Causes and Origin of the First Industrial Revolution: Analytical Essay

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Appearing on the world manufacturing scene with a bang and a puff of black smoke, the Industrial Revolution marked a pivotal moment in global history. Though the idea was initially scorned by some, such as Indian nationalist and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi, who preferred the small-scale handicraft of earlier centuries, the concept soon took hold. Before long, industrialization spread from its origin, Britain, to countries as far away as the United States.

The Industrial Revolution took place between the years 1750 and 1900. Drawing deeply upon influences from the prior Scientific Revolution, it transformed the economic structure of Europe completely in a breakthrough not seen since the Agricultural Revolution some 12,000 years earlier. The Industrial Revolution was an increase in efficiency in production brought about by the use of machines and characterized by the use of new energy sources. It was the human response to the mounting energy dilemma as wood and charcoal, the major industrial fuels of the time, dwindled. Though at the time this new advance might have seemed like the solution to all mankind’s problems, it would later wreak tremendous havoc on the fragile equilibrium of the environment, tipping our planet towards the harsh reality of global warming we must face today.

Early theories attempting to explain the place of origin of the Industrial Revolution nominate a certain facet of culture, or history, or society unique to Europe as the answer. However, such theories can be refuted by the simple fact that other areas of the world, such as the Islamic world and China, have also experienced times of great scientific and technological innovation. Europe did not enjoy an economic advantage; nor was it exceptionally compatible with industrial development, as proved by the rapid spread of the idea into many parts of the world.

As a result, historians today are inclined toward the conclusion that the answer to their question lies in two interrelated factors many small, competitive states established a constant state of innovation, unlike the larger Chinese, Ottoman, or Mughal empires. Secondly, the absence of a stable tax system as well as a need for money pushed monarchs of European states to form an unusual relationship with their merchants. Consequently, support of commerce and innovation was in these monarchs’ best interest.

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Then, if Europe had conditions worthy of incubating the legendary Industrial Revolution, why did it all begin in Britain, and not in some other European country?

Firstly, Britain was the most commercialized of Europe’s larger countries. Additionally, the success of the Scientific Revolution had instilled in Englishmen a new confidence to push forward. Unlike other places, Britain did not have the Catholic Church breathing down their necks, ready to quash any “heretical” findings. Nevertheless, it was a natural occurrence that was their greatest advantage of all. Britain had a ready supply of coal and iron ore, which was often conveniently located close to each other and within easy reach of major industrial centers.

After these new and advanced scientific developments, British society underwent significant changes. The Industrial Revolution completely destroyed many of the old ways of living, yet did not reform them. For instance, the British aristocracy went into decline as urban wealth became more important. By the end of the century, landownership was no longer the sole criterion for the wealthy person. As for the middle classes, which contained people such as wealthy factory and mine owners, they benefited the most from industrialization. Additionally, as Britain’s industrial economy matured, a large lower middle class was born. In it were considered occupations such as clerks, police, and secretaries.

The majority of the population, however, were neither aristocrats nor members of the middle class. They were the laboring classes, and they suffered most from the transformations brought about by the Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution also created a need for social and political change and ignited unrest within the general populace. Many people moved to urban areas in search of employment and money. Children, too, began to work in factories, where they were exploited and ill-treated.

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