1. The spread of industrialization

    1. The Industrialization in Europe

At the beginning of the 19th century, Great Britain was the only country in the world with an important industrial development, caused by the Industrial Revolution. In other parts of Europe, the survival of Old Regime’s economic, political and social institution didn’t allow for the new technological and organizational advances to spread. On top of that, the British goods flooded the markets and it was almost impossible for local producers to compete. 

During the first half of the 19th century, however, revolutions brought about the liberal ideas both in politics, society and the economy, making possible for some regions to start their own industrialization. These regions (North of France, Belgium, the Rhine region in Germany) had a tradition in manufactures, easy access to some raw materials such as coal and easy transports by rivers. They started importing British machinery and technology, and the liberal states brought down the internal frontiers and eased internal trade. Agricultural production improved, the demographics changed, and people started flocking to cities (rural exodus) to work in the new factories built in the outskirts of the cities. Textile industry flourished, as well as the iron and steel’s blast furnaces. Railways networks started to be built, demanding more products from the industries and attracting even more population, which would demand these new industrial goods. The industrialization was set in motion, and by the mid-19th century these regions had reached the levels of industrialization of Britain, which, nevertheless, continued being the main industrial power.

A third wave of industrialization, the so-called “late comers” started in the 2nd half of the 19th century, when some regions in “peripherical” countries started their own process of industrialization. Spain (textiles in Catalonia and iron industry in the Basque Country), Italy (Piamonte and Lombardy), Portugal, Austria (Bohemia and Moravia) or Russia started, very slowly, to develop these industries. Industrialization was slow in these countries where agriculture was still underdeveloped, and social, economic and political barriers from Old Regime weren’t still removed, creating big regional unbalances that still exist today. 

Outside Europe, the United States and Japan (Meiji Revolution) also started their own industrialization process, which would make them industrial powers by the end of the century.

  1. Appearance of class society

The spread of industrialization meant that population grew very quickly. In urban areas, the population that migrated from the countryside couldn’t be quickly absorbed, so new neighbourhoods sprang up in the outskirts of cities. This urban growth was uncontrolled and unchecked, creating bad conditions for the workers, who usually built their own houses (shacks) in huge neighbourhoods with no access to basic services (drinkable water, sewages, street lightning, schools…) that we call slums. In most cities, entire families had to live in just one room, sharing their kitchens and latrines with other families. Sanitation was poor, so diseases like cholera were frequent.

Workers had only their hands and physical strength to depend on. Factory workers lived in miserable conditions, with shifts that usually went between 12 and 15 hours a day, 6 days a week. Children had to start working very early (6-8 years old) as the wages of the factory jobs weren’t enough to sustain a family, despite men earned double than children or women for doing the same job.

Insecurity dominated workers’ lives, as there wasn’t any kind of subsidy for those who had an accident, lost their job or were too old to work.

On the other side, the disappearance of the society of the Old Regime meant that a new elite was created, based only in their wealth. In the higher classes, the nobility of the old regime, which had lost their privileges but not their lands and wealth, were joined by the more prominent members of the bourgeoisie, owners of banks, industries, railways, etc. This new elite would dominate the new liberal states and make them work in their advantage.

Alongside the higher classes, a new middle class appeared, formed of skilled artisans, local merchants and mainly liberal professionals (lawyers, engineers, teachers, doctors…) which had access to education and lived comfortable lives.

For these new elites, and to control the sprawl of the cities, urban planning was created. Ensanches were urban plans were new neighbourhoods were created. These new neighbourhoods separated the classes, with different planning, services, transports and buildings for the bourgeois areas and the workers’ areas.

  1. Labor movements

Some of the members of society, especially those in the educated middle class, took notice of the blatant inequalities of this new society, and of the miserable conditions of the workers and started to develop new ideologies that would address the problem.

In the early 19th century there was some attempts at creating new communities where economic and social equality and solidarity were priorities, such as New Lanark in Glasgow, founded by Robert Owen. These were called utopian socialist, but their attempts were unsuccessful on the long term.

By mid-19th century a young German philosopher, named Karl Marx, had developed new theories onsocialism. In 1848 he published the Communist Manifesto, a very influential work, There, and in the bookThe Capital (Das Kapital, 1867), Marx and his partner, Friedrich Engels, developed his ideas. They had studied the process of industrialization and its social and economic consequences and stated that history is not a sequence of political events, but a struggle between social classes based on economic relations and the ownership of means of production. They stated that the industrialization would continue and create a mass of workers (proletariat) that were exploited by the elites (bourgeoisie) and that the proletariat, when it became fully conscious of their exploitation and unite, there would, through a revolutionary process, take control of the state and the means of production, and progressively create a classless and equalitarian society, where state would no longer be needed. This theory is called Marxism or Scientific socialism.

These theories had a huge influence in the masses of industrial workers, that started to organize what is known as the Labor movement

It took several decades to develop class consciousness. The first actions against the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution were the destruction of machines (because they destroyed jobs) by Luddites in Great Britain, at the beginning of the century. But in general, extreme working conditions did not leave workers enough time to organize even the most minimal resistance to the abuses of those in charge of industrial production. Thanks to a number of skilled leaders and thinkers, who were able to disseminate socialist ideas in easily understandable terms, and governments’ assumption that the situation would never change, trade unions and working-class parties and international organizations were formed.

The first trade unions were mutual aid associations. The membership fees paid by workers were used to support those who were unemployed, ill or whose relatives had died. Later, trade unions began to usestrikes to demand that business owners provide better working conditions for their employees. The first English trade unions were established in the 1820s. Other European countries did not have trade unions until the second half of the 19th century. This was the result of delayed industrialization and repression of the labour revolts in 1848.

Proletarian internationalism emerged in the 1860s. In 1864, the International Workingmen’s Association (IWA) was founded in London. It was later called the First International. The most important thinkers of the period, Marx and Bakunin, were the organization’s leaders, but they clashed over their different stances on the proletariat’s involvement in politics.

Bakunin was the leader of another branch of workers’ ideology, anarchism. Anarchism was the political philosophy that advocated for a society without classes, state or private property. Anarchists didn’t recognize any kind of authority and stated that society should be organized into communes managed by the workers themselves. They awarded peasants a leading role in the revolution (Marxist thought that peasants were less educated and more subject to reactionary forces such as religion, so revolution would come from the urban industrial workers). They opposed participation in the system (elections, parliaments) and their demands should be brought upon direct action (strikes, demonstrations or even violence such as sabotage and terrorist actions).

The difference of opinion in the First International were so great that it was dissolved in 1876. During the 1870s, socialist parties were founded in various European countries. These working-class parties came together in 1889 to create the Second International. There were disagreements between more purist Marxist revolutionaries and the revisionists, who supported participation in the liberal politics and gradual change from within (these are called socialdemocrats). 

  1. Second Industrial Revolution

In the second half of the 19th century, the spread of industrialization made markets overcrowded with goods, so investments were made in new branches of industrial production, made possible by the advances in scientific development. This process changed the industry: the steam engine era ended and the Second Industrial Revolution began.

Between 1870 and 1914, the new model underwent spectacular growth. New technologies began to be used in almost all of Europe and beyond. New pioneering countries included Germany, the United States and Japan.

During this period, several important advances were made:

  • Oil began to be used as a new source of energy. The first oil well had been drilled in the United States in 1859. Although oil did not completely replace coal, which continued to be widely used, the new fuel was soon used in industry, transport and lightning.

  • Electricity replaced the mechanical energy produced by the steam engine. This new form of energybenefited industrial areas where no coal was available. In 1879, Thomas Alva Edison perfected the incandescent lamp or bulb. His bulbs began to be used to light cities. The first electric tram lines were also opened.

  • From 1856, the iron and steel industry underwent spectacular growth thanks to the Bessemer converter, which could transform large amounts of iron into steel, with fewer impurities, very quickly. Steel also made it easier to build boats, railways, bridges and buildings. Stainless steel and aluminium also began to be obtained during this period.

  • The chemical industry specialised in synthetic products that replaced natural ones. New industries developed: the first plastics, fertilisers, dyes, explosives, condiments, drugs and perfumes. Germany became the world’s leading producer of chemical products

  • There were huge advances in transport and communications:

    • Railways connected more and more territories. Between 1850 and 1914, more than 400 000 km of railways were constructed in Europe. In the United States the transcontinental railway connected the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. This 3069-kilometre line was used to colonise the American West.

    • Fast steel-hulled boats helped the expansion of world trade of products from the crop and livestock farming and industrial sectors. Propellers began to be used in maritime transport. Later, sailing boats were replaced by steamboats.

    • Benz developed the first petrol-powered automobile in 1886. Improvements such as tyres and gears were gradually made and the new cars became widespread in the 20th century. In the United States, the automobile industry, based on Detroit, played an important role.

    • Communications suffered a revolution with the invention of the telegraph and the telephone, which allowed almost instantaneous communications at great distances. The first interoceanic cables were already in place by the 1870’s

  • Work reorganisation helped increase industrial productivity. In the late 19th century, F.W. Taylor developed a new method of work organisation in the United States. According to Taylorism, each worker should be assigned a single task in the manufacture of an industrial product. Division of labour was therefore implemented as a model of production. Several decades later, Henry Ford applied this principle to the assembly lines in his automobile factories. 

  • Capitalism adapted to the needs of industrialisation. Banks were opened to store savers’ money and provide loans to industrial and railways companies. Banking families such as the Pèreire and Rothschild were particularly important.

  • Companies began to form corporations, creating cartelstrusts and holding companies. The aim of these mergers was to prevent competition between sellers in order to completely control the market. In this way, major businessmen were able to monopolise various economic sectors: Rockefeller (United States), oil; Krupp (Germany), armaments; Nobel (Sweden), explosives, etc.