The so-called 'Industrial Revolution' of Britain between 1760 and 1830 poses many questions amongst historians and is a particularly complex issue. Debate surrounds whether or not the industrialisation and the changes it brought about can really be referred to as a revolution.The term Revolution is a complex term and difficult to define. One may argue that in its simplest form a revolution refers to a total transformation, past the point of no return. The term revolution has been applied to the Industrialisation of Britain and the socio-economic and industrial changes it brought with it for many reasons. Deane argues that through industrialisation 'there are certain identifiable changes in the methods and characteristics of economic organisation which, taken together constitute a development of the kind which we would describe as an industrial revolution'.1However there have been many arguments put forward against that idea that a 'revolution' took place. For example one could argue that Industrialisation was a slower process, and gradual development and therefore not really a revolution.Whatever side one chooses to support it is clear that there were many socio-economic and industrial changes as a result of Industrialisation. For example there were changes in class, gender, population, the economy, trade, technology and transport.This essay will attempt to come to a conclusion as to whether or not it makes sense for one to use the term revolution when describing the socio-economic and industrial changes brought about by British industrialisation through analysis of arguments for and against.One may refer to the socio-economic and industrial changes of Industrialisation as a Revolution due to the fact that Britain, arguably, saw a major transformation from a pre-industrial to an industrial economy and society. As Deane argues, 'Within the following century a revolution took place in the social and economic life of Britain which transformed the physical appearance of the land and established a totally different way of living and working for the mass of its people.'2 This transformation of the physical appearance of a country and way of life of its people could be defined as a 'Revolution', due to the fact that lives were transformed in so many ways and had such a major impact, arguably a revolutionary impact. For example one could explore the way in which the lives of women were changed by industrialisation. Arguably with the introduction of factories, women began to make up higher proportions of the workforce, particularly in the cotton-textile industry, as well as in sweated trades and outwork.This transformation and impact affected so many areas of life as E.J. Hobsbawn described; 'the most fundamental transformation of human life'3 took place. One may argue therefore that the industrialisation of Britain did see a Revolution, particularly a 'Revolution in the human experience'4. As Chapple argues, 'Any change which affected society in so many more ways than the simply industrial requires a title that also acknowledges the broader impact of this change.'5 Therefore, One may argue in response to this that 'Revolution' should be the title used to describe this period of change due to the broad spectrum and sheer amount of change it brought about.Perhaps one may choose to argue that the very fact that Britain was the first industrial nation is a good enough reason to define the industrialisation as a Revolution. As Chapple comments, 'An economy and people largely dependent upon the land were transformed into the worlds first industrial economy and society in little over a century.'6 The fact that Britain became the world's first industrial economy set it ahead in position stakes and it became a leading nation and market, this itself could be described as revolutionary.One may argue that once Britain had gone through industrialisation it had passed the point of no return, and therefore this qualifies it as a Revolution. Deane argues that, 'By 1851, the year of the great Crystal Palace Exhibition, Britain had clearly passed the point of no return in the process of industrialisation'. 7 For example if we were to explore the major technological advances, we might argue that the inventions and innovation that the industrialisation brought about had such an important impact that there would be no need to return to traditional practices, once this technology was adopted. The same could be said for the changes to transport. Therefore as Britain had passed the point of no return, a Revolution had almost certainly taken place.All the causes and factors of Industrialisation were very much inter-linked. For example the changes and advances in Transport almost certainly widened the market and the changes and advances in the use of technology led to increased productivity. One could explain this as a linked process in Industrialisation; one change simply led to another. But one could argue that Industrialisation would not have taken place if one of these major factors had been absent. For example if there had been no agricultural changes the increasing population would not have been fed, Britain would not have moved beyond subsistence and Britain would not have been self-sufficient which it needed to be before it could industrialise.One may therefore argue that Industrialisation was in fact a slow, gradual process spread over many years, though it is important to note that this does depend on where a historian chooses their starting point in the study of industrialisation. As Deane comments, 'Those who choose to emphasise the underlying continuity of history will trace the origins of the process of industrialisation back to earlier centuries.'8 Some claim that Industrialisation was already occurring previous to the so-called revolution period. Chapple argues 'The industrial revolution did not mark the beginning of industry in Britain. Thus, the economy of the first half of the eighteenth century should not be referred to as a pre-industrial economy as Britain possessed a relatively successful and skilled industrial sector before the industrial revolution.'Therefore one should be cautious when looking for a starting point of Industrialisation. The dramatic growth in the revolution period appears to have eclipsed previous industrial and economic achievements. Industrialisation took place over many years and this is one reason why it may not make sense to use the word Revolution, as Revolution usually sums up a short period of time when change occurred. As Mathias comments, 'the metaphor 'revolution' has one disadvantage: the assumption of very rapid change in a short space of time. In Britain the pace of change has proved slower.'10 One example of Industrialisation already occurring can be shown by the idea of 'Proto-industrialisation' which would mean the beginning of the so-called Revolution was not really the beginning of Industrialisation. As Chaplle argues, 'The slow, though steady, growth in these sectors, often based in rural areas as well as the towns, has been referred to as a period of 'proto-industrialisation''.11Another reason why applying the term revolution does not make sense could be due to the fact that though we refer to a British Industrial Revolution. One could argue that this is a false statement as the Revolution was localised and in effect the whole of Britain was not directly affected by the socio-economic and industrial changes. As Chapple argues, 'for many parts of the Kingdom, little or no evidence existed of an industrial revolution.'12 Specific areas of the country developed expertise in a range of industrial regions. If one were to analyse the occupational variations of certain counties in Britain in the 1800's, one would note that there was not an equal distribution. For example only selected areas could partake in mining and agriculture. This would lead one to question the whole idea of an entirely 'British Industrial Revolution' if the whole of the country was not affected by all the major changes brought about and did not have the same experiences.It is important to note that many traditional skills and practices survived and existed post Revolution. Therefore could this really be deemed a Revolution? There was a slow adoption rate of many of the machines that were introduced, in particular in the cotton-textile industry where the power loom was very slow to be adopted. Also the factory system had a slow adoption rate and family business from home continued. Therefore one should be careful not to exaggerate the technological changes of Industrialisation. As Chapple claims, 'most people did not work in factories. The census of 1841 tells us that a maximum of 12 per cent of the employed workforce were employed in factories.'13 Chapple also claims that low levels of productivity remained and that for most workers, steam power played no part in their working lives. If this is true then it does not make sense to apply the term 'Revolution' to Industrialisation due to the survival of traditional practices and slow adoption of technological advances.One should be particularly careful not to over-exaggerate the socio-economic and industrial changes in Britain between 1760 and 1830. It is important to note that not all changes were positive. The industrialisation also arguably saw high levels of exploitation amongst women and children and poor health and living conditions amongst many other negative effects. Arguably there was an overall decline in the quality of life. Chapple points to the pessimistic view of industrialisation, 'The pessimistic view, promoted by historians in the 1960s and 1970s such as E.P. Thompson and E.J. Hobsbawn focussed upon the negative effects of Industrialisation.'14 If there was such a major negative impact perhaps it is wrong to define the changes of Industrialisation as Revolutionary.The Industrialisation of Britain between 1760 and 1830 brought many socio-economic and industrial changes. These included, amongst many others, changes in class structure, gender relationships, demographic changes, economic changes, technological advances, increased trade and changes in the transport structure. However one may not necessarily refer to industrialisation and these changes as a 'Revolution'. Perhaps when looking for a definition of Industrialisation one may simply use the term phenomenon, as Professor Chambers once described it.15 It was a remarkable period of time, particularly due to its spontaneity - there was no government planning, unlike in the revolutions of other countries and the changes it brought with it had a huge impact, though not always a positive impact as we have assessed. Unlike many political Revolutions it was a long process, a gradual process of inter-linked causes.Perhaps the term 'Revolution' has simply become an accepted term used to describe and identify the period of Industrialisation rather than the events, changes and impact.

We will write a custom essay sample on

Does it make sense to use the word ‘Revolution’ to describe the Socio-economic and industrial changes, which occurred in Britain between 1760 and 1830 specifically for you

for only $13.90/page

Order Now