Role of Industrialization in Modern Europe


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Industrialisation was a slow transformation that took place in Europe during the first half of the nineteenth century. It affected many people and countries. Lots of areas of society and the economy improved during this time for example banking, transportation and communication all changed for the better. ‘Western Europe underwent a period of rapid urbanization’ (Merriman, 1996, p.669). The population grew so the manufacturing industry had to change and improve in order to keep up with demand. Before industrialisation people earned less than they paid for food. During industrialisation people began to make up this difference by working longer hours and more days in a year, and by women and children also going to work. (Riley, 2001, p.261).

There were developments before industrialisation, which helped to pave the way for the changes of the nineteenth century. Starting in the eighteenth century there was a rise in population in Europe. This paved the way for industrialisation because ‘as the population expanded, demand increased for manufactured goods.’ (Merriman, 1996, p.669). More people started to work in industry and manufacturers began to use bigger factories to increase production. There was also more agricultural productivity, which was needed for the bigger population. There are several ways that industrialisation can be recognised. There is often an increase in manufactured goods due to the population expansion and urbanisation. This shows that number of people living in towns and cities grew faster than the percentage of people living outside of the main areas of production. (Merriman, 1996, p.669). However other historians are of the opinion that industrial production started to take place in the countryside before the recognised beginning of the Industrial Revolution. (Houston, 2001, p.154). Developments in transportation meant that it was easier for raw materials to be moved from one area of a country to a different place to be made useful. This meant there was an increase in markets. There were lots of new inventions, which harnessed ‘the power of steam’ this was a big step in paving the way for industrialisation. (Briggs, 2002). There were many improvements in industry. For example mechanised production made the process of manufacture quicker. The division of labour was another important part because different people did different specific tasks during production instead of making the entire product by themselves. This sped up production because lots of the same products could be made at the same time.

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Industrialisation affected many different areas. It affected the rural unemployment. More people were moving into the bigger towns and cities so some old industries died away due to the lack of money to finance them and the decrease in workers. Industrialisation effected the population distribution because industrial suburbs were developed on the outskirts of towns and cities. ‘Towns generated wealth by marketing the products of agriculture and commerce’. (Houston, 2001, p.153). Migrants within the towns began to band together in little areas. Industrialisation had a good impact on communications because it encouraged development. Ports became very important to distribute goods abroad. They were linked to the bigger inland cities and resources by railways. The countries were more inter-connected by these new rail networks. People were able to go holiday to the coast for the first time. However there were some negative aspects to industrialisation such as the work conditions. Female labour was harsh for women, who did not have private incomes, or who did not have the luxury of a rich husband; women only had 3 options other than being a wife and mother. They could work in a textiles factory, domestic service as a maid or as a prostitute. Women were looked at as being below men so it didn’t matter if they were ill or had hardly enough to live on. Child labour also existed, Children were used as chimney sweeps because they were small enough to get right up inside to clean the chimney. There were also very bad conditions in the workhouses where people went when they had nowhere else to go.

The country that everyone associates with the industrial revolution firstly is Britain. The industrial revolution only affected North West Europe, mainly because there already existed an industrial base, which made it easier to improve upon. However within these states there were regions that were more touched than others by the industrial revolution. The dense population and urbanisation were advantages for Britain and Belgium, it ‘provided demand for manufactured goods and an available labour supply.’ (Merriman, 1996, p.682). In Britain ‘Labour was plentiful and therefore cheap, and industrial workers could be fed.’ (Briggs, 2002). The ports were also important, for example, in Belgium ‘Belgium’s railroad construction advanced rapidly, thriving by transporting goods from North Sea ports toward Central Europe.’ (Merriman, 1996, p.682). The industrial revolution thrived in Britain due to the existing colonial trade. There was money for investment in the new manufacturing. The development of banking made it ‘far easier to begin a company in Britain than on the continent.’ (Merriman, 1996, p.682). Britain had ‘encouraged a precocious banking system, a stock exchange, and the development of credit and insurance.’ (Merriman, 1996, p.682). The cotton and textiles industries produced most of Britain’s exports. Merriman thinks that Britain was blessed with their coal and iron ore deposits being located near to the water transportation, as this made it possible for raw materials to be transported. (1996, p.682). Industrialisation found it difficult to take off in the German states because of the fragmented nature of the area. The rural nature was another disadvantage. There were a few exceptions such as the Rhineland, Saxony, and Silesia.

Industrialisation was a great transformation that happened in Europe and the rest of the world. It changed the way that goods were manufactured and distributed. It changed the way people socialised. People would have a wider group of acquaintances through working in a factory instead of being at home. The towns grew and improved. The main reason for industrialisation is the demand for goods as the population increased. Therefore different inventions and developments took place.

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