What were the short and long term impacts of the Industrial Revolution?

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One of the long-term impacts of the Industrial Revolution was its effect upon the countryside. Large numbers of men, women, and children moved from rural villages to the new factories, in search for better opportunities. As time went on, the age-old structures and rhythms of country-life changed dramatically. Country folk...

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were part of a society in which they had been closely attached to the soil since time immemorial. Their whole world revolved around the village and its life: their work and play, births, marriages, and deaths; every aspect of their lives was determined by their relationship to the natural environment.

All of that changed when country folk moved to the rapidly-developing towns and cities. Here, they felt isolated, no longer part of a wide support structure which provided, not just assistance during the bad times, but also a sense of identity. Newly-arrived workers from the countryside were suddenly turned into cogs in a gigantic economic machine, their employment relations based upon the cash nexus, rather than the traditional rural class relations of master and servant.

Increasingly, the rural economy existed to serve the new industrial centers. This changed the nature of agricultural work completely. If you've ever had the chance to read any of Thomas Hardy's novels, you'll see that one of the common themes is how the rural folk have been separated from the land by rapid industrialization; they need to produce more goods to satisfy the demands of a growing urban population. This was a direct consequence of the Industrial Revolution. In its wake, the affinity between the rural population and the soil was changed forever, from an almost mystical communion with the natural environment to a relationship in which nature was objectified, treated as a source for exploitation to feed the insatiable demands of the new industrial society.

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One of the short term impacts of the Industrial Revolution was that jobs that were formerly done by skilled craftsmen and women working at least somewhat autonomously were increasingly done by less-skilled workers, using machines, in a far more disciplined factory setting. Weaving, for example, was a craft that carried considerable prestige in England until the early nineteenth century, when new inventions made it possible to mechanize the process. This led to the outbreak of a series of violent protests led by disaffected weavers known popularly as "Luddites." Over time, industry after industry witnessed a process known as "proletarianization," as formerly autonomous workers and small farmers were drawn into factories by economic forces largely beyond their control. This process happened quite quickly, and was not, as the Luddite example suggests, uncontested by workers. 

One long term effect of the Industrial Revolution is still with us today. The Industrial Revolution was founded on carbon-based energy--first coal, then petroleum products. The effect of burning these fossil fuels is only now becoming evident to us. The consensus of climate scientists is that human activity that began with the Industrial Revolution has led to climate change--"global warming." We are only beginning to understand the impacts of this development that is a direct consequence of the Industrial Revolution.

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