Forces For Change In Nineteenth Century Europe


Forces For Change In Nineteenth Century Europe Essay, Research Paper

Forces for Change in Nineteenth Century Europe

The nineteenth century transformed the lives of the European population

from the Feudal world to

a new industrial, dynamic world. It was not, however, the nineteenth

century alone which

produced such a great change. It was the evolutionary developments prior to

the nineteenth century

that paved the way for an era of rapid and fundamental change. This tidal

wave of change reached

its crescendo in the nineteenth century and was characterized by population

growth, capitalism,

socialism, liberalism and nationalism. So powerful were these forces for

change that the

conservatives were forced to give way to the social, political, and

economic changes that would


Prior to the eighteen hundreds changes were evolving that were to culminate

and cause the

tremendous change of the nineteenth century. The Renaissance encouraged

ideas of humanism and

individualism. The Reformation gave many people a secular perspective on

life. The Agrarian and

Industrial Revolutions created new technology and a new social order. From

this it can be said that

these early changes were the preamble to the dynamic changes of the

nineteenth century which

needed only a dramatic increase in population to start the new social


Perhaps the most significant force for change in the nineteenth century was

population growth.

The fact that the European population increased nearly fourfold meant that

“No social of political

order could have remained unaffected by so immense an increases in

humanity.” (Thompson, 1957

:112) . This momentous growth provided a ready supply of labour for the

Industrial Revolution

which was taking place. Consequently a new working class emerged which

pressured the

government to make reforms in areas of working conditions, education and

health. Clearly it can

be seen that the dramatic population increase was the most significant

force for change in the

nineteenth century and as a result, various other forces for change

followed. These new emerging

forces for change however, were not without considerable opposition.

The majority of the nobility could not accept the dynamic changes of the

nineteenth century and

consequently a conservative backlash occurred. Monarchs, aristocrats,

members of the church and

reactionary members of society attempted to deflate the new social

revolution. Ultimately,

however, they were defeated, sometimes violently, by the general population

who encouraged these

new changes. As a result the nobility were forced to succumb to the new

social, political and

economic changes that followed.

Capitalism was a significant force for change to the European economy in

the nineteenth century.

The capitalist movement was a change to the social system where a monetary

economy replaced

the old, exchange economy of the Feudal world. This enabled people of any

social status to be able

to change their lifestyle and become wealthy businessman who were motivated

by profit in a

Laissez Faire economy. In conclusion, capitalism created a booming

European economy however

it also created an increasing gap between the middle class and the working

class and as a result, a

socialist movement was established.

Socialism was a significant force for change and was largely a reform to

the capitalist system.

Socialism was an attempt, driven largely by the middle class, to correct

the failures of the Laissez

Faire economy. Thompson states that while the whole process of

industrialization and capitalism

was going on, “each government was confronted, in quick succession, with a

host of novel social

problems.” (Thompson, 1957 :116). The middle class were driven by fear of

the increasing

dichotomy between the middle and lower class and were compelled to demand a

series of reforms

in the welfare of the working class. For example the middle class demanded

that the government

accept responsibility for the welfare of the lower class. On balance it

can be said that the

socialism movement was a significant and intelligent alternative from the

Laissez Faire economy

as it ensured greater equality among people and less hostility between the

social classes.

The overthrow of autocratic regimes and the formation of new political

groups was another force

for change known as Liberalism. Essentially the characteristics of

Liberalism were freedom,

equality, progress and the belief in one’s intellect. The middle class

demanded political

representation and once this was achieved, various improvements in health,

education and the

establishment of trade unions occurred. Liberalism decreased the power of

the church, monarchs

and the aristocracy thereby creating a more democratic society. In

conclusion, Liberalism was a

tremendous force for change as it brought freedom and more equality to the

greater population of


Another very significant force for change in the nineteenth century was

nationalism. Nationalism

was a fervent belief in one’s country and put an end to the old feudal

system where the loyalty of

the people was given to their local lords. Nationalism caused borders to

be formed which

encompassed people of the same race, religion or language and excluded

people who were different

in these respects. Friction between nations occurred and therefore a

military system for each

nation was established in order to protect the wealth of the country. On

balance it can be said that

nationalism was the cause for several European wars and was a tremendous

force for change to

political Europe.

The era of rapid and fundamental change in the nineteenth century was a

product of a number of

factors. The early, evolving changes prior to the nineteenth century

cemented the path for

tremendous change to occur while the enormous increase in population forced

new and dynamic

changes on the European world. As a result of this new social impact,

various forces for change

like capitalism, socialism, liberalism and nationalism emerged that were to

consequently transform

the social, political and economic factors in Europe. Therefore from the

significant and dynamic

changes of Europe in the nineteenth century, it can be argued that this era

pioneered the lifestyle of

the Western World today.

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