Was the industrial revolution a europe wide phenomenon in the nineteenth century history
Was the Industrial Revolution a Europe-Wide Phenomenon in the Nineteenth Century?
In the 19th century, development in Europe was characterized by two major events. First,
the French Revolution that occurred in 1789 had its effects experienced throughout Europe for a
long time. Besides, the World War I that escalated in 1914 set many trends in the continent. The
impacts could be identified in the European society, culture as well as diplomacy in the 19th
century. Between these periods, there was the opening of new trends and establishment of
persistent tensions. These were significant in the definition of the modern Europe. The purpose
of this paper is to illustrate that the industrial revolution was a Europe-wide phenomenon in the
It is pertinent to mention that throughout this period, Europe was both united and divided.
The primary cultural trends such as new literary styles and development of science spread in the
entire continent1. Most of the European states were deeply engaged in diplomatic interactions
that later advanced to the continent-wide alliance. Besides, the century inflicted the continent
with growing nationalism. In this case, individual states directed their concentration on
protecting their identities2. During this time, more rigorous border controls were enacted than
before. Later, this period ushered in the division of the continent into two regions of differential
development. During the industrial revolution, Europe encountered essential patterns and
heightened interconnections. However, the experienced developments were enhanced by nation-
Henderson, W. O., The Rise of German Industrial Power. (London, 1975): 66
Birnie, A., An Economic History of Europe, 1760-1939 (London, 1944).: 25
state divisions as well as large regional differences. The impacts of the French revolution were
experienced throughout the 19th century3.
From 1789 to 1849, Europe experienced eminent forces of political revolution. It was
during this period that it experienced its first impact of the industrial revolution. Between 1850
and 1915, different parts of Europe encountered the emergence of a complete industrial society.
For instance, there were new forms of states, diplomatic and military alignments. It is pertinent
to mention that these brought economic effects that were experienced in the entire Europe4.
The development of modern Europe between the 1780s and 1849 experienced an
economic transformation that was the initial impact of the industrial revolution. It was during
this period that there was an enormous expansion of commercial activities. In this era, most of
the European countries were interconnected hence the states experienced common
transformation and development. At first, most Europeans were fascinated by the political
information created by the French revolution. However, the most vital issue was the economic
upgrade that was interconnected to the political and diplomatic trends in the continent.
Essentially, the major changes were identified in Western Europe because of the enormous
population growth. The notion was facilitated by the use of new food crops as well as reduction
of epidemic diseases. The increased population was essential to provide the needed workforce
for the industrial revolution. Gradually, the increased population needed more land to dwell and
expand their activities. For this reason, a significant percentage of people relocated to Eastern
Habbakuk, H. J. & Postan, M. (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of Europe: Volume 6 the Industrial Revolutions
and After - Incomes, Population and Technological Change (Cambridge, 1965).: 22
Berlanstein L. R. The working people of Paris, 1871-1914. (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984): 34
Sylva, R. & Toriolo, G (eds.), Patterns of European Industrialization: the Nineteenth Century (London, 1991): 24
Most artisanal and peasant children realized that sheer numbers prohibited inheriting. As
a result, they had to identify new methodologies to earn a living. Most had to relocate to find
other paying labor away from their homes. Some transferred their art and skills into other regions
in the continent. Therefore, any invention and development at one part of the continent were
easily transferred to other regions. Additionally, most households of business people and
landlords had to identify more innovative ways to protect their surviving broods. It is worth
mentioning that the current pressures were occurring in a society that was attuned to business
transactions. As a result, the entire Europe was characterized by active merchant category. Also,
the continent was exposed to eminent capital sources. It could access overseas markets hence
dominating the existing trade. Significantly, the interconnection among the Europe states was a
major boost to the development of the region. People could engage in trade and access things and
skills they did not possess6.
The increased commercialization was present in various regions. Throughout Europe,
agile peasants enhanced their land possessions at the expense of their unfortunate neighbors.
Peasants in most states engaged in food production for sale in the expanding urban markets.
Domestic manufacturing accompanied the activity. In this case, most rural producers in these
countries worked both full and part-time to manufacture thread and cloth. They also engaged in
the production of other products under the funding of the urban merchants. Gradually, the idea
started spreading even in the Europe’s Low Countries that were rural such as Scandinavia. The
craftwork in the urban regions started to transform to production for distant markets. The process
facilitated the accessibility of almost all Europe states to produced commodities. Arguably,
Europe’s social structure shifted to adopt a basic division7.
Berlanstein, L. R. (ed.), The Industrial Revolution and Work in Nineteenth-Century Europe (London, 1992): 17
Stearns, P., Lives of Labor. Work in a Maturing Industrial Society (New York, 1975): 30
These factors played a significant role in shaping industrial revolution that was pioneered
by Britain. At this time, Europe had engines that could produce 860000 horsepower. In 1840,
Britain had 620000 horsepower. Though affected by the French Revolution and Napoleonic
wars, most of the European countries were able to follow suit. In this case, most countries
acquired their steam engines a step that was vital for production. For instance, French, Germany,
and Belgium gain grounds in the platform. In the entire continent of Europe, both governments
and private entrepreneurs applied extra efforts to imitate the technologies that the British
government had already established. It is worth noting that the competition facilitated the
occurrence of the industrial revolution in all European countries8.
Apparently, the technological transformation spread from manufacturing to other
production sectors. The heightened production increased demands on the transportation network
to implement some developments. For instance, it was expected to move raw materials to the
manufacturing centers and finished products to the markets. For this reason, both road and canal
construction projects were initiated as a response. These were accompanied by steam engines
that enhanced the transportation because of the inventions made by Britain and U.S. Pertinently,
both urban and rural regions were significant for the occurrence of the industrial revolution in
Europe. Railroad systems were established in different regions that boosted the economy of the
bloc. At the beginning of the 1830s, most European countries had access to the rail network. The
move enhanced the spread of elements that were vital for the industrial revolution. The notion
was also facilitated by the invention of the telegraph. In this case, there was a fast exchange of
news as well as essential commercial information9.
Grinin, L. & Korotayev, A. Great Divergence and Great Convergence: A Global Perspective. (Springer, 2015): 78
Owen, T., Capitalism, and Politics in Russia: A Social History of theMoscow Merchants 1855-1905 (Cambridge, 1981): 18
Clearly, the economic transformation caused eminent social impacts at the initial years of
the 19th century. In this case, the basic trends in the daily life changes and work execution were
redefined. The phenomenon was characterized by various implications for the factory workers.
Some of the pressures escalating from the change extended throughout Europe. For instance,
wage laborers in most countries were faced with the decline of the work autonomy. Another
change was the fact that more people started working under the regular direction of others. Most
of the early factories were also faced with a new set of rules that were aimed at instilling
discipline on the workers. Throughout Europe, women and children were extensively used to
perform the less skilled operations. Besides, the nature of work also transformed for people who
owned property. Moreover, middle-class people and other professionals began to establish new
forms of work ethics10.
The establishment was essential because people were convinced that work was the human
good. People knew that whoever worked hard would be rewarded with wealth. The principle
spread across many countries in Europe. Consequently, people worked hard towards their well-
being. The notion resulted in an increased production that boosted the economy of most
European countries. Besides, the access to overseas market was pertinent to deliver their
products. People acquired essential implications for leisure. Most European middle-class people
aimed at transforming leisure towards personal bonding and family cohesion. The livelihood
models were responsible for the changes experienced in the family life in most countries. The
development of cities and industries had an eminent impact on family life. Unlike before, the
family stopped a production unit after work shifted from home settings11.
Mathias, P. & Postan, M. (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of Europe: volume7 The Industrial Economies -
Capital, Labor and Enterprise (Cambridge, 1978): 32
Floud, R. Humphries, J. & Johnson, P. The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain. (Cambridge University Press,
Throughout the period of industrial revolution, most families in Europe started to regulate
their birth rate. Majorly, the process was achieved through sexual abstinence. Most families
started realized that having many children could alter the economic well-being of the family.
Besides, the notion could reduce the attention allocated to every child for the desired upbringing.
The middle-class people started defining the new family size. Immediately, the idea was adopted
throughout the European society12.
Together with the effect on daily life patterns, economic transformations started changing
the Europe’s social structure. New antagonisms were experienced among the urban social
classes. The difference was between the middle-class people and the working class. The latter
owned businesses or possessed educational knowledge. The working class people depended on
labor to acquire wages. However, both groups was heterogeneous.
During the era of both social and economic transformation, Europe experienced a
uniform political change. It is pertinent to identify that the links between socioeconomic and
political transformations were real but complex. For instance, other economic grievances related
to the initial industrialization caused later revolutions. Besides, the new political ideas facilitated
the occurrence of these revolutions throughout Europe. Clearly, these were directed against
different institutions and social arrangements pre-industrial era. It is because of their impacts that
further economic change was achieved. Significantly, the political tension during the period was
essential in bringing the new shape of Europe. This was along other economic factors that were
active in the continent. The occurrence of both the French Revolution and Napoleonic era was
vital in putting a new shape of Europe13.
de la Escosura, L. P. Exceptionalism and Industrialisation: Britain and its European Rivals, 1688–1815. (Cambridge
University Press, 2004): 62
Trebilcock, C., The Industrialization of the Continental Powers (London, 1981) Wallerstein, I. M., The Second Era of Great
Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy, 1730-1840s (San Diego, 1989): 12
However, at the beginning of the 19th century, the convention of various powers at the
Congress of Vienna played a significant role. These were aimed at putting Europe back together.
The formed Treaty of Vienna was responsible for establishing a balance of power in Europe.
Besides, it was essential in emphasizing a conservative political order. The establishments were
effective because the continent experienced peace-enabling states to focus on their
Arguably, conservatism dominated Europe’s political agenda in the mid-1820s. While
seeking to facilitate the achievement of this goal, most governments implemented police to deter
agitators. However, a revolutionary agitation occurred in fringe regions. Clearly, the implication
of the conservative philosophy facilitated the maintenance of a principle contrary to the principle
of evolution. It should be identified that the period caused an eminent stagnation in Europe’s
development. However, the evolution principle existed in the mind of Many Europeans the
industrial revolution. In this case, they believed that fundamental and durable changes could only
be achieved through small developmental degrees. The notion made most European people
structure their future in a manner that guaranteed their well-being.
Kaelble, H., Industrialisation and Social Inequality in 19th
Century Europe. (Leamington Spa, 1986): 29
Berlanstein L. R. The working people of Paris, 1871-1914. (Johns Hopkins University Press,
Berlanstein, L. R. (ed.), The Industrial Revolution and Work in Nineteenth-Century Europe
Birnie, A., An Economic History of Europe, 1760-1939 (London, 1944).
de la Escosura, L. P. Exceptionalism and Industrialisation: Britain and its European Rivals,
1688–1815. (Cambridge University Press, 2004)
Floud, R. Humphries, J. & Johnson, P. The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain.
(Cambridge University Press, 2014).
Grinin, L. & Korotayev, A. Great Divergence and Great Convergence: A Global Perspective.
Habbakuk, H. J. & Postan, M. (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of Europe: Volume
6 the Industrial Revolutions and After - Incomes, Population and Technological Change
Henderson, W. O., The Rise of German Industrial Power. (London, 1975)
Kaelble, H., Industrialisation and Social Inequality in 19th Century Europe. (Leamington Spa,
Kemp, T., Industrialisation in Nineteenth-Century Europe (London, 1969)
Mathias, P. & Postan, M. (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of Europe: volume7 The
Industrial Economies - Capital, Labor and Enterprise (Cambridge, 1978)
Owen, T., Capitalism, and Politics in Russia: A Social History of the Moscow Merchants 1855-
1905 (Cambridge, 1981)
Stearns, P., Lives of Labor. Work in a Maturing Industrial Society (New York, 1975)
Sylva, R. & Toriolo, G (eds.), Patterns of European Industrialization: the Nineteenth
Century (London, 1991)
Trebilcock, C., The Industrialization of the Continental Powers (London, 1981) Wallerstein, I.
M., The Second Era of Great Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy, 1730-1840s
(San Diego, 1989)