The term Industrial Revolution is generally used to describe the series of economic changes which took place in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries and completely transformed the European society.
According to Charles Beard, “By the Industrial Revolution we mean that great transformation which has been brought about during the past one hundred and fifty years by discoveries and inventions which have altered fundamentally all the methods of production and distribution of means of life and consequently revolutionized all the economic functions of the society.” The Industrial Revolution brought about two main changes, viz. it replaced the domestic system by factory system and small scale production by mass production.
It may be noted that the Industrial Revolution fundamentally differed from other revolutions. Whereas the other revolutions like the American Revolution, French Revolution and Russian was accomplished without any ‘ bloodshed. It was essentially peaceful in character.
Again, unlike other revolutions, it has no definite beginning and end. Whereas the other revolutions commenced on specific dates and came to an end after accomplishing the desired objective, the industrial revolution is an on-going process. The inventions made during this period were not entirely new and some of them constituted an improvement over the existing ones.
Likewise the discoveries and inventions made during this period were further improved in the subsequent centuries. Finally, unlike other revolutions which try to promote and protect the interests of the down-trodden sections of society, the industrial revolution caused untold misery to the working classes. It provided the capitalists with all types of luxuries and boundless sources of enjoyment and workers fell victims to dirt, disease, sorrow, suffering etc.
In fact some scholars have objected to the use of term ‘revolution’ for these industrial changes on the ground that they caused no brutal violence, war, execution and persecution.
Further these changes were not sudden and took about a century. However, Prof. Toynbee says that the changes in the production system were so radical that they can rightly be described as Revolution. It was chiefly because of the industrial revolution that the world passed into a new and different era, the era of machines.
If we compare the conditions prevailing in the seventeenth century with the conditions in the nineteenth century the changes were indeed revolutionary. Domestic production was replaced by factory system and mass production replaced small scale production.