The term “industrial revolution” is used to designate a set of elements that transformed the world from the 18th century through technical innovations, new modes of production and means of communication, which saw the development of capitalism, a production system based on private enterprise and the freedom of the market.
Socially, the industrial revolution designates the transition from a society based essentially on agricultural and artisanal activities to an industrial and commercial society.
What is the Industrial Revolution?
As the Le Robert dictionary indicates, the industrial revolution is “the name given to the period of general development of industrial production methods associated with the upheaval of economic and social structures from the end of the 18th century in Western Europe”.
Rather than speaking of a single industrial revolution, it is more accurate to mention several phases that characterize this phenomenon and which took place successively in several European countries from the 18th to the 20th century, then in other countries of the world. afterwards.
The first phase of the industrial revolution took place in Britain at the end of the 18th century. It was marked by technical progress, essentially the mechanization of the means of production, in industries such as textiles, metallurgy and mining. This progress resulted in a large number of inventions including, among others, the steam engine, the mechanization of spinning and weaving, the extraction of coal and the use of coke, a kind of coal resulting from carbonization or from the distillation of certain fatty coals.
The second phase of the industrial revolution, in the middle of the 19th century, owes its rise to the use of new energies such as oil, gas and electricity, raw materials (steel gradually replacing iron) and to major inventions such as the combustion engine, the telephone, electric lighting, etc.
Finally, the last phase that marked the industrial revolution occurred in the 20th century, and more precisely towards its end, with the development of practices related to electronics, computing, the development of means of communication, and applications of quantum physics. A phase that took place more particularly in countries outside of Europe, in the United States, and in Japan.
Since the rise of globalization, thanks to the arrival of the Internet and new information and communication technologies at the start of the 21st century, countries such as China, India and Russia have also experienced their industrial Revolution.
The factors that led to the first industrial revolution
Industrialization is the main characteristic of the industrial revolution. But why this change in society, hitherto based essentially on agricultural and artisanal activity, at this time in history?
The industrialization of certain economic sectors responds, from the 18th century, on the one hand to the strong demographic growth experienced by Europe. On the other hand, to meet this greater demand, the agricultural world is modernizing, the means of communication (canals, roads, etc.) are developing and there are many technical advances in terms of mechanization in particular.
In parallel with these changes, from a monetary point of view, capital is accumulating due to the rise of credit institutions and the circulation of money.
The industrial revolution: technical progress and a change in the composition of society
The industrial revolution is largely characterized by technical progress and the industrialization of European countries, first of Great Britain, France, then Germany. It allowed the development of commercial exchanges thanks to the commercial and financial capitalism put in place.
The industrial revolution also led to the development and concentration of industries near the deposits of raw materials, especially during its first phase. From a social point of view, these changes in terms of production have had the main consequence of the birth of a large working class, made up most of the time of former agricultural workers or craftsmen. The rural exodus is indeed also one of the consequences of the industrial revolution.
As a result, entire territories and cities were built for and around this new working class, whose working conditions remained very difficult for a long time and which improved somewhat over time at the cost of many struggles.
In its second period, marked by the arrival of new energies, the industrial revolution also went hand in hand with the development of colonial imperialism on the part of the most powerful European countries.