Ramsay Muir observes that the Industrial Revolution was completed peacefully. It brought about many important changes in the social, economic and political life of the people of England. The following were the important impacts of the Industrial Revolution.
The Renaissance which occurred at the beginning of the modern age in Europe initiated a new era by strengthening the middle-class values; even then, the middle-class could not exhibit its power in society for a long time. The Industrial Revolution expressed the power of the middle-class. The influence of scientists, skilled artisans and managers increased. If the French Revolution propagated the notions of personal liberty and equality, the Industrial Revolution of England made the creative use of personal liberty possible. The growing power of workers after the Industrial Revolution kindled social awareness which prompted people to raise the demand for human respect and fundamental rights.
Industrial Revolution galvanized the process of urbanization. It also resulted in large-scale migration to these urban centres. The population in urban centres swelled up without proper facilities to accommodate the population. The rise in cities was accompanied by the growth of slums. The workers in the cities were compelled to live and work in substandard and subhuman conditions. The factory owners were only interested in making high profits. Due to inadequate facilities and improper living conditions, workers became vulnerable to various epidemics and diseases; they often died a premature death.
The extremely low wages paid by the factory owners made it difficult for them to make both ends meet. As a consequence, they were often obliged to send their women and children to factories, where they worked on extremely low wages. The industrialists preferred women and children also because they were easy to manage. This exploitation of women and children resulted in “stunning bodies, deformed backs, horribly twisted legs, sunken chests and savage natures.”
It changed the standard of living of the people as they began to use the articles manufactured in the factories. The increase in the daily needs of the people had marred the independent life of an individual. Thus, we see that whereas the capitalists were benefited from the Industrial Revolution, the general masses grew very poor.
The economic condition of England was tremendously changed as a result of the Industrial Revolution. So far, England was regarded as an agricultural country but this revolution made her a great industrial country and various industries were established in England. It led to the decline of small-scale industries and capitalists monopolised the entire industries. It increased the national wealth which enabled England to meet the requirements of her rising population and to bear the burden of French wars. Thus, England’s ‘Granary’ was converted into ‘Workshop’. The invention of machines threw a large number of workers out of job and the problem of unemployment created distress among them. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, there was no such sharp contrast among the people of different classes, as arose afterwards. Thus, an unbridgeable gulf was created between the capitalists and labourers.
Till the middle of the 18th century, only landlords dominated the British Parliament. The new class generated by the Industrial Revolution did not tolerate the predominance of landlords in politics as well as in the parliament. Consequently, people started raising the demand that the right of sending representatives to parliament should also be granted to the new cities. It is noteworthy that the industrial centres which developed with the factory system did not have representation in the British Parliament. In the beginning, landlords opposed the demand raised by the middle-class for parliamentary reforms. But the demand for parliamentary reforms became too intense to disregard. A lot of parliamentary reforms were carried out in the 19th century in England. In 1867, the government had to sanction voting rights to the urban workers and in 1884, to the rural workers. In this way, the landlords were divested of their political power under the influence of the classes which had been generated by the Industrial Revolution. Thus democracy developed in England.
Industrial Revolution led to the colonization of Asia and Africa. Great Britain and other industrial countries of Europe began to look for new colonies which could supply them the necessary raw materials for feeding their industries and also serve as a ready market for their finished industrial products. Therefore, the industrial countries carved out extensive colonial empires in the 19th century.
As a result of the Industrial Revolution, the military superiority of a country became dependent upon the extent of the industrialization in that country. Industrialized countries could alone produce a modern military weapon. For example- the Northern States succeeded in the American Civil War (1861-65) because they were more industrialized than the Southern States.