The period of eighteenth century was characterized by several developments in Europe. One of the key developments during this period was industrial revolution. Industrialization began in the second phase of eighteenth century. “Industrial Revolution was a period from 18th to the 19thcentury when major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the socio economic and cultural conditions of the times” (Hudson 3).
Britain took a lead in Industrial Revolution and from this place it spread to other nations in Europe. The idea of industrialization later spread to North America and it eventually reached Asia and Africa. Industrial revolution brought drastic changes which influenced many aspects of mankind. For instance, there was a remarkable population growth and the level of economic production also improved. The mode of production also changed. In this case there was a shift from the use of human labor to the use of machines and modern tools.
Causes of Industrial Revolution
Several factors accounted for the onset of industrial revolution in Britain and they include the following. Availability of raw materials from the colonies overseas boosted industrial production in Britain. The British government had established several colonies and it always exploited them economically.
For example, Britain got many raw materials from India which served as one of its prime colonies. Britain was also endowed with a lot of natural resources. For example, it had minerals like iron, tin, and copper. In addition to these, it had coal which was used for driving engines in the factories (Licht 23).
Availability of capital enabled Britain to invest in industries. Capital was derived from many sources. For example, they generated revenues from colonies inform of taxes. Part of this revenue was invested in industrial production of goods. Financial markets also provided loans to entrepreneurs.
Political stability also kept Britain safe from social economic upheavals. In 18th century a wave of nationalism was quickly spreading in many territories in Europe. Unlike other European countries that had political instability, Britain remained politically stable for a long time. The peaceful environment therefore gave the investors enough confidence to participate in economic investments. Britain had a strong naval power which insulated it from external invasions that would probably interfere with its investments.
Agrarian revolution that preceded industrial revolution was also an important factor in the sense that it boosted the production of agricultural raw materials. For example, cash crops and dairy products promoted the development of agriculturally based factories.
Availability of efficient modes of transportation enabled Britain to participate actively both in local and international commerce. Britain developed good transportation networks. For example, it had good sea transport that made it possible for it to import raw materials, and at the same time it exported finished products to overseas markets. Road and railway networks were also constructed in Britain and they facilitated the supply of raw materials to factories, and finished goods to markets.
Scientific revolution introduced new concepts and skills. During the18th century many people were preoccupied with making new discoveries which led to the invention of several machines and tools. In addition to these factors, trade also played a decisive role in this process.
Since there existed a high demand for the new finished products trading activities also increased and several products were transported to overseas markets. The finished goods fetched good prices in the international markets. The sale of goods overseas improved profit margins of the industries. The profits were further reinvested in industrial development.
The invention of the modern machines and other items was not a simple process as many people may think. It was a gradual process which was characterized by a series of experiments that were conducted over a long period of time.
The scientists and entrepreneurs who are today accredited for these inventions faced myriad challenges. Some of them even died in the process of conducting the experiments. In some cases they even faced criticism from individuals who were opposed to them. During the industrial revolution many items were invented and they included the following.
First, there was improvement of machines. The making modern tools encouraged the development of factory equipment. Chemicals such as acids and alkalis were produced and they facilitated the manufacturing of other items. “Steam power was used both in mines and in factories” (Hudson 150). The textile industry was among the first mechanized factories. This was done through the construction of the spinning jenny.
Effects of Industrial Revolution
One of the social developments that emerged during this period was urbanization. Most of the places that had industries attracted huge populations and social amenities were also developed. This is because many people went looking for labor in factories. Urban centers therefore emerged. For example, Manchester city emerged because of industrialization (Engels 134).
Child labor became wide spread because of many reasons. Education opportunities were still minimal at this time and many children were given the responsibility of working. Children were often exploited by employers and they were paid very little money compared to adults, for equal work done.
Since child labor was more economical, many employers used it and it was quite common especially during the early period of industrialization. Poor working conditions coupled with long working hours really affected the health of children. Some of them contracted fatal diseases, while others were hurt in the factories. Most of them ended up dying at an early age.
Housing units for the industrial workers were inmost cases very poor. Many people who worked in the industries lived in deplorable conditions. They mostly lived in crowded slums which did not have basic social services. The squalid conditions in the slums often led to perennial outbreak of diseases like cholera which claimed many lives. Because of these problems strikes and job boycotts were prevalent among the workers who demanded for better services and working conditions.
Loss of labor also occurred with the invention of new machines. People who worked as artists or weavers lost their jobs considerably because they could not compete with machines. These led to serious protests against industrialists. The attackers were called luddites.
Trade unions were formed out of the need to come up with a bargaining power. The trade unions always served the interests of the workers and they aimed at making working conditions better. For example, they could bargain for the improvement of working conditions.
The standards of living generally varied depending on an individual’s social class. People who had meager wages led miserable lifestyles, while those who had stable incomes had improved lifestyles because they could buy new goods. The employers generally enjoyed life because they had a lot of resources.
Industrial Revolution uplifted the economy of Britain and it emerged as the richest country in the 18th century. Since it got a lot of income from trade, it was able to expand its investments to other territories. Banks and other financial institutions developed tremendously. However, there was a huge economic set back in the colonies which were over exploited by the colonialists.
Industrial revolution was characterized by capitalism which brought about saturation of markets due to over production which could not much the level of demand. As the markets for goods reduced, trade barriers were introduced by various countries in order to safeguard their markets. European powers therefore had to seek colonies in order to get more markets. “This is what led to colonization of Africa and Asia in the 19th century” (Hudson 189).
Industrial revolution was a gradual process which was affected by many challenges. Industrial revolution indeed brought many improvements in the life of mankind. This process did not come to an end at the beginning of the new century, but it continued spreading to other places.
Today many countries still strive to achieve their long term dream of getting industrialized. Sophisticated items and machines are currently being invented. I therefore envisage a better future for the human race because of the high rate of technological advancement.
Engels, Friedrich. The condition of the working class in Britain. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Hudson, Pat. The industrial revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Licht, Walter. Industrializing America: the nineteenth century (the American moment). New York: Wiley, 1995.