Monday, July 28, 2014

Role of Religious Movements in Industrial Revolution

Some religious movements, like Methodism and Evangelicalism, played a noteworthy role in the accumulation of capital and encouragement to common folks to industrial enterprise. These religious movements were largely, if not necessarily, the offshoots of the Protestant Reformation. The Methodist movement held its sway over the English religious scene in the 18the century, while the Evangelical movement made its appearance towards the last two decades of the same century. Sincere, dedicated and a selfless churchmen like John Wesley and his brother Charles Wesley and George Whitfield were the force-bearers of the Methodist movement. Of course, John Wesley (1703-91) was the inspiring force and the guiding spirit of the movement. In may 1738 he went through a great spiritual experience, which market a turning-point in his life. He recorded in his Journal : I felt I did trust in Christ. Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins. He was then aged thirty-five and he was so inspired that for the next fifty-three years he went out and preached to thousands of men and women the gospel of personal salvation by faith.

The common people were inspired to lead a life based on honesty and hard work, to save the hard earned money as much as possible and then spending them on humanitarian and constructive activities. Humanitarian work implied spending money to help the poor, the sick and the suffering ones. But more important for our point is the idea of constructive work. Spending on constructive work meant investing on opening a shop or mill or factory. This obviously resulted in the formation of capital. The capitalistic system was at work with this continuous flow of capital.

It somewhat confirms the Weberian theory, Max Weber in his classic work, Protestant Elites and the Rise of Capitalism, holds that in the late 16th and 17th centuries Protestantism played a significant role in the rise of capitalism in Europe by promoting saving and investment. We find here that Protestant-oriended movements like Methodism and Evangelicalism played a similar role in the growth of capitalism in the 18th century England. At least there is no doubt that the English Protestant Dissenters, who were denied government employment, took to trade and industry in fair number. So, religion did somewhat play a role in promoting industrialism through capital formation.

But even fully considering the aforesaid fundamental causes, we must state again that the need to have fast and large-scale production of cotton textiles in order to meet its growing demand in England and outside motivated technological innovations. These technological innovation in turn became the most potent and immediate cause of the Industrial Revolution. The process of mechanical inventions began, in 1767 and continued vigorously till 1914. They guided the course of the Industrial Revolution and accordingly its stages have been determined. The period 1767-1830 made the first stage; the period 1830-1870 the second stage and the period 1870-1914 the third one. The periodisation has been done on the basis of industrial factors and economic forces.

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