Problems Faced by Historians in Defining the Industrial Revolution

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Explain the problems faced by historians in defining the term Industrial Revolution.

Historians face many problems when it comes to using the term “Industrial Revolution”. There is much debate and difficulty when is comes to defining it. It opens up many questions and there are many contributing factors and areas to consider. Can it be considered a revolution when it occurred over quite a long period of time? When did it start? What were the causes of it? Many historians have differing opinions on each question.

A revolution can be defined as “a sudden or grand change” (oxford defined the Industrial revolution as “the massive social[->0], economic[->1], and technological[->2] change in the 18th century[->3] and 19th century[->4] within Great Britain,” This indicates that it was a grand change but not a sudden one. It was spread out over two centuries. There are two approaches that historians either support. The first is the revolutionary approach. Writers, such as Deane and Cole (1967) saw the industrial revolution as a period of great expansion, and they said that there certainly was a rapid growth of production in leading sectors. They therefore supported the revolutionary approach. Rostow (1960) used the term “take off” when defining the industrial revolution. He believed that there was a take off phase within the country at the beginning of the industrial revolution.

The other approach is the gradualist approach. This approach obviously indicates that ii wasn’t has rapid and debates that it was more gradual. Crafts (1985) believed that it was a time of slow improvement therefore supporting the gradualist approach. He believed it was slower, particularly socially; standards of living and wages did not improve. He also claimed that modernisation in Britain was sluggish, because demand and consumption only grew very slow during the claimed period. Wrigley (2004) is also of the gradualist school of...
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