Europe's industrialization helped to move it to the forefront of the world's powers, just as differing rates of industrialization inside Europe helped to lift countries to the northwest, above all Britain.
The reasons for the different rates of growth have caused a lot of controversy because industrialization solved many problems but also created many new ones.
Europe's ability to increase the productivity of labor beyond anything previously accomplished in human history is a result of its unique dynamism and creativity.
The last two centuries of European history can be described as years of rapid change.
Changes in the world of nature can be compared to rapid change in history.
The rocks, soil, and oceans may not have changed much over the centuries.
A new environment, a new physical world, can be created by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
There have been periods of rapid historical change.
The period of the French Revolution might be compared to a volcanic eruption, with violent crowds and millions of armed men streaming out of France and across the Continent, clashing in titanic battles and leaving parts of Europe in smoking ruins and littered with graveyards.
5 million deaths were related to the Revolution and its wars, and of course the numbers of dead tell only a portion of the story of how the lives of millions were suddenly transformed in these years.
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The French Revolution spread new ideas, introduced new institutions, and installed new leaders, despite the fact that the brutal mobs and marching soldiers were destructive.
After 1815, political change seemed to decelerate; people calmed down, but also with the apprehension that another revolutionary eruption might be near, rumblings of which could be detected in every part of Europe.
Catastrophes in the natural world have consequences for human populations that have only recently begun to be appreciated by scientists and scholars.
In 1816, a volcanic eruption in southeast Asia, in present-day Indonesia, changed the climate as far away as western Europe, causing a cold summer, crop failures, and famine, but not a new wave of political revolution.
An example of nature's role in modern European history can be seen in the case of the potato plant that was attacked in the 1840s, causing years of starvation in Ireland and the exodus of a large part of the Irish population to the New World.
In Europe before the modern period, crop failures resulted in population movements with domino-like implications.
Spurts in population growth put stress on existing institutions with long-range implications beyond the obvious.
The number of young people increases in relation to the number of old, energetic and violent pursuit of change if the population grows rapidly.
Young people are more willing to move, either internally from villages to cities or to other countries, and are more able to adapt to new ways of doing things.
The implications of population growth are not easy to fit into simple formulas of cause and effect.
The population increase in Ireland in the decades before the 1840s did not result in revolution but in mass death and emigration as a result of the potato fungus.
The Irish of British authorities were accused of a hardhearted response to the failures of the potato crop due to the tragedies associated with the Potato Famine.
The bulge in the population can be an economic burden during the period when the members are infants and young children, but it also contributes to a boom when the children grow into their productive years.
If less flashy forces in the 19th century were to be considered more destructive, it would be because of the changing power of political revolution, warfare, and population spurts.
The most important of them was the industrial revolution.
The revolution reflected the unique nature of modern European history and contributed to its successes and failures.
Free-market industrial growth had in its inner logic a dynamism that pushed recklessly.
It was a destructive creativity that had a dark side that lasted into the twenty-first century.
The term "revolution" is misleading because it doesn't take into account the way that an earthquake or a political revolution are.
Industrial change was rather a series of intricately related and gradual developments over many years, with roots traced far into the European past.
There was no identifiable beginning or end to the revolution.
New theories about the nature and origins of industrialization in Europe crop up frequently, despite the fact that economists and other scholars still differ on how to define it.
The industrial revolution can be defined as an unprecedented expansion of human productivity, making human labor more efficient than it had ever been.
Before the late 18th century in Europe, the production of commodities was the result of human labor and the labor of domesticated animals.
Tools such as the scythe and the plow enhanced the labor of humans and animals.
Although the production of commodities was directed by human labor, machines driven by wind or water contributed to the production.
One of the reasons that the word "revolution" became attractive is that the output of certain commodities, textiles in particular, increased to an astonishing extent in the late eighteenth century; a range of other advances in productivity paralleled those, and an endless.
The most fundamental aspect of this new industrialization had to do with the rapid, seemingly unlimited growth in the productivity of labor, using new technologies and new ways of organizing it, and involving new sources of power beyond wind, water, and the muscles of humans and domesticated animals.
One needs to appreciate the long and intricate process of historical preparation in order to understand the origins of industrialization.
No single invention or set of legislation can be seen as decisive; it was the way in which the factors interacted that made a difference.
Industrialization is best thought of as a result of the distinctiveness of European character, as compared to technological innovations such as the internal combustion engine, railroads, cotton gins, and spinning jennies.
In northwestern Europe, cultural uniqueness was very prominent.
Britain was the pioneer in the northwestern part of Europe.
Its geographical features were among the most important of them.
Britain is a relatively flat and fertile country, surrounded by oceans and has many rivers.
Inventions had made it possible to extract coal and iron from underground deposits.
Britain's commercial character dates back into the Middle Ages, and by the late 18th century it had established worldwide markets for the commodities that its new factories were producing in ever more remarkable quantities.