In the ocean of modern history, there is a significant period between 1750 and 1914: The Industrial Revolution. During this period, the society and economic conditions had been influenced a lot by the major changes in agriculture, handicraft industry, manufacturing, transportation and technology. It was also a term that from agricultural and commercial society to modern industrial society.
There were two revolutions during the middle of 18th century to the early of 20th century. The First Industrial Revolution, which began in the United Kingdom, mainly contributed to human’s manufacturing from rural handicraft industry to urban machine-driven manufacturing industry.
At that time, steam was the major power of manufacturing machine, which provided increasingly routine and specialization of production. Next, the Second Industrial Revolution, which based on the appearance of electricity, led society into automatic age. Although the Industrial Revolution brought a dramatic increase in people’s productivity, it also caused some political problems to our modern society. This essay will present some prerequisites for an industrial revolution. Moreover, the potential benefit and drawback of the industrial revolution will be discussed in this essay.
It is not accidental that the first industrial revolution began in Britain; that is, Britain provided the prerequisites for an industrial revolution. Firstly, the highly commercialized economic system, which spawned a huge market in Britain, was one of the premises for an industrial revolution. Strayer(2011) claims, “ A series of agricultural innovations—crop rotation, selective breeding of animals, lighter plow, higher-yielding seed—increased agricultural output, keep food prices low, and freed up labor from the countryside”(p. 831). These innovations in agricultural manufacture drove more people to be willing to purchase the agricultural products.
Furthermore, the Britain patricians at that time showed their interest in the business among the world; in the meanwhile, some of the patricians were involving in mining and manufacturing business (p. 831). Secondly, the political policy in Britain, which stimulated the reform of economic and commercialization, provided the catalyst for the industrial revolution.
“The British government favored men of business with tariffs to keep out cheap Indian textiles, with laws that made it easy to form companies and to forbid workers’ unions, with roads and canals that helped create a unified internal market, and with patent laws that served to protect the interest of inventors”(Strayer, 2011, p. 831). Besides, the bourgeois used the state power to carry out the policies and measures to develop the capitalism, which promoted the rapid formation of the prerequisites for the industrial revolution.
Thirdly, the technical innovation in Britain also resulted in the industrial revolution. In addition to democracy, there is a fundamental condition for the occurrence of the industrial revolution—scientific revolution. Scientific Revolution included the revolution of scientific system, technological invention, and the philosophy. From the Renaissance, the scientific revolution in Europe, technological inventions emerged one by one, to lay the technical foundation for the industrial revolution.
People generally believed that the steam engine, coke, iron and steel technology are the four main factors that enable the accelerated development of the industrial revolution. Before Watt improved the steam engine, the power of production depended on human labor and animals. With the invention and improvement of steam engine, factories not longer built by the river and steam.
Moreover, a lot of work relies on manual labor had been replaced by mechanized production. Ashton(1948) states, “It was not only gadgets, however, but innovation of various kinds—in agriculture, transport, manufacture, trade, and finance—that surged up with a suddenness for which it is difficult to find a parallel at any other time or place”(p. 58). The industrial revolution brought both positive and negative consequences to the world. The Industrial Revolution not only brought human to machine age but the tremendous development of productive forces.
Beard(1936) claims that “The story of mechanical development, from the wooden canoe of primitive man to the modern 16,000 tons trans-Atlantic steamship, from the distaff to the marvellous spinning jenny, with its myriads of swiftly-flying fingers, possesses a fascination in itself; but it is the effect of this development upon the labour and life of the people which gives it a deep and abiding interest to the student of social questions”(p.24). Moreover, the Industrial Revolution caused changes in social structure, resulting in two antagonistic classes.
In one hand, bourgeois gradually overcame the feudal forces and seized power; in the other hand, proletarian gradually began to be conscious and fight against bourgeois. However, the Industrial Revolution also caused some drawbacks. Proletariat suffered the growing exploitation and oppression, which cause the unemployment and social problems such as the growing gap between the wealth and the poor.
Furthermore, it speeded up the process of semi-colonial among the colonies in backward areas such as Asia, Africa and made the people there suffer from the seriously plundering. In conclusion, the highly commercialized economic system, the democratic politic policy and the technical innovation offered the seedbed for British industrial revolution. Although the industrial revolution enforced the productive force and changed the social structure in Britain, it also caused some disadvantages such as the exploitation and oppression among proletariat.
In my opinion, the world would not be better if all the societies industrialized. Because industrialization needs a highly commercialized market and not every societies meet this requirement. Moreover, it is difficult for societies with huge number of population because it would cause the growing of an aging population.
References Strayer. (2011). Revolutions of Industrialization, 1750-1914. Ways of the World: A brief global history with sources. pp. 825-875. C. Breard. (1936). The Industrial Revolution. London: George Allen & Unwin ltd. Museun Street. T. S. Ashton. (1948). The Industrial Revolution, 1760-1830. London: Oxford University Press, New York Toronto.