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The Industrial Revolution (1750 - 1900s)

Updated on November 24, 2013

Positive and Negative Effects of the Industrial Revolution

Positive effects brought on by the Industrial Revolution are “improvements in agriculture [that] led to a significant increase in food production. An increase in the population during the “second half of the eighteenth century provided a surplus of labor for new [British] factories”. By two centuries of trade a “rapid increase in the nation’s wealth” also transformed the British society. “Foreign markets gave British industrialists a ready outlet for their manufactured goods [and] British exports quadrupled between 1660 and 1760”. Also, Great Britain had a steady and unlimited supply of “mineral sources” needed for “technological innovations” such as the steam engine and since “the success of the steam engine increases the demand for coal [it] led to an expansion of coal production”. “In turn, new processes using coal furthered the development of an iron industry, the production of machinery, and the invention of the railroad”.

The negative aspects of the Industrial Revolution as seen by critics are “the high costs involved, from growing inequality and environmental pollution to the dehumanization of everyday life. Already in the nineteenth century, German philosopher Karl Marx charged that factory labor had reduced workers to a mere “appendage of the machine”, and the English writer Charles Dickens described in his novels an urban environment of factories, smoke, and ashes that seemed an apparition of Dante’s Hell”.

Aspects of the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution (1750-1900s), “began on the British Isles at the end of the eighteenth century and spread steadily throughout the world during the next two hundred years. The Industrial Revolution was unquestionably one of the most important factors in laying the foundation of the modern world; it not only transformed the economic means of production and distribution, but also altered the political systems, the social institutions and values, and the intellectual and cultural life of all the societies that it touched. The impact was not only massive but controversial as well”.

The Factories Impact on Workers Lives

In 1844, Berlin, Germany, strict regulations were set in place that governed the workmen in factories during the Industrial Revolution. The work day started at 6 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m. with a half hour break for breakfast, hour break for dinner, and half hour break for tea; penalities of arriving 2 minutes late would result in losing a half hours wages, and “repeated irregular arrival at work shall lead to dismissal” as well as drunkeness, disobedience or even those “found idling”. Also, “all conversation with fellow-workers is prohibited”. From 1870-1890, wages increased and consumer costs decreased making worker’s lives and budgets at leisure.

Industrialization and Urbanization: Women's Statuses

The statuses of women during the Industrial Revolution during the nineteenth century had changed. “Under the impact of the Industrial Revolution, which created a wide variety of service and white-collar jobs, women began to accept employment as clerks, typists, secretaries, and sales clerks. Compulsory education opened the door to new opportunities in the medical and teaching professions”. Although… “most women remained confined to their traditional roles of homemaking and child bearing [and] the less fortunate were still compelled to undertake marginal work at home as domestic servants or as pieceworkers in sweatshops”. And “during much of the nineteenth century, many women adhered to the ideal of femininity”.

Industrial Revolution

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Industrialization vs. Agriculture

"In 1800, America was still a predominantly agragarian society, as six out of every seven workers were farmers. Sixty years later, only half of all workers were farmers, yet the total population had grown from 5 to 30 million people, larger than Great Britain itself”. "The working classes constituted almost 80 percent of the population of Europe. In rural areas, many of these people were landholding peasants, agricultural laborers, and sharecroppers, especially in easter Europe. Only about 10 percent of the British population worked in agriculture, however; in Germany, the figure was 25 percent”.

Kitchen Stove and Bathrooms, Late 19th Century
Kitchen Stove and Bathrooms, Late 19th Century | Source

Works Cited

Duiker, W. (2010). Contemporary World History, 5th Ed. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. pp. 2-3, 8-9.


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