The 18th century in Europe was a time of great change, when many things that were established parts of everyday society were transformed by the movements and revolutions that were happening around them. Two of the most important revolutions of this period were the British Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution, one a revolution of technology and society and the other a revolution of society and philosophy. The effects of these dual revolutions would be felt on the European continent for many years to come and have shaped the modern society in which Europeans now live.
The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain and the French Revolution both impacted the way people thought and the way people lived and therefore are extremely important to history. The emergence of industry and manufacturing in Great Britain was an important moment in European history. The Industrial Revolution is a term to describe the period in British history when manufacturing technology grew to such a level that goods that were once created by hand or over a long period of time could now be manufactured using power-driven machinery.
Perhaps the greatest effect of the Industrial Revolution on society was the mass droves of people that moved to cities where they could find work in the factories, creating urban areas where many people lived in poor conditions and worked in dangerous ones. Reforms were called for to keep up with the problems industrialization had created. In the end, the Industrial Revolution transformed Europe from an agricultural society into an industrial one (Nelson). With industrialization spreading to other nations, like France, so did new social changes and a call for changes in the way nations were governed.
The French Revolution changed not only France but the entire continent of Europe. Industrialization spread to France and many people crowded the large cities of the country, like Paris, creating a strong shift in the social conditions of the time. The masses of people gathered in Paris and other cities were more likely to hear about the different political and philosophical ideals of the time that called for social change and a change in the way things were run. The philosophy of the time called for a new government free of the absolute monarchy and stressed the importance of independence, freedom and equality for all individuals.
With these ideals to back their revolution the French overthrew the monarchy and changed their entire political system, instead favoring a more democratic system free of the old aristocratic privileges and the archaic feudalism that burdened many French peasants. As a result of the larger populations found in the cities, the revolution was extremely successful in its early stages of dethroning the monarchy and creating social change. Another important social change that was a result of the French Revolution was the rise of the middle class in importance and success.
Whereas under the monarchy there was limited room for a middle class to grow because of the stark contrast between the wealthy aristocracy and the impoverished peasants and factory workers, without the monarchy the middle class could strengthen. The French Revolution also marked the end of feudalism in Europe, an institution that had been in practice since the medieval period. The remnants of feudalism in France were the forced labor of peasants on the land of the aristocracy.
In 1789 the National Assembly, a political group that transformed the French political structure by taking away the power of the king and stopping other political practices like the collection of taxes by the Church, put an end to the practice of feudalism, putting France on the road to becoming an industrialized society like Great Britain (Nelson). The dual revolutions of the 18th century in Europe were so important because they transformed society and philosophy in ways that would be felt for years afterward.
Just as with anything in history, the cause and effect of each event is very important to understanding the subsequent event. The Industrial Revolution transformed the way nations were populated, which created the masses in Paris that helped to make the French Revolution a success because of their influence, which then led to the end of feudalism. The dual revolutions impacted history in a multitude of ways. Work Cited Nelson, Rebecca, ed. The Handy History Answer Book. Detroit: Visible Ink, 1999.
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