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Industrial Revolution : Causes, Merits, Demerits

The term 'Industrial Revolution' was used by European scholars - Georges Michelet in France and Friedrich Engels in Germany. It was used to describe the changes that occurred in the industrial development of England between 1760 and 1820.

Industrial Revolution


The term 'Industrial Revolution' was used by European scholars - Georges Michelet in France and Friedrich Engels in Germany. It was used to describe the changes that occurred in the industrial development of England between 1760 and 1820. The Industrial Revolution had far-reaching effects in England. Subsequently, similar changes occurred in European countries and in the U.S.A. the Industrial Revolution had a major impact on the society and economy of these countries and also on the rest of the world.


This phase of industrial development in England is strongly associated with new machinery and technologies. These made it possible to produce goods on a massive scale compared to handicraft and handloom industries. There were changes in the cotton and iron industries. Steam, a new source of power, began to be used on a wide scale in British industries. Its use led to faster forms of transportation by ships and railways. Industrialisation led to greater prosperity for some, but in the initial stages many people including women and children had experienced poor living and working conditions. This sparked off protests and the government was forced to enact laws to improve the conditions of workers.


Causes for the Industrial Revolution

England's advantageous geographical location.


The precedence of agricultural revolution.


New inventions and the introduction of machinery.


The enterprising spirit of British entrepreneurs.


Growth of capital in England.


Colonial possessions of England, which supplied raw materials and served as markets

Scientific Inventions


Textile Machinery


The primary cause of the Industrial Revolution was the scientific inventions. The earliest mechanical inventions came in the textile industry. Spinning was the slowest process in the manufacturing of cloth. The invention of flying shuttle by Kay in 1733 improved weaving. In 1764, Hargreaves invented the 'spinning jenny'. This machine could spin eight threads at the same time, instead of one. Arkwright improved the 'spinning jenny' in 1769. Compton improved it still further in 1779. In 1785, Cartwright invented the power loom. Whitney, an American, speeded up the process (1792) with a cotton gin, which automatically removed seeds from the fiber of the cotton. The invention of the sewing machine by Elias Howe, in 1846, accelerated the production of clothing and made possible the modern clothing industry. Thus, one invention followed another, not only in textile industries but also in many others. In this way, the present-day complex machinery has evolved.

Steam Engine

Heavy machinery could not function with out power to operate it. The invention of the steam engine provided the practical solution. The first practical application of steam to machinery was made by James Watt in 1765. He devised the first closed cylinder with a piston pushed back and forth by steam. This has been extensively used in textile machinery.

Development of Transport


There is a close relationship between the development of industry and improvement in transportation. Industrializaion depends largely on the bringing of raw materials to factories and on the disposing of manufactured goods in a wide market. As late as the 17th century, highways were poorly kept. A pack horse was the only possible means of travel on land. In the second half of the 18thcentury, John McAdam (1756-1836) built a type of hard-surfaced road in England. The only important change made in this method was the substitution of a tar composition for mud as a binder. France copied the English methods, and under the patronage of the government many highways were built.


The heavy expenses involved in the building and upkeep of highway encouraged the development of inland waterways. During the second half of the 18th century and the early part of the 19th century thousands of miles of artificial water route were dug in England, in France, and in the United Slates. In 1761, a canal was built in England from Worsley to Manchester to carry coal from the mines to the furnaces.


There were serious drawbacks in the river and canal transportation. The rate of travel was slow and the expense of construction and maintenance was high. Geographical factors limited


the extent to which water transportation could be utilized. Railroads provided a solution for these problems. The first tracks were made of wood and the first cars were horse drawn, but the introduction of iron for rails and the application of Watt's steam engine for traction power revolutionized the whole procedure. George Stephenson constructed the first practical locomotive in 1814.The Stockton and Darlington railroad started operation in England in 1825. The era of railroads had begun.



Modern transportation and business enterprises are much dependent on rapid and efficient communication. Before the perfection of the telegraph, carrier pigeons and semaphores were the speediest methods available. The electric telegraph depended upon earlier basic researches made by Faraday, Volta, Ampere, and Franklin. It was invented independently in Germany, England, and the United States, by Steinheil, Wheatstone, and Morse, respectively. Telegraphic equipment was widely installed after 1845. A cable from America to Europe was laid under the Atlantic Ocean in 1866. By the close of the 19th century, all the important commercial centers in the world had telegraphic communications. The penny post was established in 1840. The Universal Postal Union, to aid international mail service, was adopted in 1875. Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876.



In industry, transportation, social activities, amusements, and cultural pursuits, artificial light plays a very important role. In 1784, a burner was devised for oil lamps, which was later used for kerosene lamps. Gas for artificial illumination was introduced and widely used by the middle of the 19th century. Davy, in 1821, worked out the theory of the electric arc. Edison, in 1879 invented the electric bulb.


Iron and Steel


The coal and iron industries replaced old technologies of wood, water and wind. In 1709 Darby introduced coal for charcoal in blast furnace. John Smeaton invented the blast furnace with a rotary fan. For the new machinery, a better grade than ordinary cast iron was needed. Henry Cord and Peter Onions introduced puddling and rolling Process in 1784. In 1740 steel was produced at Sheffield by Huntsman. Later, Henry Bessemer invented a faster and cheaper method of producing steel. The first iron bridge was constructed in 1777. EDISON The first iron ship was made in 1790.


Merits of Industrial Revolution




The factory system introduced by the Industrial Revolution created cities and urban centres. In England, cities like Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, and Sheffield arose. People left their rural homes and gathered around these cities by the hundreds and thousands in quest of work and wages. The population of Manchester increased six fold within a half century.



The introduction of power machinery rapidly increased production of goods.


Intellectual Movement


The intellectual encouragement had also been great. Schools, colleges, newspapers, libraries, and the radio had been dependent on the capitalistic system for their rapid development. Many intellectual like Marx, St. Simon emerged as a result of the Industrial Revolution.


Large Employment


The starting of new industries provided employment to many men and women.


Demerits of Industrial Revolution


New Social Problems


The rapid growth of industrial cities created problems that were difficult to solve. Accommodation, sanitation, and health were not provided adequately. Sickness and crime prevailed. Women and children were employed for cheap labour. They worked for 12 to 14 hours per day.




The establishment of the factory system increased the amount of money in circulation. However, money concentrated in the hands of a few people.


Class Division


The Industrial Revolution divided society into two distinct groups: the rich middle class (bourgeoisie), composed of manufacturers, merchants, mine owners, bankers, and professional men, on the one hand, and the wage-earning class (proletariat), composed of mill workers and factory workers, on the other. This gap between employer and employee gave rise to many economic and social problems.


Growth of Colonialism and Imperialism


The Industrial Revolution had strengthened colonialism because the colonies were useful to obtain raw materials and sell the finished products. So, larger territories were captured thus paving way for imperialism.

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