Tom Kemp hailed the Industrial Revolution as a “transformation of a traditional agrarian economy into an urban society based on machine technology”. The industrialized societies of France, Britain and Germany saw a revolution marked by various economic, social and political changes which varied in their relative importance and lasting consequences on European society. In examining the separate effects of the Industrial Revolution on a pre-industrialized society marked by primitive technology and a lack of specialization, we must bear in mind that the process of industrialization had varied effects in different countries. Through an evaluation of the various differences, we will see that although these factors were often harmonized in creating the overall impact of industrialization, differences like the introduction of the factory system and the improvement in transports and communications had the most far reaching impact on European society.
The introduction of the factory system into Europe pronounced the most significant change in the era of industrialization. The mechanization of the manufacturing process was a basic characteristic of the revolution, with the use of machinery exploiting new sources of productive energy and the power of air and water harnesses replacing animal labour. This was developed on a large scale in Britain for manufacturing in the 18th century, which was blessed with an abundance of coal that provided the pioneers of industrialization with raw material, and had a royal navy that maintained political security that stimulated business enterprise. As a result, textiles and mining were among the first branches of the economy that felt the effects of mechanical invention in Britain and came under the factory system. Technological advances like the fly shuttle and the spinning jenny contributed to the advance of the factory system as these were too bulky and expensive for home use and only suitable for large, coordinated output. All these meant that factories in Manchester, Paris and the Rhineland now became the microcosm of a larger, revolutionized system of job specialization, regimentation and massive increases in production. This had two major consequences.
Firstly, the factory system changed the organization of labour radically. In the past, workers lived on the basis of the subsistence system, with unsophisticated tools, cottage industries and hereditary land ownership meant that there was little upward mobility. Now, there was an uprooting of countless peasants from their villages to factories as technological inventions created the need for factories and private ownership introduced a greater incentive for effort by the profit motive. Secondly, the factory system also led to an increase in production that led to improvements in the material well being of society. Previously, trade was limited, and demand was often concentrated to the villages where guilds controlled wage systems and production. People could choose the number of hours and days they could work at home. However with the factory system, it created the possibility of meeting the demand for consumer goods on a large-scale basis, and the community entered the era of mass consumption. Export trade was encouraged in order to find new markets for produced goods, leading to commercial missions in foreign countries and the conquest of territories, which would contribute to new imperialism later on The factory system was the most significant difference between pre-industrialized and industrialized society because it meant a restructuring of traditional working culture and had slight spillover effects on the political state of countries, opening them up to other borders and making political relations more unbalanced and precarious. It moved European society on a path towards rapid modernization by contributing high growth rates in terms of production, which no other factor could achieve to such a large extent.
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Another of the more important differences between pre-industrialized and industrialized society was the far-reaching demographic and social consequence. These were significant as they altered relationships among individuals and classes. The first category of social consequence was in their effect of changing people’s lives. T.S Ashton put it right in proclaiming “The outstanding feature of the social history of the period the thing that above all others distinguishes the age from its predecessors- was the rapid growth of population.” Between 1870 and 1914, the population of Europe doubled, rising from 290 to 435 million. Germany’s population grew from 41 million 1871 to 65 million by 1911. Advances in medical science also meant that there was a longer life expectancy. Ms Anderson pointed out, “a growing population meant a growing market and the possibility of growing profits, and this helped to encourage investment of all kinds.” Secondly, exploitation which affected the lives of workers also occurred in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, where children were made to work up to 16 hours a day for 1 shilling a week, and conditions were harsh. As Peter S. Jones asserted, “the way of life was often wretched: the working day in France was often fourteen or fifteen hours compared with thirteen hours in Germany.” However, later on this led to the establishment of labour unions, which alleviated the plight of the exploited workers through the creation of laws and regulations, enforcement of regulations for safety and security. At the end of the century, unionism was no longer a matter of sporadic and temporary association and was beginning to appear as a political movement, contributing to the spread of nationalism and other ideologies. Thus, an important difference was that industrialized society changed the way of living for the people living in urban areas and their lifestyles, and also set a mode of laws (trade unions) for the future working order of society.
The second category of social changes lay in the alteration of people’s attitudes. The standard of living had improved, where mass production meant that almost every person could own goods like silk blouses or radios previously restricted to the wealthier classes. Better communications, advance in science also improved conditions in which they lived. However, the adverse side was that this also meant the growth of materialism and consumerism, where rapid improvements in boat keeping, recording shopping led to giant department stores and mail order catalog spending market which altered people’s spending habits. There were also changes in class structure, where the businessmen and manufacturers were now able to make inroads into regions previously controlled by privileged aristocracy, and this rise of the middle class meant that they experienced upward mobility, which was reflected in the rich homes constructed, and the department stores named after Ciano and Emil. We can see from this that the people of industrialized society bore different social attitudes and habits in their lifestyles and a newfound awareness about their new status in society, more power was given to the lower sectors compared to before. However, there were limitations for this factor. The standard of the living did not really increase for the normal working class, and there were large variations in wage levels, with better pay for the coal miners. The rapid growth of cities also meant that there was overcrowding, brutal working conditions, and life expectancy went below 40 years in Britain and Germany. The rise of the middle class was also restricted, as the elites in the army were still aristocrats, and they still controlled much of the power of the army. Despite this, it was still a breakthrough from the past where the lower classes were not enrolled in the army.
The intellectual results of industrialization were also a fundamental gap between pre-industrialized and industrialized societies. In the past society, people held on to their religion for their faith. However, with urbanization and the factory system, Europe saw the proliferation of large urban centres with a new factory proletariat. This gave rise to the development of working class consciousness, where according to Peter S. Jones they were “united by a common sense of manual labour and exploitation, and increasingly by the common fate of wage earning which was potentially revolutionary.” In this instance, economic power translated to political power. This could be seen as a blessing as they became more aware of their rights, but in the long run this also led to social segregation. Industrialization also fermented many other doctrines and ideologies arising because of the exploitation of workers in factories, supporting and criticizing the newly emerging society like J S Mill’s humanitarian liberalism, and Marxism. William Carr put forward that “dynastic loyalties were crumbling and religious beliefs were fading fast, nationalism supplied a brand new social cement to hold society together.” Eric Hobsbawn even mentioned “the small craft workers of Vienna sacrificed their religious practices, ‘transferring their faith to socialism.’” Secularization of society with the transfer of faith to socialism led to breakdown of normal controls that had prevailed in the more traditional society of the countryside, with strikes and rebellions spreading through the country. Economic theory, like Adam Smith and the theory of laissez faire, and the classical theories of David Ricardo and Thomas Malthus flourished, with a stimulation of scientific interests, questioning the state of affairs and a change of emphasis on logic and practicalities. Thus, industrialized society differed greatly from pre-industrialized society in terms of intellectual and cultural thought, and this was important because it affected their way of life, political interests and behavior, and also the move away from religion towards logic. This was a vast difference from the past society, as they had begun to question the state of affairs in their current society, and take action for the kind of society they envisioned in mind, which was rarer in rural society which tend to follow the line of religion in their daily lives.
The advancement of transport and communications was also one of the notable differences of both societies, and indeed there was an intricate link, for improvements in transport of freight were at the heart of improved industrial performance. Previously, it took a long time to travel from one part of Germany to the other, and international trade was hindered by the lack of communication systems. Now, there were new methods of distribution of goods with the improvements to roads and canals, with the British waterways and German autobahns, and Samuel Conard founded the first great steamship enterprise. Transmission of information also improved as the need to exchange information over distant points increased. This gave rise to the electric telegraph, and later the telephone and radio, which aided communications considerably. The increase in production and improvement of distribution transformed the economy of Europe, making it easier to exchange raw materials and manufactured goods, and also led to the expansion of trade, as perishable goods could now be transported long distance. Economic specialization was also made possible, as goods could now be made in one country and transported to the rest of the world. All these contributed to the prosperity of the middle class and a new style of business, where before the industrial revolution, most work gangs like slaves in the mines and agricultural plantations had been relatively unspecialized. Industrialization also led to an increase in the output of goods that required a new system of management and investment. A new professional class of managers emerged, which concentrated on merchandising rather than output, methods of financing became complex, and there was the development of banking. Banks and similar institutions played a greater role in Germany as developers and directors of industry, and in France, the investment habit spread and made Paris the leading financial continental centre. This contributed to providing capital for further industrialization. The improvement in transport and communications thus led to greater efficiency, better links between countries, and greater prosperity, and was a significant difference between pre-industrialized and industrialized society. However, some felt that this factor was not so significant as a difference as railways did not revolutionize French economy until 1842, and the pace of development was too slow and the effects sporadic. Thus we can conclude that this factor actually only became more important later on in the industrial revolution.
The Industrial Revolution also transformed the face of Europe by creating an economic need for urbanization. In the past, 64% of the people were localized in rural areas, relying on agriculture for a living. However, with industrialization bringing forth dramatic growth, manufacturing came to be concentrated in urban centers, markets for rural manufactured goods disappeared, and investment capital concentrated in and on the edge of cities due to the factory system. This led to the migration of thousands from East Prussia to Berlin and the industrialized Ruhr Valley, and cities such as Paris grew from 1 to 1.9 million, London from 2.5 to 3.9 million. Migration within Europe itself was also significant, France for example had migrants from Italy. This had many adverse consequences: the towns had ghastly living conditions, with overcrowded houses and appalling sanitary conditions. There was also a new way of life, as urban environment became a new matrix of new ideas and ideals in European society. The city became an undisputed centre of cultural life. The rise of the metropolis also created problems which mankind had never faced before. For example, the popularization of the automobile created problems, and social segregation became more pronounced. However, urbanization was not one of the chief changes of the Industrial Revolution as it had also taken place before the industrial revolution, with albeit a less rapid speed, of the movement of peoples from villages to the cities. The Industrial Revolution merely hastened the speed of such migration, and made it more diversified compared to the old inner-country migration witnessed in the past.
The difference in the political scene before and after the Industrial Revolution was less significant because the influence from industrialization was more indirect, with a weak link on the development of World War 1 in the long run. In the short run, there was the emergence of strong military European powers, thus increasing national pride. Industrialization led to the development of new forms of transport and weapons technology, boosting their military capabilities and allowed them to dominate weaker parties, increasing their international pride and prestige. International relations also improved in the short run, as Brinton commented, “the industrial revolution bound nations closer together by stimulation international trade between countries and lowering the barriers of distance through improved transport and communication.” Increased production led to more commerce and closer international ties. The emergency loan granted to England by the Bank of France in 1825, only a decade after Waterloo is an example of increased co-operation in post-industrial Europe. However, industrialization also paved the way for new imperialism, for the race for raw materials. With newly acquired military and economic superiority, Britain set to colonize Malaya and Burma, France colonized Indochina, and Germany colonized Namibia. This gave them international prestige, but in the long run the rivalry and tension led to the outbreak of World War 1. The race to develop advanced weapons, like Maxim’s machine gun, led to an arms race which brought closer the possibility of a world war. However, this change is more often than not far fetched and exaggerated, as new imperialism had occurred long before the Industrial Revolution with Britain colonizing India, and it was more of political enmity and dissent that fortified the arms race rather than the cause of the weapons themselves, it is too far a link to join industrialization with the later eruption of the world war. At best, we can conclude that it did bring countries closer together through world trade, but the rest would be more reserved for political intrigue.
The agricultural revolution was also one of the less obvious changes that derived its impact from the Industrial Revolution. Before, almost all production in manufacturing and agriculture relied on one equipment powered by people or draft animals, with some small assistance from waterwheels. Animals were often utilized for plowing, technology was primitive and production was labour intensive. Production operations centered on the household, with collaboration and specialization among ten or fewer people. However with the rationalization of husbandry, there was the consolidation of small and scattered parcels of land, held individually or communally. In Britain this was known as the enclosure movement. There was also the application of scientific knowledge to husbandry, and the invention of mechanical devices like the seed drill by Jethro Tull and crop rotation by Viscount Charles Townsend. The expansion of farm production also led to reduced famine and a high degree of specialization in farming. This phenomenon meant that a smaller proportion of population was involved in agriculture without compromising on output. By 1870, Britain produced 300% more output but only 14% of the people worked on the land. This improved harvest meant that there was an increase in real income and purchasing power, thus leading to a greater demand for mass manufactured goods and stimulating further industrial growth. However, the Agricultural Revolution had actually already begun before the Industrial Revolution, and the emphasis still lay in the factories at the heart of cities, and not in the rural areas. Thus the change was more of an addition of technological tools and organization for agriculture, but it was less outstanding compared to the differences in other economic and social aspects of society like the factory system.
Based on the analysis of the points above, the more important differences between a pre-industrialized society and industrialized society lay in the factory system, the social consequences on society in the change of lifestyle and attitudes, transport and communications, and intellectual developments. There were more venial changes in the form of urbanization, political changes, and agricultural developments, but the former overshadowed them. Of all these changes, the factory system was the most significant change as it introduced a new structure of the economy, a new way of life which in fact was the rationale for improved transport and communications, urbanization, which in turn also gave rise to the social consequences, intellectual developments, political changes etc. What really marked the difference between both societies was not so much a change in population structure, or production, but rather a revolutionizing of thought and lifestyle, which was to have spillover effects on every other sector, and as Mokyr suitably puts, “In two centuries daily life changed more than the 7000 years before.” All these contributed to make the Industrial Revolution the turning point of the century.
Chong Siew Lin Grace
Dear Ms. Tan,
Forgive me for the lack of a bibliography! My computer crashed and I have lost all my quotes lists and essays to draw back where all my sources came from! *heh :P