The industrial revolution was an era of change from an agrarian and handicraft economy to one dominated by industry and machine manufacturing. It was a period of major innovation and mechanization that began during the mid-18th century and early 19th century in Great Britain and later spread throughout the world. As the era progressed, the fact remains that society experienced both the negative and positive effects of the industrial revolution.
The era of the industrial revolution had a huge impact on almost every aspect of society. However, in as much as the industrial revolution had some negative impacts, it also made people’s lives easier and improved society in many ways. In this article, we will be discussing some of the positive effects of the industrial revolution on society.
In the western world, industrialization is most commonly associated with the Industrial Revolution that began in the late 18th century in Europe and the subsequent burst of industrialization in the U.S. through the 19th century. This period was an economic and cultural shift from cottage industry, manual labor, and traditional agriculture, to a system of factory-based manufacturing that involved complex machinery, development in transportation, continual technological growth, and new energy sources.
Before the industrial age, the majority of households earned their living through farming and lived mainly in small, rural communities. However, during the 18th century and with the arrival of factories, people began working for factories that were located in urban areas for the first time. Hence, as society’s attention turned from human power to mechanical power and from the rural home to the urban factory, there were both negative and positive effects of the industrial revolution on society.
The Industrial Revolution created a great deal of change in society; one of the major changes was the shift from work being done at home by hand in cottage industries to work being done in factories. People migrated from rural communities to urban areas in search of jobs in factories. However, even though the wages were low, and the working conditions were harsh, working for such factories at that time still paid a better living than farming. There were harsh and unsafe working conditions in these early factories as the machines posed a significant threat to the lives of workers. The more deadly one was even the work performed in coal mines.
The owner of factories and mines had considerable control over the lives of laborers who worked long hours for low pay. In fact, an average worker would work 14 hours a day, for six days a week and due to fear of losing their jobs, they would barely complain about the horrible conditions and low pay. Also, the factory and mine owners realized that they could pay women and children less than men and as a result, child labor increased because it kept the costs of production low and the profits high. Due to this, the industrial working class lived in poverty, whereas the bosses who made up the middle class grew wealthy.
Nevertheless, the industrial revolution did not only bring about negative impacts on society. It was during the industrial revolution that production efficiency improved with inventions like the steam engine. The steam engine reduced the time it took to manufacture products dramatically. Therefore, more efficient production subsequently reduced prices for products which opened the marketing doors to a new level of customers. This was one of the positive effects of the industrial revolution.
In addition, the industrial revolution developed in conjunction with the capitalist economies. Under capitalism, business owners (capitalists) began to organize labor centrally into factories and introduced a division of labor to increase the output and profitability of the business. Hence, capitalist production when compared to the initial craft and guild systems motivated innovation and technological change at an extraordinary rate. Let’s further discuss more positive results of the industrial revolution.
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Positive effects of industrial revolution
- Employment opportunities increased during the industrial revolution
- The industrial revolution inspired innovation
- Increase in production levels
- Power shift from businesses to the hands of consumers
- A dramatic change for women
- Improvement in processes for virtually every sector
- Improvement in international trade
- The rise in global economic power
The middle and upper classes were the ones that benefited immediately from the Industrial Revolution; it took much longer for workers. However, workers formed labor unions during the 1800s, and later received higher wages and better working conditions. Hence, they began to see the positive effects of industrial revolution as well. There were so many good effects of the industrial revolution. Among those were the production of goods, an increase in wealth, and an increase in the standard of living. People had access to better housing, healthier diets, and cheaper goods. Also, education increased during the industrial revolution. Discussed below are some of the positive effects of the industrial revolution:
Employment opportunities increased during the industrial revolution
One of the good effects of the industrial revolution was the increase in employment opportunities. The industrial revolution in America and Great Britain created an increase in employment opportunities as wages at the factories and mines were higher than what the individuals were making as farmers. As more factories emerged, additional managers and employees were needed and since people were needed for the factory operations, the supply of jobs and overall wages increased.
Therefore, one of the positive effects of industrial revolution was that it made it possible for more people to have jobs. Before this period, jobs were merely based on family traditions, educational studies, or a unique talent that someone had. But when factories and mines began to emerge around the world, people began to earn a living in ways that were very different from the past. More job opportunities were created as new factories opened to meet the increasing demand for mass-produced goods.
The industrial revolution inspired innovation
One positive impact of industrial revolution was that it inspired innovation. The increased innovation that was birthed by the industrial revolution led to higher levels of motivation and education, which resulted in several groundbreaking inventions that are still in use today. Typical examples include the calculator, the lightbulb, the X-ray, the sewing machine, anesthesia, etc. Therefore, it was as a result of the Industrial Revolution’s advancements, that the nation saw the first combustible engine, incandescent light bulb, and modern assembly line used in manufacturing.
In fact, due to Louis Pasteur’s discovery of bacteria and Edward Jenner’s invention of the smallpox vaccine, health care increased, and people began to live longer. The positive effects of the industrial revolution on society as a result of some of these innovations changed where people lived, how they worked, and the technologies available to them. Some of these innovations made life comfortable for many, even though the living conditions for workers remained detestable, which eventually led to the rise of labor unions that later resulted in improved working conditions for workers as well as fair wages.
The increase in production levels
The increase in the rate of production was no doubt one positive impact of industrial revolution. Before this period, several products were built or made by hand which needed a specific time investment by the maker which in turn made mass production virtually impossible. However, the industrial revolution changed that, as factories were built for mass production, giving room for groups of people to be more productive compared to when one person was working on their own. This made it possible for better products to be made and also improved the services to be given.
Power shift from businesses to the hands of consumers
The increase in production levels that came with the industrial revolution eventually allowed communities to improve their quality of living over time because there was greater access to goods and services. As a result, there was competition as multiple products were made in an industry or sector. Hence, free market economies began to develop and customers could choose from a variety of products. Rather than customers being reliant on a particular business or provider to give them what they needed, they could then pick the best one that meets their own needs. Therefore, one of the positive effects of industrial revolution was that it shifted power away from businesses into the hands of consumers.
A dramatic change for women
The dramatic change that came for women was one of the positive results of the industrial revolution. This era marked a dramatic change for women as many of them entered the workforce for the first time. It gave women the opportunity to compete with men for jobs, even though female factory workers usually made only one-third as much as men.
Nevertheless, women began leading reforms to change this and as women became more involved in politics, some began to demand suffrage, the right to vote. Hence, Great Britain, by 1918, granted women that were over 30 the right to vote, and the United States, with the passing of the 19th amendment in 1920 granted women suffrage.
Improvement in processes for virtually every sector
The improvement in processes is one of the lasting positive effects of industrial revolution. The industrial age improved processes in virtually every sector. After the industrial revolution, clothing could be more durable, and wouldn’t need to be made at home, transportation no longer needed a horse, food products became cheaper to produce and buildings could be made better. That is, during this era, every sector of commerce and industry improved, making products and services better.
Also, another positive effect of the industrial revolution on society is the improvement in city planning. Populations migrated to urban areas in search of jobs because a majority of the factories and large companies were located near the cities. This, however, overwhelmed the available housing supply which eventually led to significant improvements in city planning.
Improvement in international trade
Improvement in international trade is definitely one of the positive effects of industrial revolution. Before the industrial age, even though international trade was in existence, commerce and trade were restricted to the national level at best, due to the immense cost of transporting goods. Hence, international trade was quite difficult. However, as the industrial revolution made transportation easier and cheaper, businesses were able to create an international presence for their brand. This enabled communities to experience new goods and services even while still enjoying local products.
The rise in global economic power
The rise of the United States as a global economic power is definitely one of the positive results of the industrial revolution. This is one of the political effects of the industrial revolution; others included the passage of labor-related legislation and the clash between traditional culture and modern progress. The expansion of the American economy had international outcomes; for instance, the opening of relations with Japan, as well as rapid territorial growth. Therefore, one of the biggest political positive effects of the American Industrial Revolution was the US rising to a world power position. The increased domestic and foreign trade opportunities definitely strengthened the nation’s economy and encouraged the United States government to become more involved in foreign relations.
In conclusion, people have debated since the 1800s, whether the Industrial Revolution’s impacts were a blessing or a curse. The fact remains that, in as much as the early industrial age brought terrible hardships for workers; over time, reformers pressed for laws to improve working conditions and labor unions won the right to bargain with employers for better wages, working hours, and conditions. That is, with time, workers began to see the positive effects of industrial revolution as well. Therefore, regardless of the social problems created by the Industrial Revolution, the industrial age did have some positive effects.