The Industrial Revolution: First Phases. The foundations of industrialization were laid in Britain, with the most important early steps taking place in the textile industry. The application of steam power to the production of textiles revolutionized the British economy. Early industrialization sparked urban growth, increased income inequality, and negative environmental impacts, particularly in cities. Industrialization soon found imitators in Europe and North America.
Industrialization and the Revolutions of 1848. Industrialization stimulated revolutionary ferment. Other Western nations quickly followed British models. Lower-class groups began to turn to political action to compensate for industrial change. Britain moved peacefully, but in other nations revolts occurred in 1848 and 1849 when governments proved unresponsive. A popular rising in France in 1848 overthrew the monarchy in favor of a brief democratic republic. Urban artisans pressed for social reform, and women agitated for equal rights. The revolution spread to Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Adherents sought liberal constitutions, social reforms restricting industrialization, and the termination of serfdom. Also present were ethnic demands for unity or increased autonomy. The 1848–1849 revolutions generally failed as conservatives and middle-class groups protected their interests. An authoritarian empire emerged in France. Peasants alone secured their aims, making them very conservative henceforth. The general failure taught potential revolutionaries that gradual methods had to be followed. By 1850, a new class structure was in place. The old alliances producing revolutions had dissolved. Aristocrats declined in power as social structure became based on wealth. Middle-class property owners now were pitted against a working class.