The Market Revolution, Industrialization, and New Technologies

Start Free Trial

What were the positive and negative effects of transportation during the Industrial Revolution?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Industrial Revolution was a transformative force in culture and society, and this impact extends into transportation as well. If you were to look back into pre-industrial societies, there was an unmistakably parochial quality to them; life tended to be centered around the villages and communities, and few had the time or the ability to travel long distances. But the invention of railroads and steamships changed this dramatically, creating networks of infrastructure that linked up and tied together countries and eventually even continents.

I'm admittedly not entirely happy about casting this kind of question in terms of positive and negative outcomes, in that it somewhat disguises just how revolutionary these evolutions were. Before industrialization and the revolution in transportation, there was no such thing as standardized time, or the modern notion of time zones for example. These came about as a practical necessity. A pre-industrial economy does not actually need that level of coordination: if different villages work at slightly different hours, or the minutes and seconds don't match up, there's no real negative effect. On the other hand, in a world where railroads are tying together entire countries, then you would need a much higher degree of precision.

The advancements in transportation are also linked with the economic transformations of industrialized society, in that the railroads and steamships were not solely used to transport people but also goods and supplies across the network, tying together producers and markets. It was certainly a profound contributor to the Industrialized World.

This raises your question: where are the negatives and positives? As mentioned before, you can't have industrialization without the contributing advancements in transportation. The two do go together. When looking for negative effects, then, you might consider looking at some of the environmental impacts of industrialization. Additionally, the industrial world was also a story of conquest and domination, and these technologies had powerful military implications. Steamships became the backbone of industrial navies and railroads were key to military operations in the age of imperialism and industrialized war.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As far as transportation itself goes, all of the effects of the Industrial Revolution were positive.  The negative effects were side effects of the positive effects. During this time, transportation methods improved, making transportation much easier across both land and water. The only negative impacts were on things like people and the environment.

The Industrial Revolution also revolutionized transportation on both land and water.  It made steamships and riverboats possible.  These changed water transportation, making it faster and making it possible to travel in any direction, even upriver, relatively easily. The Industrial Revolution made the creation of railroads and trains possible.  This allowed much larger amounts of goods to be moved across land than had been possible when transportation by land was only accomplished by animals pulling wagons.  In these ways, the Industrial Revolution had important positive effects on transportation.

There were no real negative effects of the Industrial Revolution on transportation.  It did not reduce transportation capacity in any way.  However, the boom in transportation did impact other things like people and the environment.  As steamships and railroads improved mobility, Europeans were able to reach out and dominate other people more easily.  This harmed the non-whites who were conquered and subjugated. The new transportation required the use of more natural resources and made it easier to exploit natural resources as well.  This is true because the new ships and trains made it much easier, for example, to cut timber in one place and ship it somewhere far away.  In these ways, the new types of transportation harmed the environment as well.

Thus, the Industrial Revolution affected transportation in positive ways, making it much easier and more prevalent. However, the increased transportation affected the environment and some groups of people in much more negative ways.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial