Urbanization During the Industrial Revolution

The Effects of Urbanization During the Industrial Revolution

Urbanization brought about many changes in the social, economic, and political lives of people during the industrial revolution. This article sheds light on the effects of urbanization and industrialization on the common people of that time.
Historyplex Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
The industrial revolution has tended to produce everywhere great urban masses that seem to be increasingly careless of ethical standards.
- Irving Babbitt

The period between the second half of the 18th century and first half of the 19th century was the time when the entire world witnessed a great transition from muscle power to machine power. It was the period when the manufacturing sector all across the world, especially in Europe and North America, grew to an enormous extent. The reasons were numerous and varied; one of them being the substantial rise in amount of agricultural produce. The introduction of machines in the manufacturing process also led to a huge increase in the production of manufactured goods, and at lower production costs. This resulted in the availability of consumer goods at affordable prices, thus, elevating the standard of living of the common people.

This whole process of Industrial Revolution brought about many, favorable and unfavorable, changes to the world. In fact, it can be said that the Industrial Revolution changed the world. One of the most obvious and long-lasting changes was the large-scale urbanization that it caused. Read through this Buzzle article to know the causes and effects of urbanization during the Industrial Revolution.

What is Urbanization?

Urbanization, in simple words, is a process wherein, the urban areas tend to grow at a very rapid rate.

Humans are known to have urbanized themselves from time to time throughout the course of history, owing to various reasons.

However, the process of urbanization, be it at any point of time in history, is always characterized by the large-scale migration of people from the rural areas to the urban areas, thus leading to a sudden, and often unexpected, increase in the urban population.

It is also characterized by the growth of other modes of production apart from agriculture, thus making more options of income accessible to the people.

What Happened During the Industrial Revolution?

The growth of industries and factories in some areas during the 18th and the 19th centuries led to the generation of more jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Owing to the huge discrepancies in the agricultural sector, the common peasants and working classes found it more feasible to seek employment in the newly created sector, as it also seemed more promising.

The manufacturing sector, owing to the low production costs and eventually the affordable prices of consumer goods, helped people to save more money for posterity, and also increased their purchasing power. All this eventually led to a growth in their standard of living.

This elevation in the people's standard of living led to the growth of a number of subsidiary industries in these areas, which included entertainment and service, alongside others.

Thus, these areas became the "hotspots" for generation of enormous amounts of money, and the seemingly unending opportunities for people.

All these factors (and many others), collectively resulted in the creation of a wave of large-scale migration from the rural areas to be the newly established commercial settlements which, in just a few years, went on to become fully urbanized, with all the necessary amenities and facilities.

In such areas, owing to the migration of the people, population seemed to explode suddenly, in a rather short span of time.

Effects of Urbanization

Despite the fact that the growth of urban centers leads to the creation of more job opportunities for the people, and thus, to the generation of more money, it must be noted that urbanization is almost always perceived as a negative trend. The rise in population of the cities gives rise to many problems; air and water pollution being the major issues. Others problems created by urbanization include, increased crime rates, poverty, deforestation, and the formation of slums (considered to be one of the worst effects of urbanization). Here are some of negative effects that urbanization had on the world during the Industrial Revolution.

Class Divide
During the industrial revolution, new social classes emerged in the society. Entrepreneurs as well as industrialists gained enormous wealth due to heavy industrialization. The social structure changed, leading to a divide within different classes in the society. While the working classes were confined to unhealthy living conditions, unsafe working environment, low-paying jobs, etc., the factory owners became rich and powerful by accumulating huge amounts of wealth.

Gradual Decline in Standard of Living
Because of the large-scale migration, people who had shifted to the cities from villages, found it quite difficult to adjust in the depersonalized urban environment. This was because, most of the people were used to staying and working in their own farms, and the basic necessities of life-water and food, were easily accessible to them. In the cities however, due to the unprecedented growth in population, there was growing shortage of fresh water. Urbanization put a lot of pressure on the economic as well as governmental systems, which could not handle this growth in population, thus, causing inconvenience to people. Added to this, problems such as unemployment and underemployment were on a rise, thus in turn, lowering the overall standard of living. This could be witnessed with the passage of time, from the enormous growth in the number of slums in the urban areas.

Change in Family Structure
Urbanization and industrialization led to lot of changes in the family structure as well. Men began to work in factories, and their wages were comparatively higher than those of women. Children were seen as a source of low-cost labor. Due to industrialization, men received the status of "bread-winners" of the family, while middle class women were encouraged to stay back at home, and look after their children. This resulted in the rise of age and gender discrimination in the urban societies.

Catalyst for Socialist Revolution
Due to urbanization, people who followed different cultures and traditions came together to live in the cities. With time, their cultural values began to fade. They felt a need to associate themselves with something they could identify with. It was this need of the people who worked in factories, which the trade unions seemed to take advantage of. The working classes were at the mercy of the factory owners. They were forced to work in unsafe working conditions for long hours with minimum wages. Impersonalized city environment, combined with the dehumanizing working atmosphere, and the division within various sections of the society; all in a way were responsible for the socialist revolution, all around the world.

Though urbanization had many ill effects on the society, it had certain positive outcomes as well. It was this large-scale migration of people to the cities that forced the government(s) to device policies that would take care of them. The initiative of the government(s) to take interest in the development works, modernization of the infrastructure, opening of schools, providing proper sanitation, health and water facilities-all this can be attributed to the large-scale urbanization that took place during the Industrial Revolution.