Context for Revolution. The placid politics of the eighteenth century were shattered by a series of revolutions that took shape in the 1770s and 1780s. The wave of revolutions caught up many social groups with diverse motives. The same changes that rocked politics helped establish a context for the first stages of industrialization.
Forces of Change. Three forces were threatening Europe’s calm by the mid-18th century. The first was cultural; Enlightenment thinking provided an ideological basis for change, while the previous accomplishments made in Western societies provided the essential foundations. Commercialization stirred the economy, with the resulting wealth and new production techniques affecting businessmen, artisans, and peasants. Finally, the population soared in western Europe. The capitalist system absorbed many, creating a propertyless class dependent upon wages. Significant social changes followed.