Impact of the Industrial Revolution: Positive or Negative?
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Industrial Revolution transformed the social and economic structure of Europe. The period of the Industrial Revolution produced a quantum leap in industrial production and a shift from the home and workshop to the factory. The Revolution relied heavily on coal and steam, which replaced wind and water as new sources of energy and power. Although the Industrial Revolution took decades to spread, it was truly revolutionary in the way it fundamentally changed Europeans and ultimately the world. Historians have often been enthusiastic or pessimistic about the impact of early industrialization. The Industrial Revolution can be interpreted as mostly negatively impacting the lives of working people, and on the political, economic, and social environment in Britain.
Historians with a positive outlook on the Industrial Revolution believe Britain was ready to industrialize. In Britain, there was a food surplus, access to water for power, domestic manufacturing, wealth, and a demand for mass production. Britain was the first country to industrialize in the 1780’s. Improvements in agricultural practices led to a significant increase in food production. British agriculture could now feed more people, at lower prices, and with less labor. Ordinary British families did not have to spend most of their income to buy food, which gave them the opportunity to purchase manufactured goods. A crucial factor in Britain’s successful industrialization was the ability to produce articles in demand cheaply.
Another perceived advantage was the rapid population growth which provided surplus labor for the new factories. Eventually the Industrial Revolution changed the social life of Britain and parts of the world. This change was evident in the first half of the nineteenth century in the growth of cities and emergence of new social classes. Population...