Causes and consequences of the industrial revolution: Analysis of the revolution that transformed the economic and production processes of the world economy


The industrial revolution was undoubtedly one of the most important phenomena of the modern and contemporary era and its effects have not only revolutionized the production processes of the world economy but have also had very important geopolitical consequences as well as a notable weight on global geoeconomic balances (making England, more than it had been up to that point, the true economic center of the world). But why did the industrial revolution develop precisely in England and why precisely at that particular historical juncture (second half of the 18th century)? The answer to these questions is fundamental to understanding and defining this very important historical event. We therefore try to clarify the real reasons that determined its birth, its development and its real consequences on an economic and geopolitical level.


It is of fundamental importance to understand why the industrial revolution developed in England and not in another part of the world since the development of this phenomenon was not random and required precise conditions that were found, at the time, only in England. Understanding what these conditions were and why they were found only in “perfidious Albion” is of fundamental importance to understand the real factors that were at the basis of this revolutionary economic phenomenon. We must therefore consider the political and social evolution of the English geopolitical context of the 18th century. And from this point of view, conditions unique in the world were found in the United Kingdom. In fact, after the decimation of the nobility in the ruthless War of the Roses (1455-1485) and the two bourgeois revolutions of 1648 and 1688-89, the bourgeoisie replaced the nobility at the helm of the country and gave its economy lastly a mercantilist and commercial imprint which was the true cause of England’s wealth and colonial expansion. This was associated with a new political model (constitutional monarchy) which relegated the role of the sovereign to a mere instrument of parliament (expression of the political will of the bourgeois class) and essentially limited its power and prerogatives. All this made the richer class (which held the real movable wealth or capital resulting from commercial activity) able to have a free hand over the country’s production processes and to determine its direction since it had in its hands , since 1689, political power as well as economic power. In no other part of the world, in the mid-18th century, was a similar political and social reality (particularly favorable to the economic fabric of the country) found. And nowhere else in the world did the country’s productive fabric have, after decades of experience in commercial and mercantile activity, such a propensity for (entrepreneurial) risk as in England. And this is another essential aspect to understand how the industrial revolution was possible and why it happened precisely in England. In fact, what drove the rich English bourgeois to venture into such epochal changes in production processes? Certainly the understanding of the developments of the technique (i.e. the practical application of scientific research which in that particular historical juncture was developing like never before) and of the enormous potential of the latter in terms of potential profitability, was a powerful lever which pushed the rich bourgeois to invest in the first, rudimentary factories, towards the middle of the 18th century. But without a strong appetite for risk it would have been unthinkable for these wealthy men to deprive themselves of resources from their lucrative commercial activities to allocate them to a new business whose profitability was not at all obvious. But, if it is true that the social evolution, the political context and the dynamism of the entrepreneurial class of 18th century England were essential premises for the birth and development of the industrial revolution, it is also true that other conditions were essential to the realization of the transformation of production processes in 18th century England.


Another factor of great importance for the realization of the industrial revolution was undoubtedly the presence of raw materials on English soil. In particular, the abundant presence of carbon coke proved essential for the creation of machines and tools that could be powered by the combustion of coal. Without the presence of this fossil fuel on English soil, the development of industrial activity would certainly have been much more problematic. Another important factor that gave a fundamental impulse to the transformation of production processes was the presence of outlet markets represented by the colonies of the immense British Empire as well as by the very important European market on which English manufacturing poured its prodigious industrial output. This factor was of vital importance for the growth and development of British industry and guaranteed large profits which were partly reinvested in the modernization and technological development of industrial plants. The export of English manufactured goods throughout the world was guaranteed by the possession of the most powerful merchant and military fleet in the world and by the complete dominion of the sea (thalassocracy) that England consolidated after the defeat of France in the Seven Years’ War ( 1756-1763). But there is one last factor, often little considered, which must be included among the main causes that allowed the birth and development of the industrial revolution in 18th century England. We are referring to the immense quantity of manpower that the English nation had at its disposal precisely at that particular historical juncture due to the disintegration of the last legacies of the Middle Ages in the production systems of the English countryside. With the various enclosures acts that followed one another starting from the mid-18th century, British farmers were deprived of the use of the uncultivated lands and woods from which they largely derived their livelihood. With these regulations, these lands were effectively privatized and thus made unavailable to a large mass of farmers who suddenly found themselves without a means of subsistence and forced to flock to the big cities in search of employment. Most of them found employment in the first factories that were built in that period and formed the first nuclei of the urban proletariat or of the new social class that took shape as a consequence of the industrial revolution and the development of the production processes resulting from it ( creating the premises for the birth of the so-called “worker question” which in the following century would be the subject of global philosophical and political debate).


From what has been written so far it can easily be deduced what the origin of the industrial revolution was and what the real reasons and conditions were that allowed the birth and development of this historical phenomenon. And why it developed, not surprisingly, precisely in 18th century England. That is, in the nation, at the time, most advanced and powerful of the world. And in which political, economic and social conditions were practically unique and not found, all together, elsewhere in the world. These conditions also represented the direct consequence of historical processes specific to the English geographical context which took shape following the Norman conquest of Great Britain (in 1066, by William the Conqueror) and which we have already had the opportunity to talk about on this blog ( Since very often the birth and development of historical phenomena of the highest order are merely the fruit and consequence of political, economic and social developments that took place many years before them. For this reason, historical analysis cannot be ignored to define the profile of any event that occurs on this planet. To fully understand its causes, developments and consequences and to reveal its importance and impact on the political, geopolitical, economic and social structures of its time.

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