Demographic and Environmental Developments


Summary: The Industrial Revolution brought a number of changes in the environments of industrialized nations. A population increase in the West, China, and Japan during the eighteenth century provided the labor force needed by the factory system but also added new challenges. Industrial pollution plagued urban areas. Migration between the Eastern and Western hemispheres enriched the cultural makeup of the Americas.


Key Terms



quantum physics


theory of natural selection

theory of relativity

Population Revolution in the West

In the middle of the eighteenth century, the population of Western Europe increased dramatically. Among the causes of this increase were the end of episodes of epidemic disease and the improved diets resulting from increased consumption of potatoes. Infant mortality rates decreased, whereas larger numbers of healthy adults resulted in a higher birth rate. Larger populations provided a ready labor supply for the new factories.

Industrialization also contributed to patterns of migration. Substantial numbers of people, especially young adults, migrated from the country to the city in search of employment in factories, upsetting the makeup of the traditional Western family. Another pattern of migration involved the movement of the middle class away from the central city to emerging suburbs.

After 1850, urbanization continued in the West; in Great Britain and other Western countries the majority of the population resided in cities. Accompanying a drop in death rates was a lowering of birth rates. Families no longer felt as great a need to produce large families to serve as laborers on family farms. Contributing to falling death rates were more hygienic practices used during childbirth following Louis Pasteur’s discovery of the germ theory of disease in the 1880s.

Population Growth in the Non-Western World

Population growth was not restricted to the Western world. In the nineteenth century, the population of Latin America doubled. The cultivation of the sweet potato in China increased population to levels that stressed the country’s economy and resources, demonstrating a need for improvement in agricultural methods and technology in China. Also in the nineteenth century, Japan experienced a population explosion because of improvements in nutrition and medical care. Like China, Japan felt the strain in natural resources caused by its growing population. The increased consumption of the potato in the nineteenth century also produced significant population increases in Russia.

Urban Populations and Environments

Sudden population growth was only one of the problems encountered by industrialized urban areas in the West and in Japan. Water supplies were contaminated by human sewage and industrial waste. The dark skies resulting from coal-produced smoke hovering over industrial cities contributed to frequent cases of rickets, a disease of the bones caused by underexposure to sunlight.

Patterns of Migration and Immigration

Migration in the period between 1750 and 1914 took on various forms. Western Europeans continued to colonize and settle regions of the Americas, India, Africa, the Pacific, and Southeast Asia well into the eighteenth century. Settler colonies not only brought about rivalries between Europeans and native peoples but also, as in the Columbian Exchange of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, exposed indigenous peoples to European diseases. Among the victims of European diseases were the Maoris of New Zealand, whose population was reduced by about one-third, and native Hawaiians, over half of whom fell to diseases such as tuberculosis and syphilis. The decimation of the Hawaiian population created a need for imported workers; in the late 1800s, workers from China and Japan arrived in the Hawaiian Islands and transmitted their culture to the islands.

The need for labor in various regions of Latin America in the late nineteenth century produced a flood of immigration from Europe to Brazil and Argentina. Many of the newcomers to Brazil were immigrants from Portugal and Italy who came to work on Brazil’s coffee plantations. Because of the physical strength required to carry out plantation labor, most of these migrants were male, leaving women to remain in their home countries and assume new roles in their society. Some of these Italian immigrants returned to Italy part of the year to work the crops there, but others remained in Latin America permanently, adding a European flair and a new diversity to Brazil and Argentina. In the early years of the twentieth century, Russians, Germans, and Jews also contributed to the immigrant population of Latin America. Many of the Jewish immigrants were refugees from pogroms , or mass persecutions, of Jews in Russia.

Many immigrants became victims of racial and ethnic prejudice in their new environment. For example, after anti-Chinese riots broke out in some communities in the western United States, the U.S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prevented most Chinese immigration.

Changes in the Educational and Artistic Environment

As the inhabitants of Western industrial cities gradually acquired more leisure time, there was a growing interest in scientific knowledge and theories as well as in new methods of literary and artistic expression. In early-nineteenth-century literature and the arts, a new manner of expression called romanticism explained human experiences and nature through the use of emotion rather than reason. In 1859, Charles Darwin proposed his theory of natural selection , which stated that living species had evolved into their current forms by the survival of the fittest species. Darwin’s ideas remained controversial because they conflicted with the biblical account of creation. In 1900, the German physicist Max Planck discovered that light and energy flow in small units that he named “quanta,” establishing the discipline of quantum physics . In 1916, Albert Einstein, also a German physicist, formulated his theory of relativity , which argued that time and space are relative to one another. Social scientists used experimental data to explain human behavior; Sigmund Freud of Vienna explained new theories of the workings of the human mind and developed the technique of psychoanalysis.

Images Rapid Review

Improvements in medical practices and sanitation as well as widespread consumption of the potato increased populations in various world regions. The crowded populations of industrial cities presented new problems in housing developments. Although medical knowledge improved throughout the years from 1750 to 1914, pollution in industrial urban areas presented new health issues. Colonization brought new contacts between East and West, including the spread of epidemic disease. At the same time, European immigrants to the Western Hemisphere contributed customs that enriched the cultural landscape of the Americas. Increased leisure time created popular interest in science and the arts.

Images Review Questions

1 .    In the late nineteenth century, Chinese and Japanese laborers were sought in

      (A)  Hawaii

      (B)  Argentina

      (C)  Mexico

      (D)  Western Europe

2 .    Among common migration patterns in the nineteenth century was

      (A)  migration from Latin America to Mediterranean Europe

      (B)  middle-class migration from countryside to city

      (C)  the discontinuation of settler colonies

      (D)  migration for religious reasons

3 .    Disease transmission between 1750 and 1914

      (A)  resulted in new employment opportunities for East Asian immigrants

      (B)  did not effect Oceania

      (C)  produced increased mortality rates during childbirth

      (D)  saw thousands of Europeans die from exposure to native diseases of the Americas and East Asia

4 .    Population patterns in the nineteenth century

      (A)  showed growth restricted to the Western world

      (B)  showed limited growth among working classes

      (C)  showed decline in East Asia and growth in Western Europe

      (D)  were affected by the Columbian Exchange of the previous period

5 .    New scientific and artistic expressions in the West in the nineteenth century

      (A)  supported traditional beliefs

      (B)  relied on reason in literary expression

      (C)  created new frontiers in physics

      (D)  relied on observation rather than experiments to explain human behavior

Images Answers and Explanations

1 .   A   High mortality rates among Hawaiians when exposed to European diseases caused a need for workers from China and Japan. The other responses were not destinations of major immigrations from China and Japan.

2 .   D   Notable was the migration of Russian Jews to the West as a result of pogroms directed toward them. The period saw migration from Mediterranean Europe to Latin America (A). Members of the lower classes tended to move from the countryside to the cities (B). Settler colonies continued to be inhabited by Europeans (C).

3 .   A   Immigrants from Japan and China found employment in Hawaii because of Hawaiian population decline from epidemic disease. The Maoris of New Zealand were decimated by European diseases (B). Improved sanitation methods decreased childbirth mortality (C). Europeans introduced the diseases that killed native populations (D).

4 .   D   Food crops from the Americas, especially the potato, were responsible for the nutritional improvements that contributed to population growth as late as the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This population growth affected non-Western (C) as well as Western nations (A). Working classes also benefited from increased nutrients and improved health care (B).

5 .   C   The quantum theory and the theory of relativity were two frontiers in physics formulated during the period. The theory of natural selection is one example of an idea that broke with traditional beliefs (A). Romanticism relied on emotion rather than reason (B). The new science relied on experimental data (D).

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