The history of industrialization dates back to the period beginning from around 1760 up until its peak in the mid 1800s and it is historically known as the industrial revolution. The epicenter of industrialization in the west was Britain from where it later spread to other regions across Western Europe and America. The era of industrialization is significant to world history because it is characterized by a series of technological, cultural, and social transformations.
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Some historians have observed that “in two centuries daily life changed more than it had in the 7,000 years before” (Goldstone 350). Consequently, the impact of industrialization on western history cannot be underestimated. Industrialization in Western Europe preceded other historically significant events in the region such as the Renaissance and democracy. Industrialization was responsible for bringing new fortunes and power in the West.
However, industrialization was also responsible for immense changes in people’s lives. While some people assumed the position of master capitalists and captains of industry, others took positions as factory workers in the era of industrialization. Industrialization is important to Western history because it changed how people lived and worked whilst giving rise to several social revolutions.
Industrialization is responsible for instituting various changes in the resources that people depended on. By the 1900s, countries had increased their gross domestic product levels by tremendous amounts. For instance, the Gross National Product of America had increased eightfold over a period of fifty years beginning in the 1850s. The resources of the western world were abundant and this meant that the growing number of industries could manage to obtain enough raw materials to keep them operational (Engels 87).
Consequently, people could concentrate on sourcing raw materials while they bought them back as finished products. This type of diversity gave individuals the liberty to work on various fields other than agriculture. This production aspect changed the world’s economic landscape. Currently, focus is on producing knowledge-based products under digital technology, the last mile in industrial revolution.
Another historical impact of industrialization was the need to link regions using elaborate transport systems. Before industrialization, transport systems were limited to trade routes. On most occasions, the trade routes did not go beyond eastern and western hemispheres. In addition, most trade routes were limited to waterways because there were no enough resources to finance the construction of major transit-routes.
The constraints of industrialization and the need for raw materials meant that most resources were in the largely uninhabited West while most industries and labor were found in the East. Consequently, countries such as America found it imperative to construct railroads that would link the resource-rich West to the rest of the country. Construction of railroads in the West began in earnest due to the resources that were made available by industrialization.
However, the finished railroads served various purposes including necessitating the emergence of racially diverse settlements such as California in Western United States. California traces its origins to the gold rush that occurred as a result of industrialization.
The British society was among the first social organizations to experience first-hand effects of industrialization. Consequently, the common man of the western industrialization era was encountering problems that had not been dealt with before. For the first time in history, the working population made up 80% of the Western population during the era of industrialization (Inglehart 999). In addition, even though workers were the majority, they had no power to bargain with their employers.
The working conditions of the industrialization era were very poor but this situation was informed by the preceding factors. Before industrialization, most people in the west worked in farms under the feudal systems. The conditions in these farms were very repressive except for the wealthy landowners who enjoyed great freedoms at the expense of the ordinary workers. Therefore, industrialization presented individuals with a chance to break away from the feudal system of agriculture and earn direct income from their labor.
In other parts of the West such as the United States, there were no feudal systems but slavery and cheap plantation labor were in full force. Consequently, the freed slaves and other migrant workers found it favorable to work in factories and railroad constructions where there was more freedom and better pay. The abolition of slavery in the United States coincided with the peak of industrialization.
Consequently, there was an influx of motivated labor from the freed slaves who were willing to work for low wages as long their freedom was guaranteed. This development explains why the United States was able to overtake Britain and become the leading industrial nation in the world (Foster 56). When industrialization began in Europe, the supply of labor was more than its demand.
The workers had to compete for positions that could guarantee constant employment. All these social patterns are responsible for various changes that occurred in the Western World involving labor laws and democracy.
The institution of industrialization is responsible for the introduction of democracy in the Western society. The initial working conditions of the working class population during the industrial revolution meant that this portion of population could not unionize or vote.
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The British Empire passed a law in 1799 that prohibited workers from forming unions that could advocate for their rights or air their grievances. In the subsequent years, the workers began feeling immense pressure because the prosperity of the capitalist class continued to multiply due to the labor input of the working class. On the other hand, the industry owners’ newly found wealth enabled them to have more influence on the political class.
The tensions that began with the industrial revolution as a result of inequality between the working class and industry leaders continued to mutate into subsequent revolutions some of which are still ongoing. The first revolution that was directly related to industrialization was the labor-revolution. The working class in various places across Europe and America such as Britain, France, and the United States felt that their efforts were important to industrialization.
Henceforth, the labor revolution sought to achieve various goals including safe working conditions for workers, minimum wages for factory employees, the right to form labor unions, and the regulation of working hours among other objectives. The labor revolution has left an indelible mark on the Western history because its effects have lasted for more than two centuries. For instance, the state of California in the United States is still debating about the effects of imposing minimum wages on the economy.
Industrialization was also responsible for several branches of the Civil Movement in the United States. Some of the most visible aspects of gender and racial inequality were manifested through the working environments of the industrialization era. For instance, by 1930s women and minority populations were paid less to work in factories across the United States.
In addition, women and minority races could not hold positions above men and other majority races. This form of discrimination was first visible in factory floors and it was later extended to democratic elements such as voting privileges. Before industrialization, inequalities between various social groups were attributed to societal positioning. However, it was only after the advent of industrialization when personal fortunes began being attributed to labor inputs.
Industrialization is responsible for changing the way people live and settle all across the world. Urbanization is one of the concepts that have changed the history of the world and it is a direct consequence of industrialization (Fraser 123). Currently, over half of the world’s population lives in urban centers and this number is still rising. Nevertheless, the current state of urban centers is completely different from that of the towns in the 1800s.
In the first 50 years of industrial revolution, the quality of life in urban centers was quite deplorable. Consequently, most regions in the Western world have made considerable efforts towards the improvement of their urban centers since the 1900s. The recognition of urban centers as independent administrative units is an example of the impacts of industrialization. Furthermore, government provision of housing facilities in urban centers was only possible after industrialization.
Industrialization has changed the landscape of Western history in a number of ways. However, most of these changes have a lot to do with social welfare. Industrialization is responsible for the shift from agricultural production to resource extraction.
On the other hand, the need to interconnect various regions through elaborate transport systems has persisted since the advent of industrialization. Several past and ongoing revolutions owe their origins to the industrial revolution. It is also important to note, that without industrialization the modern urban centers would be non-existent.
Engels, Frederick. The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844, New York: Frederick Engels, 2015. Print.
Foster, John. Class struggle and the industrial revolution: early industrial capitalism in three English towns, New York: Routledge, 2003. Print.
Fraser, Derek. The evolution of the British welfare state: a history of social policy since the Industrial Revolution, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Print.
Goldstone, Jack. “Efflorescences and economic growth in world history: rethinking the” Rise of the West” and the Industrial Revolution.” Journal of World History 13.2 (2002): 323-389. Print.
Inglehart, Ronald. “The silent revolution in Europe: Intergenerational change in post-industrial societies.” American political science review 65.04 (1971): 991-1017. Print.