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Industrial Revolution Impact on European Society Essay

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Updated: Oct 14th, 2021

The later part of the eighteenth century saw the ushering in of the Industrial Revolution which commenced in England and rapidly spread throughout Western Europe and North America. The writings and speeches of French political activist, Louis August Blanqui, and Frederich Engels, a German social scientist, predicted such a movement, but English economic historian, Arnold Toynbee, is credited for having coined and popularized the term as detailing its outcome. Many historians attribute its origin to the outgrowth of institutional and social changes escalated by the deterioration of feudalism in England due to the English Civil war in the 17th century. Ecology, government, religion, and culture are contributing factors to why the Revolution initially gained momentum in Western society as opposed to large eastern countries such as China and India. The Revolution, which marked a major turning point in human society, encompassed a shift from a predominantly handcraft/agrarian society to one by dominated technology and industry (machine manufacturing, etc.).

England was the foundational prototype, trademark, and impetus for what would subsequently take place in Western Europe, North America, and the rest of the world. Most importantly, England was at the forefront due to the greater liberalization of trade generated by a large merchant base which allowed her to produce and use more emerging scientific and technological equipment. This transition, evidenced by tremendous modifications in manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, and production, had a profound impact on everyday life from a socioeconomic and cultural standpoint.

Technological innovation was at the core of this era. The mechanization of the textile industries minimized manual labour and maximized a manufactured based economy. Fueled primarily by coal, powered machinery such as the internal steam combustion steam engine and power generator catapulted production capacity. Advanced iron-making techniques, all-metal machine tools, and refined use of coal personified the scientific revolution correspondingly taking place at the time. Inventions such as these originated primarily out of Western Europe and North America. Trade expansion underpinned by improved railways and roads as well as the introduction of canals and steam-powered ships advanced technological and economic progress. Such expansion was the impetus for a commercial revolution – a revolution epitomized by a growing surplus capital and infrastructure as evidenced by developments in banking, shipping, joint-stock companies and insurance. Modern economic capitalism has its roots in the innovations created by the Industrial Revolution.

This transition, evidenced by tremendous modifications in manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, and production, had a profound impact on everyday life from a socio-economic and cultural standpoint. Industrialization gave rise to a unique urban way of life. It is from this infrastructure that the middle class arose. With urbanization on the rise, much emphasis was placed on educating the masses about culture via the visual arts. The four notable forms of visual expression which reflect the impact of this period of time were in the genres of painting/drawing, architecture, arts and crafts as well as photography. The joys of everyday life and the rise of the middle class brought on by industrialization/ modernization embodied the Industrial Revolution and this could be seen via impressionistic paintings /drawings. Intellectual paradigms such as Marxism/communism, romanticism, capitalism, to name a few, came to fruition during this era. Whichever the case, the impact of the Industrial Revolution was colossal and lasting until this day.

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