Industrial Revolution and its Impact on the development of Nations
The Industrial Revolution was one of the major phases of historic globalization wherein there was an exponential widening, deepening, and speeding up of global inter-connectedness . The impact of the revolution was not merely economic in nature but conversed changes in culture, education, knowledge, the environment, and the balance of political power. Further, the impact of the Industrial Revolution was extremely long lasting, with several of these visible even today when the world is undergoing another phase of globalization.
Before the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the world was segregated on the basis of major trade routes that were governed by specific nations, mainly the colonial powers of Britain, France, Spain and Portugal. This interchange of trade and goods led to the creation of a global trade network and economies and the rise of colonies. For example, while Islamic merchants had controlled the Eastern Indian trade route till towards the conclusion of the 15th Century, the power moved on to Spain and Portugal during the 16th Century which was in turn challenged by France and Britain by the beginning of the 17th Century. The West came to dominate the global economy post the 1700s. It was in this century that there was major shift in political outlook particularly in America, leading to a revolution in fundamental social patterns that strengthened European dominance, particularly over the East .
The sudden spurt in global economic interconnectedness, although bringing great boons in terms of technology and political development, led to the advent of several evils that changed the world as we know it. Slave trade was the foremost of these ill-effects. African slaves numbering over 12 million were shipped to colonies from mid-1400s to mid-1800s. Millions of Africans were killed in the process of being captured. Although slaves were primarily captured for agricultural labor purposes, particularly in South American plantations, this led to the development of the coercive labor system. Slavery eventually declined by the end of the 19th Century, however Africa had, by then, played a major role in the development of global trade .
Another major ill-effect of the Industrial Revolution was the breakdown of family systems as lower and middle class families were forced to en-masse seek employment despite harsh labor conditions. As life expectancy increased and infant mortality rates decreased, the global population burgeoned, creating an imbalance in the demand and supply of labor. As a result, people agreed to work on low wages, with women and even children joining the work force. As the number of mechanized industries mushroomed, rural populations began to migrate to towns towards the end of the 18th Century. This led to the creation of a ‘sub-urban’ population consisting of large masses living in the outskirts of a city . By the year 1901, over 77% of Britain’s population lived in urban areas, when compared to 50% in 1851 and 25% in 1831 .
One of the key aspects of the Industrial Revolution was the displacement of manual labor through the growing use of machines. The era marked a golden phase in terms of inventions such as the steam engine, printing, electric power, automobiles and even aircraft. As such, much like the technological breakthroughs of today, this was a time for great innovations in communication and transportation. However, despite attempts to humanize working conditions, governments had foregone the welfare of workers in favor of greater industrial efficiency and profitability. This led to resistance movements that called for a change in the approach towards the workforce and the formation of trade unions. This was the foundation of the ideology behind Socialism. With the Emancipation Proclamation and the Fourteenth Amendment of the US constitution paving the way for equal rights for every human being, the Industrial Revolution also saw the dawn of modern day democracies and human rights .
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