The Rise of Capitalism, Nationalism, Socialism and Imperialism

We know that the nineteenth century saw the many changes in the old order. There was an infant new order which was thriving in the lap of many new emerging ideologies. These new ideologies made the ground for the rise of nationalist ideas among masses.

Rise of Capitalism

One extraordinary book came out in Britain in the second half of the 18th century. It was “Wealth of Nations”. Adam Smith was the author of this book. It was an amazing book on the political economy. Adam Smith in his book Wealth of Nations tried to find natural laws which governed economics.

Economics deals with the management of the income and expenditure of the people or a country as a whole. It analyses what are the exports of country or imports of the country. It also deals with the relations between the different countries.

Rise of Capitalism
Rise of Capitalism

Laissez-Faire Doctrine

Adam Smith was of the opinion that all these above-complicated relations took place according to the natural law. This natural law was laissez-faire. According to this law, he stated:

Full liberty should be given for the development of industry so that these laws might not be interferred with. 

Actually, the doctrine of the laissez-faire was based on the philosophy of mercantilism. The philosophy of mercantilism meant to have profit for mother country at any cost. This eventually led to the strengthening of capitalistic ideology.

Adam Smith was the father of the science of economics. He inspired many British economists of the nineteenth century. This science of economics was new to the many people. Only a few professors and well-read men understood this doctrine.

Results of Capitalism

Capitalism resulted in more and more production. Because of the huge production, the population grew with enormous speed. Huge businesses were building up and little businesses were totally crushed out. Wealth was poured into the industrialised countries but much of this wealth went into the starting of new factories or railways.

The success of capitalism dazzled people. People were not happy at its cut throat competition. The rise of capitalism by no means gave the birth to the idea of another extreme ideology of communism.

Ideas of Democracy

In the early and late eighteenth century and beginning of the nineteenth century flourished the democratic ideas among the people. There was great excitement among the democrats. Democracy was not to say that all men were, in fact, equal but was going to make everyone a free and equal citizen. The democratic ideas were the intellectual reaction against the autocracy.

The idea of democracy was good and is good but it always takes the time to adopt change for the masses. It is very difficult for the people to give up their old ideas and adopt new ones. Democracy was carrying on the traditions and ideas of the French Revolution. It failed to adopt new conditions and this led to the weakening of the democracy.

The idea of democracy was confined to the intellectuals and industrialists only. So it gave water to the seeds of socialism. As the nineteenth century grew older it saw various working class movements and rise of socialism.

Rise of Socialism


The old democratic idea powerfully affected the common people and proletariat class. Because the growth of the industries led to the snatching of the land of the people. An industrial working class was growing and unsanitary factory towns were developing near the coalfields.

As the Britain was leading the industrial revolution, so it was the first country to develop the industrial working class. The conditions of these workers were worse. There was great misery among them. Little children and women worked incredibly long hours.

The Britain was so feared by the French Revolution and American revolutions that they made laws such as to prevent the poor workers to meet and discuss their pain. The condition of workers was made extremely disastrous from these laws. This led to the formation of secret associations among the workers.

Coming of Trade Unions

The year 1825 saw the abolition of the certain restrictions on the workers. This led to the formations of trade unions. The better-paid skilled workers were the only members of these trade unions. The majority of unskilled workers remained unorganised for a long time.

This led to the worker’s movement all around the European industries. The objective of these movements was to bettering the condition of workers. They were doing their job with the means of collective bargaining. The only effective weapon of these workers was the right of strike, that is to stop doing work and thus bringing the factory to a standstill.

Though this was certainly a good weapon, but the owner of factories had an even more powerful weapon of suppression. So the struggle of the working class went on with great sacrifices on the part of the workers.

Role of Robert Owen

There was a continuous struggle between the owners and workers. Meanwhile, there rose a man among the factory owners of Manchester. This man was Robert Owen. He was a humanitarian. He also felt the pain of workers. Finally, he came out with some reforms in his own factories. He emphasised to improve the condition of the workers.

Partly because of him British Parliament came out with the Factory act of 1819. This act laid down that,

Little children of nine should not be made to work more than twelve hours a day!(it was rather a terrible act. 🙁 )

It was Robert Owen, who first used the word “socialism”. Of course, the idea of a levelling-up between rich and poor was not a new one.

Many people had advocated the idea of socialism in the past. In the early communities, there had been a kind of communism, the whole community or village holding land and other property in common. This is called primitive communism.


But the new socialism was something much more than a vague desire of equalising people. Owen’s idea was to have workers’ cooperative societies. He was of the opinion that workers should have a share in the factories.

Socialism in other European Powers

The workers’ trade-union movement developed on different lines for a while, merely seeking higher wages and better conditions. Gradually all theses movements watered the ideology of socialism. In each of the three leading industrial countries of Europe- Britain, France and Germany- socialism developed somewhat differently. It developed in accordance with the character and strength of the working class in each country.

British socialism was conservative whereas continental socialism was more radical and revolutionary. In America conditions were different, so no strong working-class movement grew up for a ling time.

The capitalism eventually led to the exploitation and suppression of the various common masses. Finally, the extreme rise of capitalism was imperialism and this gave birth to the Nationalism.

Nationalism and Imperialism

The various revolutions like American Revolution, French Revolution, Revolutions of the 1830s and 1848 etc. made the ground for the new order. The Unification of Italy and Unification of Germany made this ground stronger.

The last quarter of nineteenth-century saw that nationalism no longer retained its idealistic liberal-democratic sentiment. Now it became a narrow creed with limited ends. The nationalist groups became intolerant of each other and ever ready to go to war.

The newly built nations further fought for the great territorial and economic expansion. This eventually led to the imperialism. Each power – Russia, Germany, Britain, Austro-Hungary – was keen on countering the hold of other powers.

They were trying to extend their control over the world map. This led to a series of wars in the world scenario. This culminated in the First World War, which was rather an imperialistic war.

Rising Nationalism
Rising Nationalism

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