The Impact of the Industrial Revolution on British Society and Economy

Topics: Industrial Revolution, Socialism, Factory Pages: 6 (2062 words) Published: March 6, 2012
The impact of the Industrial Revolution on British society and economy There is no doubt that the Industrial Revolution plays a central role in the modern British history. The structure of British society has forever changed by the impact and consequences of Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution is often stated as the increase of the number of factories, the exercise of steam power in a wide range of area and the mass-production produced by new technology in the course of 1750 to 1850 (Lane, 1978: 72). Engles (1986: 37) argued that the Industrial Revolution’s mainly development were the invention of the steam engine and the cotton industry. As the improvement of technology, the steam engine could produce more power with less energy than before. As a result, it leads to the improvement and industrialization in other areas (Lane, 1978). Hobsbawm (1968: 53) viewed cotton to be the principal revolution, it played a leader role in the British economy throughout the process of industrialisation. The use of equipment in factory took place in the cotton industry firstly, aimed to match the society’s demands by increase production (Porter, 1999). The Industrial Revolution changed economic, political and social factors. This essay will analyze the impact of the Industrial Revolution on society and economy, the content will dived into parts. In the first stage, it will argue the positive impact of the Industrial Revolution on economy and urbanisation. Second part will focus on the impact on society, and dived into four points: overcrowding due to the urbanisation, phenomenon of child labour, poor working conditions and movement by working class to improve their condition and political rights. The collusion will be given out after analyze, the tremendous profit gained from the Industrial Revolution by the upper class and government, however working class suffered from the impact of industrialization in early stage.

Pre-industrial life had considered to be short of sources and hardly meet people’s demands. Hobbes (1968: 186) once describes man’s life as“poor, nasty, brutish and short”. Due to the invention of the steam engine, the total output of coal rose from 3 million tons to 49 million tons in the course of 1740 to 1850 (Hobsbawm, 1968: 53). There was a massive expansion of cities and industrial towns centred around the new factories, for example, Manchester used to be a small town with almost 28,000 residents in 1780. By 1850, the population had increased to more than 300,000 (Hobsbawm, 1968: 40). As the Industrial Revolution took place at first in Britain, then spread to other Euro nations later. Contrast with British and Europe in the percentage of total population in cities, with the process of urbanisation, British recorded significantly increase and even twice than Europe in 1850 (More, 2005: 5).

As a result of the Industrial Revolution, in 1840 the UK’s national wealth nearly doubled compare to data in 1790, however the most of the benefit were gained by upper class. This remarkable growth and benefit was one of the social change that happened in the course of the Industrial Revolution. The laissez-faire economics which advocated by Adam Smith, became widely accepted and contribute to the flourish of capitalism. By that time, Government seldom regulated or published policies to limit the business (Porter, 1999). On the contrary, it allowed the middle-class to engaged into whichever process was lead to the most benefit, despite the safety and health of their employee (Stearns, 1998).

Although the revolution provided profitable to Britain, unfortunately, the large amount of population did not share the benefit. During the early parts of the Industrial Revolution, it had significantly negative impact on society. Hobsbawm (1968) argued that no matter what advancements occurred reached the public slowly and often could not compensate for the added burdens of industrial employment or the growing wealth gap in...

References: Deane, P. (1983). The First Industrial Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Engels.F. (1986). The Condition of the Working class in England. London: Grafton.
Factory Legislation 1802-1878, Retrieved November 17th, 2011 from,
Hobbes, T. (1968). Leviathan, or The matter, Forme, and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiaticall and Civil. Harmondswoth: Penguin.
Hobsbawm, E. (1968). Industry and Empire: An Economic Hostroy of Britain since 1750. London: Weidenfied and Nicolson.
Lane, P. (1978). Industrial Revolution: The Birth of the Modern Age. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson
Porter, G. (1999). "Industrial Revolution." Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation
Stearns, P
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