution UPSC

In this article, I want to walk you through the Industrial Revolution for UPSC, World History Notes.

The Industrial Revolution (IR) was the transition to new manufacturing processes in the period from about 1700 to sometime between 1820 and 1840 (19th Century). This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, the increasing use of steam power, the development of machine tools and the rise of the factory system.

Before we go into understanding the IR, first we must understand the why? When? Where? and how this IR happened?

First, we will go through the socio-economic and political system prevailing before IR. These very features of the society led to the rise of IR.

In the United States, France, and Latin America, political revolutions brought in new governments. A different type of revolution now transformed the way people worked. The Industrial Revolution refers to the greatly increased output of machine-made goods that began in England in the middle 1700s. Before the Industrial Revolution, people wove textiles by hand.

Then, machines began to do this and other jobs. Soon the Industrial Revolution spread from England to Continental Europe and North America.

Decline of Feudalism

Feudalism was a combination of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labor.

Although derived from the Latin word feodum or feudum (fief), the term feudalism and the system it describes were not conceived of as a formal political system by the people living in the Middle Ages.

Feudalism describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs.

The feudal system was introduced to England following the invasion and conquest of the country by William I, the Conqueror.

The feudal system had been used in France by the Normans from the time they first settled there in about 900AD. It was a simple, but effective system, where all land was owned by the King. One quarter was kept by the King as his personal property, some were given to the church and the rest was leased out under strict controls.

Feudal System works

Feudalism was based on certain principles. In medieval Europe, the weak and innocent people needed the help of a powerful man. The king was very weak. He could not save his subjects from the plunders of the foreign invaders. So, the common people turned to strong and powerful leaders who were mostly the descendants of the Dukes, Counts and Margraves to make their life and property safe.

The King: Leader of the Feudal System

The King was in complete control under the feudal system (at least nominally). He owned all the land in the country and decided to whom he would lease land. He therefore typically allowed tenants he could trust to lease land from him. However, before they were given any land they had to swear an oath of fealty to the King at all times. The men who leased land from the King were known as Barons, they were wealthy, powerful and had complete control of the land they leased from the King.

Barons: Executors of the Feudal System

Barons leased land from the King that was known as a manor. They were known as the Lord of the Manor and were in complete control of this land. They established their system of justice, minted their own money and set their taxes. In return for the land they had been given by the King, the Barons had to serve on the royal council, pay rent and provide the King with Knights for military service when he demanded it. They also had to provide lodging and food for the King and his court when they traveled around his realm. The Barons kept as much of their land as they wished for their use, then divided the rest among their Knights. Barons were very rich.


Knights were given land by a Baron in return for military service when demanded by the King. They also had to protect the Baron and his family, as well as the Manor, from attack. The Knights kept as much of the land as they wished for their personal use and distributed the rest to vassals (Peasants) (serfs). Although not as rich as the Barons, Knights were quite wealthy.


Peasants, sometimes known as serfs, were given land by Knights. They had to provide the Knight with free labor, food and service whenever it was demanded. Peasants had no rights. They were not allowed to leave the Manor and had to ask their Lord’s permission before they could marry. Peasants were poor.

The feudalism which flourished between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries began to decline towards the close of the thirteenth century in France and Italy. However, in other parts of Europe it continued to thrive for some time and ultimately disappeared only by 1500 A.D.

The main factors which contributed to the decline of feudalism were as follows:

Firstly, As Henry Martin has observed, “Feudalism concealed in its bosom the weapons with which it would be itself one day smitten”. Over time when the feudal lords began to assert themselves too much, the kings who headed the feudal hierarchy, thought of bringing them under control. In this task they received full support from the newly emerged middle classes and freemen who were not under the control of the lords.

The middle classes consisting of traders and businessmen provided the king with money with which they began to maintain independent armies. With the help of these armies they were able to bring the turbulent nobles under control. The discovery of gunpowder and weapons like cannons also greatly helped the kings to reduce the lords to subjection and reduced their dependence on them.

Secondly, the liberation of the serfs due to enormous growth in trade and commence also greatly contributed to the decline of feudalism. With the growth of trade and commerce many new cities and towns grew which provided new opportunities for work. The serfs got an opportunity to free themselves of the feudal lords by taking up work in the new towns. It may be observed that according to the existing feudal laws, a serf could become a freeman if he stayed away from the manor for more than one year.

Thirdly, the Crusades or the Holy wars also greatly contributed to the decline of the feudal system. As a result of these wars the Europeans learned the use of gun-powder from the Muslims. The discovery of gun-powder greatly undermined the importance of the feudal castles. As a result, it was no more possible for the feudal lords to take shelter in these castles and defy the authority of the king.

The Crusades also contributed to the decline of feudalism in another way. During the Crusade a large number of feudal lords lost their lives which gave a series set back to the feudal system. The Crusades contributed to the decline of feudalism in another way too. They opened up trade between Europe and the cities of Constantinople and Alexandria. As a result, commerce and industry in Europe received a fillip and many important cities developed. The merchants and artisans residing in these cities wished to free themselves from the control of feudal overlords.

Fourthly, the scarcity of labor force in Europe as a result of Black Death (which took a heavy toll of life in Europe) enhanced the bargaining powers of the serfs and rendered the feudal system weak.

Beginning of Renaissance

From Darkness to Light: The Renaissance Begins

During the Middle Ages, a period that took place between the fall of ancient Rome in 476 A.D. and the beginning of the 14th century, Europeans made few advances in science and art.

Also known as the “Dark Ages,” the era is often branded as a time of war, ignorance, famine and pandemics such as the Black Death.

The Renaissance was a fervent period of European cultural, artistic, political and economic “rebirth” following the Middle Ages. Generally described as taking place from the 14th century to the 17th century, the Renaissance promoted the rediscovery of classical philosophy, literature and art. Some of the greatest thinkers, authors, statesmen, scientists and artists in human history thrived during this era, while global exploration opened up new lands and cultures to European commerce. The Renaissance is credited with bridging the gap between the middle Ages and modern-day civilization.

Causes of Renaissance:

The following are the main factors that led to the rise of the Renaissance:

Rise of Intellectualism:

A large number of clergy, bureaucrats, lawyers and merchants encouraged the literacy as they needed some sort of education to carry government activities. People learned to read and write Latin and also vernacular languages. Therefore the 14th Century saw the rise of schools.

The common people sent their children to schools and also colleges to learn classics. The period saw the emergence of universities in Paris, Naples, Oxford, Cambridge, etc. This spread of knowledge created an innovative approach to thinking and learning.

Reintroduction of Classical Works

The dark ages saw the destruction of the many classical works of Europe. Many of these texts were slowly reintroduced into Europe by merchants and scholars, which were hidden in the churches and monasteries of the Byzantine Empire or the capitals of the Middle East. For instance, in 1396 an official academic post for teaching Greek was created in Florence. The man hired, Chrysoloras, brought with him a copy of Ptolemy’s “Geography” from the East.

Also, a huge number of Greek texts and scholars arrived in Europe with the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

The invention of the Printing Press

The invention of the printing press in 1440 was the game-changer. Finally, books could be mass-produced for far less money and time than the old handwritten methods. Ideas could be spread through libraries, booksellers, and schools in a way that weren’t possible before. The spread of books also encouraged the study of literature itself, allowing new ideas to spread and grow as many cities and nations began to establish universities and other schools.

Patronage of Rulers, Popes and Nobles

As the arts grew, artists needed wealthy patrons to support them, and Renaissance Italy was especially fertile ground. Political changes in the ruling class of Italy shortly before this period had led to the rulers of most of the major city-states being “new men” without much of a political history. They attempted to legitimize themselves with conspicuous investment in and public flaunting of art and architecture.

Also, the developing bureaucracies of Italy and the rest of Europe generated new demand for highly educated humanists to fill the ranks of governments and bureaucracies. A new political and economic class began to emerge.

The Crusades

The Crusades were expeditions of Christians, to reconquer the lost areas from infidels. The first crusade was launched in 1088 by Pope Urban. There were 7 more major and some minor crusades. The purpose was to take back Palestine from the Muslims. It was the land where Christ lived and died.

The Crusades failed in their religious purpose but brought in great effects in the culture and economic life of Europe. They encouraged trade and commerce, which made Italian state prosperous. There was contact with the Arab world. Scholars could bring back many texts which were lost, since the Roman Kingdom ended. They translated Greek and Arab writings. People discovered Aristotle’s classics and discussed his views. This encouraged a new era in learning. This contact with the new world brought in new ideas and gave an impetus to the Renaissance.

Similarly, geographical discoveries brought in a change in the outlook of Europeans. They developed a spirit of adventure spirit that encouraged the rise of the Renaissance.

Trade and Prosperity

Since the 11th Century, there developed trade and commercial relations with other areas. Thus there was a change of economy from agriculture to commerce. Secondly, due to commerce man shifted to towns from rural areas.

As is said, for any change the basic feature is economic. As long as economic life remained static, there was no Renaissance. As economic life became better there was an upsurge of art and literature. Prosperity was the cause. Trade and prosperity brought leisure.

In an agricultural economy man is throughout busy. He has no time and energy to appreciate art. But with the change of economy people got more money, which they could spend on patronizing renaissance art and literature.

New Wealth and the Black Death

In the middle of the 14th century, the Black Death swept across Europe, killing perhaps a third of the population. While devastating, the survivors found themselves better off financially and socially, with the same wealth spread among fewer people. This was especially true in Italy, where social mobility was much greater.

This new wealth was often was spent lavishly on arts, culture, and artisanal goods, much like the rulers above them had done before them. Also, the merchant classes of regional powers like Italy saw a great increase in their wealth from their role in trade. This new mercantile class spawned an entirely new financial industry to manage their wealth, generating additional economic and social growth.

War and Peace

Periods of both peace and war have been credited with allowing the Renaissance to spread and become a European phenomenon. The end of the Hundred Years War between England and France in 1453 allowed Renaissance ideas to penetrate these nations as resources once consumed by war instead were funneled into the arts and sciences. By contrast, the Great Italian Wars of the early 16th century allowed Renaissance ideas to spread to France as its armies invaded Italy repeatedly over 50 years.

Humanism Emerges

Renaissance humanism was a new manner of thinking and approaching the world, based on a new form of curriculum for those learning. It has been called the earliest expression of the Renaissance and is described as both a product and a cause of the movement. Humanist thinkers challenged the mindset of the previously dominant school of scholarly thought, Scholasticism, as well as the Catholic Church, allowing the new thinking to develop.

Impact of Renaissance

The results of the Renaissance were far-reaching. This gave birth to new literature, art and science.

Social Effects

Improvement in the condition of Women: The condition of women, especially from the upper class improved due to Renaissance. They started taking education and showed interest in social, economic and political life. The period saw the rise of women scholars like Cassandra, Varano, Vittoria, etc. The women also changed the way of clothing and fashion. They started using wigs and showed special attention to the jewelry of diamonds.

Manners and Etiquette: Under the influence of the Renaissance, people developed new table manners. They also made spices an indispensable part of their food. They also developed Etiquette of Conversation. The people interacted with the scholars, poets and musicians with more intimacy. The women were accorded special treatment in social gatherings.

Decline in Morality: One of the negative impacts of the Renaissance was that the social experience in the decline in the moral standard of the people. The people had started questioning the ways of the church and became more materialists. They adopted foul means to become rich. Even the artists tried to dupe the innocent people. The period saw the writings like the Prince by Machiavelli which encouraged the kings to adopt the corrupt means to
maintain their rule. Cheating, robbery, murder, and theft increased during the Renaissance period.

Cultural Effects

Development of Literature: The Renaissance encouraged the vernacular and national languages. High-class literature was produced in the languages of masses like in Italian, French, English, Spanish, German, Dutch, etc. Similarly, deep study was undertaken in the literature of Latin and Greek. The world-famous writers like Dante, Petrarch, Boccacio, Machiavelli, Chaucer, More, Shakespeare, Erasmus, Luther, etc. emerged.

Development of Fine Arts: The effect of Renaissance was most revealed in the field of Fine Arts. The Paining got new life. It was nearer to the real-life situation. Experiments were made with different hues of color. Similarly, the science of architecture and sculpturing made tremendous progress. The music was also enriched under the Influence of the Renaissance. Renaissance gave the artists of repute like Leonardo, Michaelanglo, Raphel, Titani, Gilbarti, Beck, etc.

Scientific inventions and Discoveries: Renaissance inculcated the spirit of rationality and experimentation. It led to many scientific discoveries and inventions. Kapler, Galilieo and Copernicus made many geographical and space discoveries. Newton wrote new physical laws. Similarly achievements were made in the field of chemistry, medical science, and physics.

Geographical Discoveries: Columbus, Vasco di Gama, Magellan made geographical discoveries under the spirit of the Renaissance. New tread routes were discovered to the Asian and African countries and new continents of South America, North America and Australia were discovered.

Economic Effects

Development of Trade and Commerce: The people became materialists and this wordily under the influence of the Renaissance. It encouraged trade and commerce. It led to the rise of mercantilism in Europe.

Rise of Industry and Capitalist System: With the rise of trade and commerce, the industry and capitalism also flourished. The rich class started earning huge profits. They exploited the workers and the condition of workers became miserable.

Colonialism: With the rise of trade, commerce and industry, the European countries needed areas for procuring raw material and markets to sell their finished goods. It led to the rise of colonialism.

Political Effect

Rise of Strong Monarchies: Renaissance brought forth the ideal of strong Roman Monarchs. It led to the rise of strong monarchies in Europe. On the one hand it reduced the importance of the Church and on the other hand national states like England, France, Austria and Prussia emerged.

Change in Warfare: With the discovery of gun powders and the invention of guns and mortars the scene of the battlefield changed. The forts lost its importance as the secured places as they could not stand the barge of gun fires.

Encouragement to Virtue Less Politics: It brought to the forth the ideal of opportunism in the field of politics. The Prince of Machiavelli became the bible of the kings who adopted all the wrong and right means to maintain their rule. It led to anarchy when the monarchies became oppressive.

Pre-industrial Europe

Pre-industrial Europe

Pre-industrial society refers to social attributes and forms of political and cultural organizations that were prevalent before the advent of the Industrial Revolution, which occurred from 1750 to 1850. Pre-industrial is a time before there were machines and tools to help perform tasks en masse. Pre-industrial civilization dates back to centuries ago, but the main era known as the Pre-Industrial Society occurred right before the industrial society. Pre-Industrial societies vary from region to region depending on the culture of a given area or history of social and political life. Europe is known for its feudal system and medieval era.

The main attributes of Pre-industrial Europe-

  • Limited production
  • Extreme agricultural economy
  • Limited division of labor. In pre-industrial societies, production was relatively simple, and the number of specialized crafts was limited.
  • Limited variation of social classes
  • Parochialism—Communications were limited between communities in pre-industrial societies. Few had the opportunity to see or hear beyond their village. In contrast, industrial societies grew with the help of faster means of communication, having more information at hand about the world, allowing knowledge transfer and cultural diffusion between them.
  • Populations grew at substantial rates.
  • Social classes: peasants and lords.
  • Subsistence level of living.
  • Population dependent on peasants for food.
  • People were in villages rather than in cities.

Agricultural Revolution

Agricultural Revolution

Historians have often labeled the first Agricultural Revolution (which took place around 10,000 B.C.) as the period of transition from a hunting-and-gathering society to one based on stationary farming. During the 18th century, another Agricultural Revolution took place when European agriculture shifted from the techniques of the past.

  • The British Agricultural Revolution was the result of the complex interaction of social, economic and farming technology changes. Major developments and innovations include.
  • Norfolk four-course crop rotation: Fodder crops, particularly turnips and clover, replaced leaving the land fallow.
  • The Dutch improved the Chinese plow so that it could be pulled with fewer oxen or horses.
  • Enclosure: the removal of common rights to establish exclusive ownership of land
  • Development of a national market free of tariffs, tolls and customs barriers
  • Transportation infrastructures, such as improved roads, canals, and later, railways
  • Land conversion, land drains and reclamation
  • Increase in farm size
  • Selective breeding

Its impact on Industrial Revolution

Agricultural revolution in the century after 1750, each agricultural worker produced more food, so the proportion of the workforce in agriculture fell. This falling proportion of workers in agriculture enabled the proportion of working in industry and services to rise: in other words, improved agricultural production made the industrial revolution possible, and many would regard the industrial revolution as the beginning of the modern world. By 1850 only 22 percent of the British workforce was in agriculture; the smallest proportion for any country in the world.

Exactly how those working on the land were able to produce more food remains something of a mystery. More animal power was available to English farmers than to their counterparts elsewhere and from the 1820s and 30s a wide variety of machinery was developed, which was particularly important for improving the efficiency of the cutting and threshing of grain. The improvement in labor productivity, however, had begun long before this.

The key probably lies in the way the English workforce was organized and employed. The development of agrarian capitalism in England, with those involved in agriculture divided into landowners, capitalist tenant farmers and laborers saw the development of better farm management and more efficiency in using the workforce.

Factors that led to the Industrial Revolution

Expanding Commerce Affects Industry

Commerce and industry have always been closely related. Sometimes one is ahead and sometimes the other, but the one behind is always trying to catch up. Beginning in about 1400, world commerce grew and changed so greatly that the term “commercial revolution” is used to describe the economic progress of the next three and a half centuries.

Many factors helped bring about this revolution in trade. The Crusades opened up the riches of the East to Western Europe. America was discovered, and European nations began to acquire rich colonies there and elsewhere. New trade routes were opened. The strong central governments which replaced the feudal system began to protect and help their merchants. Trading firms, such as the British East India Company, were chartered by governments. Larger ships were built, and flourishing cities grew up.

With the expansion of trade, more money was needed. Large-scale commerce could not be carried on by barter, as much of the earlier trade had been. Gold and silver from the New World helped meet this need. Banks and credit systems developed. By the end of the 17th century, Europe had a large accumulation of capital. Money had to be available before machinery and steam engines could come into wide use for they were costly to manufacture and install.

By 1750 large quantities of goods were being exchanged among the European nations, and there was a demand for more goods than were being produced. England was the leading commercial nation, and the manufacture of cloth was its leading industry.

Organizing Production: From Cottage Industry to Factory System

In the cottage industry, for most of the workers belonged to the class of farm laborers known as cotters and carried on the work in their cottages. This system of industry had several advantages over older systems. It gave the merchant a large supply of manufactured articles at a low price. It also enabled him to order the kinds of items that he needed for his markets. It employed every member of a craft worker’s family and gave jobs to skilled workers who had no capital to start businesses for themselves.

A few merchants who had enough capital had gone a step further. They brought workers together under one roof and supplied them with spinning wheels and looms or with the implements of other trades (Factory System). These establishments were factories that were a precursor to the Industrial Revolution.

Why did the Industrial Revolution start in England?

By the end of the 19th century, the island of Great Britain controlled the largest empire in the history of the world (one-quarter of the world’s landmass). How did this little island come to rule an empire? How did Great Britain acquire so much military and economic power in the world? The answer, of course, is that it had an enormous commercial and technological head start over the rest of the world because the Industrial Revolution started in England.

But why did the Industrial Revolution occur first in England and not somewhere else in the world? What qualities – political, economic, cultural, geographical, or ecological – did Britain possess that predisposed it towards early industrialization? Or to put the question another way: what was missing in other countries so that their industrialization was either delayed until the second half of the nineteenth century, or indeed had failed to occur by the century’s end at all?

Following are the major factors responsible:

World Trade

World Trade gradually increased in the centuries before the Industrial Revolution and provided European countries access to raw materials and a market for goods. It also increased wealth that could then be loaned by banks to finance more industrial expansion in an upward spiral of economic growth. By 1500, Europe had a technological supremacy over the rest of the world in shipbuilding, navigation, and metallurgy (metalworking). In successive years, European countries would use these advantages to dominate world trade with Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

Availability of Capital

The vast amount of capital that England had accumulated out of profits of her growing trade enabled her to make large outlays on machinery and buildings, which in turn contributed to new technological developments.

Also, England possessed a large amount of loanable capital obtained by the Bank of England from the rich trade of other countries. This capital also helped England to steal a march over other European countries.

The practical bent of mind of the English Researchers

Another factor which contributed to England’s lead in the technological revolution was that the English scientists and engineers had a very practical bent of mind. They made inventions keeping in view the needs of the time.

They concentrated mainly on those inventions of science which had practical utility. This was in complete contrast to the continental scientists who concentrated on research in electricity; chemicals etc. which were not of immediate applied relevance.

Small population

The small size of England’s population, which could not cope with England’s growing trade, also necessitated that new devices should be found out to keep production in line with the growing demand.

This is best exemplified by the changes in the textile industry as well as the coal industry. The shortage of the labor force compelled; the owners to encourage and apply new mechanical devices.

Social and political stability

Britain not only enjoyed complete freedom of trade but also an insular position which saved her from the disastrous consequences of war, which ravaged the countries of Europe.

This social stability prevailing in England encouraged the people to invest in sectors where they could hope to receive a high dividend in the future. This led to the adoption of new techniques and the promotion of new industries.

The availability of coal and iron mines close to each other

The location of the coal and iron mines close to each other encouraged the English to evolve new techniques for the manufacture of iron and utilization of the coals. It is well known that the availability of coal and iron ores in large quantities greatly helped the growth of numerous industries in England.

The need for large quantities of coal for smelting of iron ores, transportation etc. necessitated improvement in the techniques of coal mining. Metal cages and tubs were used to lift coal. Even the use of wire ropes for lifting coal was started a little later. Engines were invented to pump out the water from the mines.

The agricultural revolution

In Britain, the agricultural revolution had already taken place which greatly transformed the English society. It not only made available necessary raw materials to run the new industries but also provided a large number of agricultural laborers for employment in the new factories.

Presence of enterprising people

Finally, the technological changes in England were made possible because of the presence of a sizable section of people who possessed enterprising spirit and requisite technical qualities.

Further this class of people also possessed organizing abilities and was accustomed to the handling of large enterprises and the labor force. These people were willing to invest money for the discovery of new techniques and give a fair trial to these techniques.

Risk-taking Private Sector

The presence of a sizable private sector in the country with the great capacity of the individual businessmen to take risks also greatly contributed to the industrial revolution. These business-men were willing to take a chance on new things. In this way they were also supported by the government.

Better means of transport

England possessed a far better network of means of transportation than any other country of Europe which greatly helped the industrial revolution. In this task the government played an important role which spent a considerable amount on the improvement of roads and construction of canals.

Geographical location

The geographical location of England also greatly helped in the industrial revolution. Being cut-off from the mainland of Europe, England remained immune from wars and upheavals of Napoleonic conflicts and conditions remained quite stable in the country. These stable conditions enabled England to develop its industrial capacity without fear of battle, damage or loss of life.

Flexibility of English social and political system

Above all the flexibility of the English social and political system also greatly contributed to the industrial revolution in England.

The members of the upper classes in Britain, unlike their counterparts in the continent, pursued their wealth in the new industrial framework with great enthusiasm. They worked in close cooperation with the middle classes and artisans which greatly facilitated the industrial revolution.

In short, we can say that in comparison to other European countries England was more favorably placed in many respects and no wonder stole lead over them in the field of technological revolution and industrialization.

Impact of the Industrial Revolution

Impact of Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution had far-reaching impacts on the socio-economic and political aspects of Europe. Which later spread to the Americas and Asia (Japan).

Social Impacts

In the social sphere also, the industrial revolution produced far-reaching consequences. In the first place, the growth of the factory system resulted in the growth of new cities. Workers shifted to places near the factories where they were employed.

New cities like Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield in Britain, which became the centers of industry, trade and commerce. With the industrialisation the pace of urbanization also accelerated.

Secondly, the rise of cities was accompanied by the growth of squatters and slums. As a large number of workers had to be provided accommodation, long rows of small one-room houses without better civic amenities.

With the emergence of new factories and growth in population the problem assumed more serious dimensions. The factory owners were mainly concentrated in amassing great fortunes and hardly paid any attention to the welfare and well-being of their workers. This resulted in workers fell easy prey to various types of diseases and often died premature deaths.

Thirdly, the extremely low wages paid by the factory owners made it difficult for workers to
meet their basic needs.
As a consequence, they were often obliged to send their women and children to factories, where they also worked on extremely low wages. Thus the child labor emerged as a social evil.

The industrialists preferred women and children also because they were easy to manage and worked at lower wages than men. This initiated inequality in wages which is still prevalent in other parts of the world.

Fourthly, as the women were required to work in factories and mines for long hours and were
unable to look after their family and children
. As they lived in extremely congested quarters they also lost their qualities of modesty and virtues.

Fifthly, the industrial revolution led to sharp divisions in society. Society got divided into two classes-the the bourgeois and the proletariat. The former consisted of factory owners, great bankers, small industrialists, merchants and professional men. They amassed great wealth and paid very low wages to the workers.

The other class consisted of laborers who merely worked as tools in the factories. Over time a lot of the capitalist classes went on improving and that of the working classes went on deteriorating. This caused great social disharmony and gave rise to sharp conflict between the capitalists and the workers. Which later gave spark to the rise of communism and socialism.

Political Impact

In the political sphere also, the industrial revolution had a far-reaching impact.

In the first place it led to imperialism and colonization of Asia and Africa. Great Britain and other industrial countries of Europe started colonizing the countries of Asia and Africa for raw materials to feed their factories and ready markets for their factory products.

Secondly, the industrial revolution sharply divided the countries viz. developed (industrialized countries) and developing (colonies of industrial countries which gained independence after a prolonged struggle).

Thirdly, the Industrial Revolution provided a precursor to the reform movement in England. With this movement the concept of welfare state emerged all over Europe.

The Chartist Movement was launched to demand reforms for improving the lot of workers and for the introduction of universal suffrage, secret voting, equal electoral districts, no property qualifications for membership, payment of members, and annual elections.

Though these demands did not receive a favorable response from the government over time these demands were conceded one by one. In this way we can say that the Industrial Revolution strengthened forces of democracy in England.

Fourthly, the industrial revolution led to the development of the trade union movement.

Initially the English law forbade these unions but later they were accorded recognition by law in 1824. However, the trade unions could not prove effective as they were divided and lacked national unity. The General Federation of British Trade Union was established to have friendly relations with the unions of other European countries.

Thus, by the close of the nineteenth century, the trade unions came to occupy an important position in the political and economic structure of the society.

Finally, the industrial revolution paved the way for the development of new social and economic doctrines.

On the one hand philosophers like Adam Smith, Malthus, Ricardo and James Mill defended the capitalist system and wanted the state to abstain from interfering in the economic and social sphere.

On the other hand, Robert Owen, Karl Marx, William Godwin, Proudhon, etc. advocated creed of socialism and insisted that the whole society ought to strive for the improvement of the moral and physical standards of the people.

Industrialization is the process of developing industries that use machines to produce goods. This process not only revolutionizes a country’s economy, but it also transforms social conditions and class structures.

Global impact of the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution shifted the world balance of power. It increased competition between industrialized nations and poverty in less-developed nations.

Rise of Global Inequality: Industrialization widened the wealth gap between industrialized and non-industrialized countries, even while it strengthened their economic ties. To keep factories running and workers fed, industrialized countries required a steady supply of raw materials from less-developed lands. In turn, industrialized countries viewed poor countries as markets for their manufactured products.

Britain led in exploiting its overseas colonies for resources and markets. Soon other European countries, the United States, Russia, and Japan followed Britain’s lead, seizing colonies for their economic resources. Imperialism, the policy of extending one country’s rule over many other lands, gave even more power and wealth to these already wealthy nations. Imperialism was born out of the cycle of industrialization, the need for resources to supply the factories of Europe, and the development of new markets around the world.

Transformation of Society Between 1700 and 1900, revolutions in agriculture, production, transportation, and communication changed the lives of people in Western Europe and the United States. Industrialization gave Europe tremendous economic power.

In contrast, the economies of Asia and Africa were still based on agriculture and small workshops. Industrialization revolutionized every aspect of society, from daily life to life expectancy. Despite the hardships early urban workers suffered, population, health, and wealth eventually rose dramatically in all industrialized countries. The development of a middle class created great opportunities for education and democratic participation. Greater democratic participation, in turn, fueled a powerful movement for social reform.

In industrialized countries in the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution opened a wide gap between the rich and the poor. Business leaders believed that governments should stay out of business and economic affairs. Reformers, however, felt that governments needed to play an active role to improve conditions for the poor. Workers also demanded more rights and protection. They formed labor unions to increase their influence.

The term laissez-faire refers to the economic policy of letting owners of industry and business set working conditions without interference. This policy favors a free market unregulated by the government. The term is French for “let do,” and by extension, “let people do as they please.”

Adam Smith, a professor at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, defended the idea of a free economy, or free markets, in his 1776 book The Wealth of Nations. According to Smith, economic liberty guaranteed economic progress.

As a result, the government should not interfere. Smith’s arguments rested on what he called the three natural laws of economics:

  • the law of self-interest—People work for their own good.
  • the law of competition—Competition forces people to make a better product.
  • the law of supply and demand—Enough goods would be produced at the lowest possible price to meet demand in a market economy.
The Economists of Capitalism

Smith’s basic ideas were supported by British economists Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo. Like Smith, they believed that natural laws governed economic life. Their important ideas were the foundation of laissez-faire capitalism.

Capitalism is an economic system in which the factors of production are privately owned and money is invested in business ventures to make a profit. These ideas also helped bring about the Industrial Revolution.

The Rise of Socialism

In contrast to laissez-faire philosophy, which advised governments to leave business alone, other theorists believed that governments should intervene. These thinkers believed that wealthy people or the government must take action to improve people’s lives.

Carl Marx: Radical Socialism/Communism

Also known as Marxism. The Communist Manifesto In their manifesto, Marx and Engels argued that human societies have always been divided into warring classes. In their own time, these were the middle class “haves” or employers, called the bourgeoisie, and the “have-nots” or workers, called the proletariat. While the wealthy controlled the means of producing goods, the poor performed backbreaking labor under terrible conditions.

According to Marx and Engels, the Industrial Revolution had enriched the wealthy and impoverished the poor.


Note- Almost from the beginning, reform movements arose in response to the negative impact of industrialization. These reforms included improving the workplace and extending the right to vote to working-class men. The same impulse toward reform, along with the ideals of the French Revolution, also helped to end slavery and promote new rights for women and children.

Economic Effects of the Industrial Revolution
  • New inventions and development of factories
  • A rapidly growing industry in the 1800s
  • Increased production and higher demand for raw materials
  • Growth of worldwide trade
  • Population explosion and expanding labor force
  • Exploitation of mineral resources
  • Highly developed banking and investment system
  • Advances in transportation, agriculture, and communication
Social Effects of the Industrial Revolution
  • Increase in population of cities
  • Lack of city planning
  • Loss of family stability
  • Expansion of middle class
  • Harsh conditions for laborers, including children
  • Workers’ progress versus laissez-faire economic attitudes
  • Improved standard of living
  • Creation of new jobs
  • Encouragement of technological progress
Political Effects of the Industrial Revolution
  • Child labor laws to end abuses
  • Reformers urging equal distribution of wealth
  • Trade unions formed
  • Social reform movements, such as utilitarianism, utopianism, socialism, and Marxism
  • Reform bills in Parliament and Congress


Sharing is caring!