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The Industrial Revolution (1750-1850)
The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain and was
a slow process in which production shifted from simple
hand tools to complex machines. Rural (country) life
began to change by the mid 1700’s. Agricultural changes
such as crop rotation, the invention of the seed drill, and
experiments with fertilizers increased crop production.
Wealthy landowners took over and fenced off land
formerly shared by peasants. This practice is known as
enclosure. Farm output and profits rose. Fewer farm
workers were needed because of these changes. Small
farmers were forced off their land because they could not
compete with large landowners. Jobless farmers moved to
cities and formed a labor force. Changes in agriculture
caused rapid population growth. Death rates declined
because of better nutrition. Improved hygiene and
sanitation and improved medical care slowed deaths.
New Technology- helped trigger the Industrial Revolution.
Coal was used to power steam engines. Thomas
Newcomen developed a steam engine powered by coal to
pump water out of mines. James Watt, a Scottish
engineer improved Newcomen’s engine. Coal was a vital
source of fuel in the production of iron, a needed material
for construction of machines and steam engines. In 1709,
Abraham Darby found ways to smelt or remove impurities
from iron and coal so that higher quality and less
expensive iron could be produced, which was used for
building railroads.
Why the Industrial Revolution Began in Britain:
1. Resources- Great Britain had large supplies of coal to
power steam engines and iron to build machines.
Workers (human resources) were available to labor in
2. Technology- Britain had many skilled mechanics and
inventive people.
3. Economic Conditions-A business class in Britain had
accumulated capital, or money to invest in
enterprises such as shipping, mines, railroads, and
factories. The population explosion increased the
demand for goods. Prosperity made goods
4. Political and Social Conditions- Britain’s stable
government supported economic growth . They had
a strong navy to protect their empire and overseas
trade. Many entrepreneurs came from religious
groups that encouraged thrift and hard work.
The Textile Industry- Textiles, or cloth were produced in
Britain’s first factories. John Kay’s flying shuttle sped up
the weaving process. James Hargreaves invented the
spinning jenny which spun many threads at the same
time. Richard Arkwright invented the waterframe, which
used water power to speed up spinning. These machines
were eventually housed in buildings built along streams or
rivers and powered by steam. Artisans who had previously
done spinning and weaving in their homes and then were
paid for their work were put out of business by these
factories. Machines and factories increased production
greatly. Cloth was cheaper to produce on machines.
Some of the unemployed artisans protested these changes
by destroying machines and burning factories. (Machines
caused technological unemployment.) They became
known as Luddites, named after a fictional person, Ned
Ludd, who was blamed for the destruction. Eventually
these violent acts calmed down and factories and
machines became the norm.
Changes in transportation- Turnpikes were privately built
roads that charged fees to travelers who used them.
Canals were dug to link rivers and towns. Stronger bridges
and better harbors expanded trade. The steam
locomotive made growth of the railroads possible. More
goods could be shipped overland. The first railroad line
connected Liverpool and Manchester, England. In 1807,
Robert Fulton used Watt’s steam engine to power the
steam ship, the Clermont up the Hudson River. Eventually,
steam powered freighters made ocean voyages easier.
Supply and Demand- As the demand for goods increased,
prices fell. Lower prices made goods affordable and
created an even higher demand for goods. Life for
ordinary people began to change greatly.
The Hardships of Early Industrial
Life- The Industrial Revolution
brought prosperity and good
fortune to many entrepreneurs but
for factory workers the time period
brought great poverty and
misfortune. Rapid urbanization, or
movement to cities occurred.
Small towns around coal or iron
mines mushroomed into cities.
Pollution from coal vapors filled the air. Tenements, or
multi-story buildings were crowded with many families
and had no running water, just community pumps. Waste
and garbage rotted in the streets and polluted the waters.
Cholera and other diseases spread rapidly.
The Factory System- Factory workers faced long shifts
lasting 12-16 hours. Accidents were frequent resulting in
loss of fingers, limbs, and lives. Coal dust and lint
destroyed lungs. Sick or injured workers were fired.
Women were paid less than men for the same work. Jobs
took them away from the home for over 12 hours a day,
making it difficult for them to care for their children and
homes. Factories hired children. Child labor kept families
from starving and gave employers a cheap source of labor,
but was miserable for the children involved who were
sometimes beaten, enslaved, chained to machines, and
forced to work 12 or more hours daily with few breaks.
Slowly, Parliament began to make changes. The Sadler
Report was presented to lawmakers which described
factory abuses and led to the passage of laws limiting
working hours and types of work for children.
Protests- Workers began to form a sense of community
and support, or solidarity. When they organized and
protested for better wages and working conditions, they
were often fired from jobs and their protests were crushed
by soldiers or police forces. Striking and bargaining for
better wages and working conditions was forbidden.
The Spread of Methodism- In the mid-1700’s, a new
religious movement, Methodism began. John Wesley
founded the Methodist Church and encouraged followers
to improve their lives by adopting sober, moral ways.
They tried to bring hope to the urban poor and set up
Sunday schools where people could learn to read and
write. They tried to lead worker toward social reform.
Changes for Women- During the Enlightenment period of
the 1700’s, a growing number of women began to argue
that women were free and equal to men and that they had
natural rights of life, liberty, and property. Mary
Wollstonecraft of Great Britain was a well know social
critic who argued that a woman should be a good mother
but that she should not be completely dependent on her
husband. In 1792, she published A Vindication on the
Rights of Women in which she argued that education
would give women the power they needed to participate
equally with men in public life. Olympe de Gouge, of
France argued during the French Revolution in her
Declaration of the Rights of Women that “Woman is born
free and her rights are the same as those of men.” She
therefore believed that women should be able to vote and
hold political office. During the Industrial Revolution,
women began to campaign for fairness in marriage,
divorce, and property laws. Arguments for women’s
suffrage or the right to vote were expressed. Emmeline
Pankhurst believed that aggressive tactics would help
British women gain voting rights. She organized public
protests when Parliament (the lawmakers) met. Violent
protests such as burning buildings and smashing windows
occurred. Pankhurst and her daughters were arrested.
Some women went on hunger strikes and committed
suicide to bring attention to suffrage rights. Finally, in
1918, Parliament gave the suffrage rights to women over
30. Younger women (21) gained suffrage rights in 1928.
The Middle Class- grew and benefited
the most from the Industrial
Revolution. Some were merchants who invested their
growing profits in factories. Others were investors or
skilled artisans who developed new technologies. Some
had risen from “rags to riches” and offered hope to many.
They lived in well-furnished homes cared for by servants
and the “lady” of the home. The new middle class valued
hard work and the determination to get ahead. They
often had little sympathy for the poor, who they felt were
responsible for their own misery.
A Blessing or a Curse? The Industrial revolution brought
much misery but resulted in overall improvements in life.
Workers formed labor unions and won the right to bargain
for better wages and working conditions. But low pay,
unemployment, dismal living conditions persisted for
many. As demand for mass-produced goods grew, more
factories opened and more jobs were created. Wages
eventually rose. People traveled more and spent more
money on entertainment. Overall, more material benefits came
about and life began to improve for many.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------New Ways of Thinking- Many philosophers and social scientists began to analyze the changes
brought by the Industrial period. One thinker, Thomas Malthus predicted that the population
the population would grow at a more rapid rate than the food supply and that poverty and
misery would result. He urged families to have fewer children. Malthus was wrong…technology
improved food production. David Ricardo proposed the theory known as the Iron Law of
Wages in which he predicted that people would have more children if wages rose but then
these children would grow up and face job competition
and in turn would have smaller families. Physiocrats argued that the government should not
interfere with the free operation of the economy. Laissez-Faire, or a “hands-off” approach of
the government toward industry was supported by this group. Capitalism, or the idea that
individuals can own and freely operate businesses was a system that physiocrats thought should
exist without the government setting up laws to regulate them. Adam Smith was one of the
most famous physiocrats. He wrote The Wealth of Nations in which he argued that the free
markets, unregulated by the government would benefit everyone-the poor and the rich. He said
more goods would be produced at lower prices making them affordable for everyone. Then
capitalists would reinvest profits in new business ventures, which in turn would result in job
creation. He thought that the government should keep its “hands off” in terms of setting up
laws to regulate hours or working conditions because these laws might take away profits, which
would hurt workers. Malthus, Smith, and Ricardo all opposed the idea that the government
should help the poor and believed that individuals should be left to improve lives through
hard work and limiting family size.
Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill had different ideas and supported the idea of the
government stepping in to improve the lives of workers. John Stuart Mill believed that factory
owners did not have the right to profit by harming workers. He supported the vote for women
and thought that workers should use political power to improve their lives.
Socialism- Many thinkers condemned the evils of industrial capitalism and supported ending
poverty and injustice through a system known as socialism. With socialism, the people, as a
whole, not just private individuals would own and operate the means of production, or the
farms, factories, railways, and other large businesses. Socialists wanted a society in which
everyone would benefit, not just the wealthy.
Utopians- were early socialists who tried to build self-sufficient communities in which all work
was shared and property was owned in common. They believed that if there was no difference
between rich and poor, that fighting would end. Robert Owen was a successful mill owner but
he chose not to use child labor. He also encouraged the formation of labor unions. He set up a
factory in Scotland and built homes for workers, opened a school for their children, and showed
that a factory owner could make profits by treating workers well.
Karl Marx, a German philosopher put forth the theory of scientific socialism in the 1840’s. He
teamed up with another German socialist named Friederich Engels and published a pamphlet
known as the Communist Manifesto. They said that communism, a form of socialism involving
struggle between employers and employees was unavoidable. Marx said history was a struggle
between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” The “haves” or bourgeoisie owned the means of
production and controlled the wealth. The “have-nots” or the proletariat were the working
class who had been exploited or mistreated by the bourgeoisie.. Marx claimed that the
proletariat would struggle against the bourgeoisie and fight to take over the means of
production and set up a classless society, or communist society. He said that the proletariat
had “nothing to lose but their chains” and urged “workers of all countries, unite!”
Eventually, the ideas of Karl Marx were put into practice. In 1917, the Russian Revolution
resulted in a communist state. Independence leaders in Asia, Latin America, and Africa turned
to communism. Many of these nations, however, began to incorporate elements of capitalism.
Victories for the Working Class- By the early 1900’s, Parliament passed a series of reforms, or
positive changes for the working class. In 1842, mine owners were forbidden to employ women
or children under 10 in legislation known as the Mines Act. In 1847, women and children were
limited to working no more than 10 hours. In the late 1800’s, the government regulated safety
conditions in factories and mines and sent inspectors to be sure that laws were enforced. Trade
unions were made legal by 1825, although strikes remained illegal. Between 1890 and 1914,
union membership soared. Labor Unions worked to win higher wages and shorter hours and
pressed for other laws to improve the laws of the working class. Other reforms included
improvements in public health and housing for workers. The Education Act called for free
elementary education for all children. In the early 1900’s, laws were passed to protect workers
with accident, health, and unemployment insurance, as well as old-age pensions. These social
welfare laws stemmed from democracy, and although they promoted socialist ideas, they came
about through legislation in Parliament through Britain’s Labour Party.
The Industrial Revolution Spreads- Factories soon spread from Britain to France, Belgium,
Germany, the Netherlands, other European nations, and the Unites States and Canada.
Eventually, Germany became the leading industrial power in Europe due to its abundant
supplies of coal and iron ore. These nations went through many of the same social problems as
Britain and eventually enacted reforms and allowed labor unions. The demand for goods
increased and created more jobs. Globally, nations competed for resources. Many changes
occurred such as the introduction of chemicals in new products such as medicines, perfumes,
and soaps. Dynamite, an explosive was invented by Alfred Nobel and was used in construction
and very sadly to Nobel, warfare. He funded the famous Nobel Peace Prize in response.
Electricity started being used. Thomas Edison made the first electric light bulb, which enabled
factories to stay open at night. Interchangeable parts and the assembly line were introduced in
the U.S. Automobiles and airplanes changed transportation. Samuel Morse invented the
telegraph, which could send messages over wires by means of electricity. Alexander Graham
Bell invented the telephone. Guglielmo Marconi invented the radio. In 1901, he transmitted a
message from Britain to Canada.
Changes in the Business World- Entrepreneurs began selling stock or shares of their businesses
in exchange for profit-sharing. Businesses that sold stock were known as corporations.
Stockholders risked only the amount they invested and hoped to make money if the business
did well. Some corporations drove others out of business by forming monopolies, corporations
that dominated and controlled entire industries or areas of the economy. Some of these
corporations were stopped by governments so that smaller businesses would not be driven out
of business.
The Effects of Urbanization-Cities grew rapidly as rural people
streamed in from the country looking for jobs. The population of Europe doubled between
1800 and 1900. The population soared because the death rate fell, not because more babies
were born. People ate better, thanks to improved farming, food storage, and distribution.
Medical advances and better public sanitation also slowed death rates. Louis Pasteur
discovered a link between microbes and disease. He developed vaccines against rabies and
anthrax. People began to bathe and change their clothes more often. Better hygiene caused a
drop in the rate of disease. Cities became cleaner places. Sidewalks, sewers, skyscraper, parks,
and boulevards were created. Slums continued to exist, however. Tenements were crammed
with many families,. High rates of crime and alcoholism were constant curses. People were
lured to the cities by the promise of work and a better life. Music halls, opera houses, theaters,
museums, and libraries provided entertainment and educational opportunities. By the late
1800’s most western countries had granted all men the right to vote. Labor Unions were
growing. Safety laws were passed. By 1909, British coal miners won an eight hour day. More
public schools and colleges opened and elementary education was free in the U.S. and many
European nations. In the late 1800’s woman suffragists fought for voting right, but rights to
vote were not gained until after World War I. Old-age pensions and disability insurance were
provided. Standards of living eventually rose.
Charles Darwin- In 1859, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species. He argued that all
forms of life had evolved to their present form over millions of years. He said each species
competed to survive and that natural forces or natural selection allowed some species to
survive while others died. He claimed that humans and all life forms were still evolving.
Darwin’s theories sparked debate that lasted until today. Many Christians felt that the Bible
provided a true account of creation and that God created the world and all forms of life in six
days. Some Christians, however accepted Darwin’s theory. Some thinkers applied Darwin’s
natural selection theories to humans and claimed that some humans were stronger and
smarter than others. Some felt the rich were superior to the poor (“Survival of the Richest”) or
that industrialized nations were superior to others. These ideas were known as Social
Darwinism and they justified superiority and racism.
Kathe Kolwitz’s The March of the Weavers, etching
Art and Literature in the Industrial Age-Romantic artists and writers reacted against the
brutality of the industrial world and longed for the quiet simplicity of rural life in their work.
Realist writers and painters depicted life in its raw and industrial form. Charles Dickens wrote
about poverty and misfortune in Oliver Twist. Neoclassical Art depicts Greek and Roman
culture and encourages order, reason, and discipline. The Industrial Revolution period causes
people to climb the social ladder and gain political power. Having a voice in the government
was prized in Ancient Greece and Rome. Workers gradually become more empowered in this
time period and demand more rights. Romantic Art shows strong imagination and emotion.
Many artists felt that it was important to return to nature from the dark and dreary industrial
Japan Modernizes- In 1853, the U.S. sent a naval force led by Commodore Matthew Perry to
make Japan open its ports for trade. Japan’s Tokugawa Shogunate had chosen to isolate itself
from the outside world, but at this point they decided to learn from the west. Under the Treaty
of Kanagawa in 1854, the Japanese decided to open up two ports to diplomatic and commercial
exchange. In order to avoid complete takeover of Japan by foreign powers, the 15 year old
emperor of Japan whose family had recently been restored to power decided to strengthen
Japan by modernizing the nation and strengthening its military. This time period is known as
the Meiji Restoration. Government leaders set out to learn about western governments,
economies, technology, and customs. Experts from other nations were brought to Japan and
Japan sent young samurai to study abroad. (Remember Peter the Great of Russia? He did the
same thing!) The Japanese adapted to foreign ideas with amazing speed and success. The
business class adopted western methods. A banking system, railroads, ports, telegraph and
postal systems were set up. The government built factories and sold them to wealthy families
known as zaibatsu. (Corporations such as Kawasaki, Toyota, Kubota, Panasonic, and others are
examples of zaibatsu.) By the early 1900’s, industries were booming in Japan and the nation
made itself strong enough to resist western takeovers. They had already begun building an
overseas empire themselves by taking over areas in China, Korea, and Russia. These takeovers
would lead to conflicts in the 20th century world wars.
Vocabulary List: The Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
Agricultural Changes
Labor Force
Population Growth
Thomas Newcomen
James Watt
Abraham Darby
List four reasons why the Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain:
Flying Shuttle
Spinning Jenny
Technological Unemployment
Steam Locomotives
Robert Fulton
Supply & Demand
Factory System
Child Labor
Sadler Report
Mary WollstonecraftA Vindication on the Rights of Women-
Olympe de GougeWomen’s Suffrage-
Emmeline Pankhurst-
Middle Class
Labor Unions
Thomas Malthus
David Ricardo’s Iron Law of Wages
Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations
John Stuart Mill
Robert Owen
Karl Marx & Friederich Engel’s Communist Manifesto
“Haves” or Bourgeoisie
“Have-nots” or Proletariat
Communist Society
List several victories for the working class:
Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Peace Prize
Thomas Edison
Samuel Morse
Alexander Graham Bell
Guglielmo Marconi
Louis Pasteur
Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species
Natural Selection
Social Darwinism
Romantic Art
Neoclassical Art
Realist Art
Charles Dickens
Commodore Matthew Perry
Treaty of Kanagawa
Meiji Restoration