The Industrial Revolution was an enormous transformation, which altered the methods of production and distribution in society. It revolutionized all the economic functions of society and paved the way for production without total dependency on human energy. In this paper, I will examine the preconditions and key factors that contributed to the Industrial Revolution. I will also discuss the impact, both economic and social, that the Industrial Revolution had on society. In addition, I will endeavour to demonstrate that the Industrial Revolution, while it did have some positive aspects, has ultimately had a negative impact on a global scale, which in turn has created a number of humanitarian and ecological problems that are still encountered in the present day.
Up until the 18th century, the landowning class had been the dominant class in political and social life. England was considered a relatively wealthy country and was the first nation to develop a mass consumer market in order to satisfy the needs of the bourgeoisie class. The rising pressure of demand inspired many to seek out new techniques of increasing production. As an incentive to encourage the development of the arts, prizes were awarded to those who discovered new inventions.
In 1760, three quarters of the workers in England were agricultural labourers (Beard, 1969: p. 4). Agricultural life during this period in England was considered good. Feudal serfs had protection of their feudal lord, food was abundant and wages could be earned during the winter months by spinning, weaving and lace making. Virtually all the necessities of life at that time were produced without the assistance of machinery. Villages were self-sufficient because they were able to produce and prepare their own food, clothing and shelter. Life was simpler and the struggle for existence was not so prevalent. However, feudalism was on the decline and there was a clear shift from feudalism into mercantilism. The first integration of merchant activity with the manorial system began with the idea of the putting out system. In the putting out system, the merchant, who would obtain the raw materials, would deliver the materials to the serf, who would in turn produce the goods and return the finished items to the merchant for selling. This method of producing became widely popular as it provided an opportunity for women and children of the household to participate in the production process and accumulate more wealth. This type of arrangement proved to be very successful and gave rise to the idea of the nuclear family, because it allowed families to support themselves without assistance from extended family. As such, there was a large increase in these domestic factories.
As the mercantile class rose, the land owning class’ power began to decline. The land owning class, as a means of holding onto their power, appealed to the state to pass a law that would eliminate the use of common areas of arable...