How did Europe`s relationship with the world change between


Howdid Europe`s relationship with the world change between approximately1750 and 1914?

Between1750s and 1914 an unprecedented and far-reaching revolution changedthe face of Europe. From this period, Europe and the world at largewas no longer the same. Historians have often used the wordrevolution to explain the radical changes that took place, hencereferred to it as the age of Industrial Revolution. Industrialrevolution started with Britain, the world’s first industrialeconomy, and made its way to Europe and North America. This periodopened the door to a completely new world marked by revolutions, aswell as, influenced Europe’s political, economic, intellectual andsocial relations around the world. In many nations including Japan,Britain and the United States, major political reforms replaced oldgovernments with more democratic and progressive governments, thus,inspiring other people to seek similar changes. Additionally,political reforms in these nations went hand-in-hand with new visionsof a better life, new relationship between the citizens andgovernment, as well as, more skeptical attitudes towards organizedreligions. This transformed the world politics, with Western nationsasserting their power in Africa, Asia, and Latin America where theyestablished huge colonial empires.

Onthe other hand, economic transformation in the industrial revolutionsaw the production of unprecedented goods reshaping the world’seconomic life. However, economic development was fostered byinnovations and the use of new technology in the production andmanufacture of goods. This progress came at a high cost, suppressionof colonized people, and ravaging of the natural environment. Theincreasing political, economic and military domination of the rest ofthe world by various European nations became a major trend duringthis period, while western people controlled others. This researchpaper will focus on how European’s relation with the world changedduring industrial revolution (1750-1914). The paper will also analyzehow the social, intellectual, economic and political impactsexperienced during this period influenced the world.

Impactsof the Industrial Revolution period (1750-1914)

TheIndustrial Revolution completely transformed the political, socialand economic life in Europe and America, and began to do so in othercountries such as Russia, Japan, India and Italy, to which it hadbeen recently introduced. By early twentieth century, most of theworld’s nations had developed significant industrial sectors, andother nations had joined ranks of outright industrialists. TheIndustrial Revolution must have been seen as an global process,though an uneven one.

Theindustrial revolution transfigured the social life of Europe and theworld. Although some places in Europe remained bound by traditionalways, the social impacts were felt by the beginning of the 19thcentury and future avenues of growth had become very apparent. Someof the key features of social impacts include growth of cities,population increase, improved standard of living and formation of newsocial classes among others. In the 18thcentury, population increase became dramatic due to the decline ofdeath rates and increased birthrates evident throughout Europe.Historianshave established the two major factors explaining declined deathrates and increased birth rates. They point out that ordinary andpremature deaths declined due increase of food supply and a declinein epidemic diseases. More food supply as a result of agricultureenabled a greater number of people to be better fed and, thus, becameresistant to diseases.

Onthe same note, towns and cities grew dramatically in the first halfof the 19thcentury, as a result of industrialization. By the 1850s in countriessuch as Belgium and Britain, cities had rapidly become places forindustries and manufacturing. Manufactures and entrepreneurs hadestablished their manufacturing plants in urban centers where therecould easily access transport facilities. As a result, influxes ofpeople from the countryside looking for work moved to the citiesleading to population growth.

Thereare a number of factors that coalesced in Europe, especially inBritain, in order to produce to achieve economic prosperity. One ofthese factors includes improvement in agriculture and agriculturalpractices, which led to significant increase in food production. Kiely points out that the increasing population gave them the nationsthe wherewithal to manufacture, produce and purchase goods, as wellas, provided surplus labor for the new factories emerging in thecentury.

Furthermore,Britain government played an essential role as it invested capital innew industrial machines, passing favorable laws, protecting privateproperty and establishing conditions under which these industriescould thrive. Economic development was also fostered by the amplesupply of important minerals and resources such as iron ore and core,which were used in the manufacturing process. O’Brien adds thatrapid economic progress was further encouraged by Britain’s successin the war of 1793 – 1815 against France, during which Britainremained free from invasion and escaped the economic dislocationengendered by war on the continent of Europe.

The18thcentury is commonly referred to as the age of enlightenment becauseit introduced a reverence of rational thoughts and ideas. Scholarsalso note that, during this age, thinkers of enlightenment valuednotion of progress over tradition and, therefore, empirical thinkingbecame a basis of modern science experimentation. Thus, during theIndustrial Revolution, inventions were created and improved morequickly than ever before. These changes led to unprecedented advancesin industry and technology.

Innovationsexperienced through new inventions included such as use of new formsof energy, and new ways of organizing human labor became thefoundation of the Industrial Revolution. Other forms of innovationincluded burning coal to drive steam engines, rationalizing thedivision of labor, and applying steam engines to power machinery.Developments in mining led to advances in metalwork, which led toimprovements in machinery. During the more than 200 years of theIndustrial Revolution, problems and needs intertwined, and solvingthe problem led to advancements. These advances in technology led tounprecedented economic growth, whereby Britain took the lead,followed by the Europe continent and the U.S.

Rapideconomic growth and the drastic changes in social structure made thepolitical system more and more incompatible with current trends. Thetwo groups of people who faced the harsh reality of the changingsociety included the middle classes and the working class. From the1750s to the 19thcentury, political movements aiming at parliamentary reforms began totake shape both among the middle and working class. Political reformswere implemented in the 19thand 20thcentury with middle class, working class, and women benefiting fromthe Reform Bill of 1832 and similar legislation passed in the 19thand 20thcentury. In addition, workers began to develop a feeling of commonconsciousness, and formed trade unions. These unions help to workersto address any political agitation for furtherance of theircollective and individual interest. This also helped to ensure astandard wage was maintained, employee worked for shorter hours, aswell as, maintain decent working conditions.

Europe’srelationship with the world (1750-1914)

SinceBritain was the world’s first industrial economy, parts of theEurope continent began to emulate it quite early. There are variousfactors that contributed to the change in Europe’s relationshipwith the world during the Industrial Revolution, which include laborrelations, d trade and global commerce, democracy, technology,transport and communication, as well as, demographic andenvironmental changes.

  1. Labor relations

Thespread and development of free labor market and a contract-basedemployer-employee relationship changed Europe relationship with theworld during this period. As industrialization progressed in Europe,economic and social relationships passed on from one person toanother because labor became a commodity, although a human one, andwas increasingly bought and sold in markets. Another factor thatinfluenced labor relation is labor mobility, evidenced in large-scalemovements of people from rural to urban areas, as well as, waves ofemigrating from the Old World to the New World. As industries andcorporations developed, so did the relationship between employer andemployee develop and the proportion of people working for wages.

Scholarsnote that the growing social diversity and the increasing pace ofracial, ethnic, cultural, religious andsocial heterogeneity dates back to the industrial revolution. This isbecause it changes during this period drew individuals from variousbackground to work in the emerging industrial centers and dwell inthe urban habitats. Furthermore, social diversity was evident in thiscolonial period as huge human migration in the form of slavery orindentured labor systems was common in the colonies. Thus, migrationof labor continued in colonies driven largely by labor demandscontinued and, thus, increasing social diversity. These historicalevents combined with modern globalization processes continues totrigger unprecedented human and labor mobility, rendering societymore complex than ever before.

  1. Democracy and Women rights

Theparallel revolution in political governance and social concern forhuman right was a key feature during the industrial revolution. Theroots of democratic revolution first took hold in Britain, and thenstretched to various nations across the world. Although the Britishstarted the movement toward democracy, the transformative break pointor revolution in the theory and practice of political governance tookplace in the France and the U.S in the late 18thcentury. In the continent of Europe, the pace and spread of democracywas considerably slower. Scholars note that the democratic processbegan in France and was largely aborted when Napoleon first declaredhimself emperor. However, in other parts of the world, democracy waslargely unknown even at the beginning of the 20thcentury.

Onthe same note, it is worth acknowledging that women were previouslynot seen as having the capacity to use reason in decision-making.Indeed, Condorcet notes that “guidedby what is called reason despite much intelligence, wisdom, and afaculty for reasoning developed to the same degree as in subtledialecticians1.This view is also supported by De Gouges, who in “The Declarationof the Rights of Woman” stated that “Thefree communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the mostprecious of the rights of woman, since this liberty assures therecognition of children by their fathers2.However, Gouges noted that the citizenness and rights of women wouldonly be safeguarded by public powers, which are instituted for allpeople’s advantage rather than the private benefit of theindividuals to whom they have been entrusted.

Thefreedom that was given to women took up quite a number of aspects. Itis noted that women were previously not considered to have the sameintellectual and physical capabilities that would have enabled themto make rational decisions. However, the fight for women rights didnot simply entail allowing them to make decisions but also enablingthem to participate in jobs that were previously only taken up bytheir male counterparts. This is the point that Halsall makes when hedetails the stories of women who were taking part in miningactivities in their countries. He particularly brings to the fore thestories of two women namely Patience Kershaw and Betty Harris whomade these journeys to the coal mines every day3.

Inconsidering influence on other countries, the French revolutionbecame far more significant as its manifesto of personal freedom andliberty, had a more fired up effect on the people of Europe. Itemphasized on the right to freedom and the need for equal rights. Theaim of political association in this matter was to preserve thenatural and the imprescriptibly rights of man. The freedom and rightsof human beings to do what they wanted as long as it was notinjurious to anyone are encompassed in the “Declaration of Rightsof Man-1789”. According to the French National Assembly, libertyentails the freedom of an individual to do anything that is notinjurious someone else. In essence, human beings would not be limitedin their exercise of natural rights (as freedom was seen to be)except in instances where such exercise was inhibiting other people’senjoyment of similar rights as determined by the law4.Although when democracy began it was slow and halting in variouscountries, the idea of democratic government gradually spread andgained irresistible momentum throughout the west in the early part ofthe 19thcentury. This changed the way people looked at the world of work andquestioned the democratic rights especial in areas of oppression, anddenial of basic human and civil rights. Since the Industrial andFrench revolution, democracy is deeply institutionalized and hasbecome a core value in many nations of the world. Of particular noteis the fact that the freedom was vouched for not only as a way ofenhancing lives and relationships between people but also as anindication of enlightenment. Indeed, Emanuel Kant stated that iffreedom is granted to the public, it would only be the case thatenlightenment would follow. He stated that his form of enlightenmentrequired nothing more than freedom5/.

  1. World trade and global commerce

Theindustrial revolution resulted to profound changes in the speed ofgoods and services, which tremendously changed the patterns of theworld system of trade. The speed of trade was fostered by importantdevelopment around 1870s, which was the refinement of nauticaltechnology in sailing ships, especially the famous “clipper chip.”According to Duiker and Spielvogel, technological advancement led tothe opening of many factories across Britain, then Europe and NorthAmerica, and eventually across the world. This merchant vessel wasdesigned for taking long sea voyages and had great speed which madetransportation of good to the rest of the world fast. By the 1870s,the limitation of cargo capacity by the vessel led to their demise asthe technology of steamship was introduced and continued to improve.

Therise of innovation and technology used in railroads and steamshipincreased global commerce leading to the demand of goods in widermarkets. The railroads sprang from a fortunate combination of steamengines and were in the mines in the transportation of coal and iron.By the 1840s, the U.S and Britain had experimented on use of railroadand steam engines for transportation, which led to an explosion ofrailroad building in both countries. The use of railroad transformedland transport, connecting nations for trade, as well as, enablingtransportation of people and goods on all the navigable rivers andland in America, Europe, and South and East Asia, which followedsoon. Availability of the means of transport across the world led tomass production making manufacturing more profitable.


Theperiod between 1750 and 1914 brought many benefits to more successfulindustries and nations that utilized the British technologies, tradenetworks, and markets. It also brought high quality industrialproducts at reasonable prices, with more employment opportunities forboth men and women. These changes shaped the world with smallcountries making their presence felt not just in industry, but alsoshaping urban landscapes. Europe was certainly instrumental inachieving these ends.


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1 Condorcet, Marquis de. 2002. On the Admission of Women to the Rights of Citizenship. Retrieved from:

2 Gouges, De. 2012. Declaration of the Rights of Woman. Retrieved from:

3 Halsall, Paul. 2002. Modern History Sourcebook: Women Miners in the English Coal Pits. Retrieved from:

4 The French National Assembly. 2008. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. Retrieved from:

5 Kant, Emmnauel.1997. What is Enlightenment? Retrieved from: