The “industrial revolution” is the transition from an economy traditionally based on agriculture to an economy based on large-scale mechanized production of manufactured goods in enterprises.
The “industrial revolutions” (plural) refer to the different waves of industrialization that follow one another in different countries in the modern era, because the industrial revolution actually emerges in a way shifted in time and space according to the countries.
The first areas to have industrialized were Great Britain at the end of the eighteenth century, then Belgium, northern France and Switzerland at the beginning of the nineteenth century: these were the countries of the first wave. Germany and the United States industrialized from the mid-nineteenth century, Japan from 1868 (the beginning of the Meiji era which corresponds to the date of accession to power of Emperor Mutsuhito (1867-1912), then Russia at the end of the nineteenth century: they form the countries of the second wave.
Mule-jenny spinning machine, the result of incremental innovations since the early eighteenth century.
Cotton mechanical spinning factories in Manchester circa 1820.
The economic, political and social transformations are such that some, such as Max Pietsch and David Landes, want to see it as a break with the past. Others point to the convergence of elements that the historical context favors and diffuses in the nineteenth century. Karl Polanyi, in The Great Transformation (1944), exposes the idea of a century marked by:An international political balance: absence of major wars between 1815 and 1914;A monetary equilibrium: gold standard system and absence of inflation;An economic equilibrium: acceptance of the market economy.
Without ignoring the colossal impact of the transformations brought about by the industrial revolution (see for example the expression “Rerum Novarum” used by Pope Leo XIII in his homonymous encyclical: a set of “new things” form an unprecedented and disconcerting economic and social movement that raises the social question), certain elements ensure a certain continuity between the pre-industrial and industrial periods. Walt home contractors Whitman Rostow is one of the first to report on it. Franklin Mendels speaks of a situation of “proto-industrialization” in many parts of Europe and Pierre Léon notes the existence of “industrial nebulae” prior to the nineteenth century. Similarly, Bernard Rosier and Pierre Dockès show that the advent of the factory system follows the previous experience of the manufactory system and Alexander Gerschenkron notes that the industrial revolution is mainly the result of economic, political and social obstacles opposed by traditional societies and overcome by each state. Finally, Fernand Braudel notes: “There is never between past – even distant – and present absolute discontinuity, or if one prefers non-contamination. The experiences of the past continue to extend into the present life. Thus, many authors place the beginning of the industrial revolution in the Middle Ages (which has already revolutionized the world of work by the renewal of energy sources, hydraulic and wind, and by technological invention) or at the beginning of the Renaissance. Paul Mantoux speaks of the existence of industrial capitalism from the middle of the sixteenth century, but the industrial revolution itself, according to him, dates from the eighteenth century.Before the Industrial Revolution