The Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution: Reasons and Consequences
The rebellious Parisians stormed the Bastille, the royal prison-fortress that epitomized the tyranny of the rule of the Bourbon dynasty. This event was the apogee of days of unrest in Paris and the symbol of the French Revolution, which three years later overthrew the monarchy and proclaimed a republic. However, there has only been one industrial revolution in human history, when there was a century-long transition from a rural, craft-based economy to a predominantly urban, machine-based civilization. This is a phenomenon revolutionary for Europe, even though in the mid-18th century, agrarian culture prevailed here, and the population remained illiterate and had a low standard of living. In Western Europe, the first industrial revolution or, as it is sometimes called, the industrial revolution occurred. Therefore, it is essential to establish the reasons for and consequences of the French and Industrial Revolution.
The Causes and Effects of the French Revolution
The preconditions of the Great French situation also include the “old order” established in a society divided into three estates. The representatives of the higher caste, specifically the nobility and the clergy, did not want to change anything because they were satisfied with the privileges they had. In society, there was also “the third estate, ordinary people did not have the right to vote, and in general, their rights were severely restricted” (Sieyès, 1964, p. 53). It is significant to mark the third estate as more than half of the population. There was a certain compromise between the monarchy and the privileged classes. In exchange for depriving these estates of political rights, the kings preserved their many social privileges.
The economic problems had been accumulating for a long time, but the authorities were incapable of resolving them under the conditions of the long-established “old regime”. One of the causes of the French Revolution was the corrupted system of government, slavery, and religious oppression. Many believed that the aristocracy and the king conspired to order the third estate by encouraging scarcity and high prices (Cole & Symes, 2020). At the same time, the peasants did not want to live in captivity and not have access even to bread.
At this stage of the successful struggle between the peasants and the third estate was the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in August 1789. The declaration proclaimed that “all citizens are equal before the law and untouchables” (Baker, 1987, p. 238). At the same time, the declaration was to ensure freedom of the press, speech, and the safety of all citizens regardless of class. It is also essential to mention the abolition of serfdom, which the ordinary person received through this revolution phase. However, the slavery of colored people was still relevant. It is significant to observe that another reason for the revolution and not satisfying women were the debate before adopting the Constitution. Women in the Constitution of 1791, which pointed to the limited rights of females. Etta Palm d’Aelders opposed that only men could advance suspicion and family treason and demanded equal rights (Cole & Symes, 2020). It is interesting to remember that Edmund Burke began the debate and expressed his opposition to revolution.
He did not want peasants to receive equal rights with the clergy and the aristocratic class. At the same time, he confirmed that “in the future, the class row must be strictly observed” (Burke, 1986, p. 45). In contrast, Thomas Paine advocated that ordinary people should be granted rights to ensure a life of dignity. Moreover, he pronounced the notion that “government needs to originate from the people; this will allow a combination of moral principles and democratic prosperity” (Paine, 1974, p. 308). In this way, it can be considered that the idea of a republic, which would satisfy the desires of the protesting public, was proclaimed. The achievement of this phase of the revolution can be understood as the leadership of France passed to the Jacobins. They declared themselves representatives of the individuals and pledged to restore economic justice.
Hence, after the king’s execution, there was a change in the social order that the peasants and the third class had been waiting for. Among the consequences of the revolution was the loss of compensation for the nobility, the betrayal of their estates to the poor, and the way in which property was inherited. It should also be mentioned that slavery in the colts was abolished, and fair grain prices were finally established. At the same time, the positive effects of the revolution can be attributed to the fact that it fulfilled its purpose. Churches, guilds, parishes, and nobles lost power, and the people were united (Cole & Symes, 2020). Although the French public did not have unity, they were divided into two groups despite the negative influence.
Consequently, constant fighting led to inflation and a reduction in the voting rights of citizens. The continuous wars demanded new solutions, so considerable attention must be paid to the successful military Napoleon Bonaparte, who became a strong leader without being king. He introduced a successful tax system, stopped inflation, and completely changed the system of government. Thus, it should be remarked that “a unified judiciary was organized, education developed, and the civil service became available to talented persons” (Mason & Rizzo, 1999, p. 349). At the same time, Napoleon’s victorious wars turned France into an influential state and restored a just social order that stymied the revolution.
Therefore, among the results of the French Revolution, the end of absolute monarchy was the most prominent. More rights and freedoms were also granted to the ordinary people, which enhanced their economic position. The rights of the Church and the aristocracy were canceled, and the principles expanded. The doctrines of freedom, equality, and fraternity transited the boundaries of France and were distributed throughout Europe (Cole & Symes, 2020). Despite the battle, which had many benefits for French and European citizens, the absolute monarchy of Louis XVI was eventually replaced by the Empire of Napoleon.
The Industrial Revolution Compared to the French Revolution
The application of new technologies in industry and a scientific approach to farming led to a multiplication of productivity. Consequently, the rapid enrichment of landowners and manufacturers formed a new social class: capitalists, entrepreneurs, and businessmen. The first entrepreneurs create the first factories, which employ not servile serfs, but free workers (Cole & Symes, 2020). Their labor is often more efficient, and the workers themselves become interested in increasing their productivity, on which their pay depends.
The first machine tools appear, and a division of labor is introduced when each person performs only one particular operation but does it perfectly. Hence, just as in the French Revolution, the industrial revolution began with people’s desire for economic gain. The Industrial Revolution would not have been achievable without the advent of the steam engine and other specialized creations. The steam machine was perfected by James Watt and was used to power transportation systems: railroads and steamboats (Cole & Symes, 2020). Therefore, it stimulated the further development of the revolutionary sentiments of society.
That is, comparing the reasons for the two revolutions, it can be concluded that the economic factor directed them. However, the French Revolution’s stimulation was required to restore social justice and provide bread to the peasants. At the same time, the Industrial Revolution occurred at a time when the previous issues had already been resolved, and the question of perfecting the production of goods and the provision of services had arisen (Cole & Symes, 2020). Accordingly, the Industrial Revolutions were initiated and supported not only by the lower classes but also by the middle class to automate production and obtain greater profits.
It should also be indicated that, as during the French Revolution, there were people who did not support the industrial revolution. For example, one can mention the following lines “every improvement in machinery leads to unemployment, and the more significant the technical progress, the greater the unemployment” (Engels, 1969, p.150). Understandably, society did not have absolute confidence in the consequences of the revolution. It may be noted that during the French Revolution, there were also oppositional opinions dwarfed by the majority.
It is significant to emphasize that the consequence of industrialization was the migration of the labor force. A striking migration process replaced the Industrial Revolution from a population perspective. First, the industrialized countries underwent internal migration. Laborers flocked from the rural to the urban areas in search of better opportunities. Thus, the urban population grew, and the rural population diminished. Second, there was external migration between America and Europe. It should be stressed that employees work overtime “when you’ve put in 15, 16, or 18 hours in such circumstances you are dead tired, in the truest sense of the word” (Rehbein, 2018, p. 238). This had a negative influence on their health and work capacity.
Another typical result of the revolutions was the discussion and empowerment of women. There were calls to “proclaim the rights of women, in the same terms your fathers proclaimed yours” (Tristan, 1983, p. 76). Thus, the Industrial Revolution also contributed to recognizing women’s right to equal attitudes and labor. In addition, many goods became many times cheaper and more accessible due to their more reasonable cost due to mass production. Previously, there had been a wealthy feudal lord and a servile serf. Now, there were new players, the entrepreneurial factory worker. It is also the free laborer working in that entrepreneur’s factory.
For the first time, there was such a notion as “middle class,” which could include any small entrepreneur with a small factory. It also had some highly qualified engineer-workers, especially valued by factory owners for their ability to adjust machine tools perfectly. Moreover, the Industrial Revolution led to the advent of general education, compulsory and free schooling for all children (Cole & Symes, 2020). This consequence is similar to the French Revolution when Napoleon Bonaparte supported education and created conditions for promoting talented individuals to public office.
Hence, it should be mentioned that the roots of both revolutions relate to economic issues and the population’s access to better possibilities. The French Revolution promoted the abolition of slavery and the empowerment of peasants. At the same time, its reformed education and the judicial system, which contributed to the development of France. The Industrial Revolution arose when the consequences of the French Revolution were already actively entrenched in society. It aimed to optimize labor, expand people’s rights, and make profits for absolutely all segments of the population. Accordingly, it can be argued that the French Revolution was the basis for the Industrial Revolution.
Baker, K. M. (1987). The old regime and the French Revolution. University of Chicago Press.
Burke, E. (1986). Reflections on the revolution in France (1790). Everyman’s Library.
Cole, J., & Symes, C. L. (2020). Western civilizations. W. W. Norton & Company.
Engels, F. (1969). The condition of the working class in England in 1844. Panther Edition.
Mason, L., & Rizzo, T. (1999). The French revolution: A document collection. Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Paine, T. (1974). The rights of man. Citadel Press.
Rehbein, F. (2018). Das Leben eines Landarbeiters. (J. Cole, Trans.). Hofenberg.
Sieyès, E. J. (1964). What is the third estate? Praeger.
Tristan, F. (1983). The Workers’ union. Urbana.