How did the Industrial Revolution change the world?
The Industrial Revolution was arguably the biggest global change in the way humans relate to each other and the world around them since the Agricultural Revolution 13,000 years earlier. In the 18th century, China, India and Europe were broadly comparable in terms of levels of economic development, standard of living, and people’s life expectancy and each claimed around 23% of global GDP. However, by 1800s, India and China had begun to fall, while Europe and the United States rose. By 1900, China and India collectively held 9% of global GDP while Europe held 60% and the US held 20%. Over the course of the 19th century, Chinese and Indians became relatively poorer than Europeans and Americans, and the gap, both on national and societal levels, widened. The world was divided between the developed world who escaped the limits of the biologically old regime, and the underdeveloped ‘third’ world who remained within its confines. This gap is exemplified by the British rule in India which, ‘by ever increasingly plundering and draining away the resources of the people, deliberately produces extreme impoverishment and thereby causes famine, plague, and starvation on an ever-increasing scale for some 200,000,000 people’ (from ‘Sources’ reading p 139). However, the gap was not just between different parts of the world, but also within societies. Industry produced wealth for some people, but created and sustained poverty for many others. The Industrial revolution changed how nations related to each other, and identified themselves. New forms of communication such as the railroad and the telegraph allowed nations (and also individuals) to communicate and trade more easily. Most countries had favoured free international trade. However, in the 1870s, Germany and Italy raised tariffs to protect domestic product, with France, the US and Russia following soon after. As well as protecting their own produce, states faced the...
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