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From the Agricultural to the Industrial Revolution

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 9 months, 1 week ago
German Steel Producer Dillinger Hütte, 1850 

German Steel Producer Dillinger Hütte, 1850

Topics on the Page

Overview of the Industrial Revolution

  • PreIndustrial Conditions
    • Guild System
    • Putting Out System
    • Mercantilism
A. The rise in agricultural productivity


B. Transportation improvements such as canals and railroads


C. The influence of the ideas of Adam Smith 


D. New sources of energy such as coal and technological innovations such as the steam engine
  • Sources of Energy
  • Technological Innovations
      • Steam Engine
      • Spinning Jenny
      • Water Frame
      • Spinning Mule
      • Power Loom 
  • Impacts of Industrialization


Women in the Industrial Revolution




For more on the Industrial Revolution, see AP World History Key Concept 5.1


Click here for a good overview of the Industrial Revolution, entitled "Crash Courses: Coal, Steam, and The Industrial Revolution." Entertaining and informative.


Focus Question: What were the causes of the Industrial Revolution and what were their effects on European life?


Die Montagehalle der Maschinenfabrik by Escher Wyss in Zürich , 1875


Die Montagehalle der Maschinenfabrik by Escher Wyss in Zürich , 1875


Learning Activities




  • Click here for a set of lesson plans include numerous links to multiple aspects of the European Industrial Revolution.


  • Click here for instructions on making a board game for the Industrial Revolution. The students design a village and adjust it as the revolution develops.


  • This jeopardy game has tons of questions on the Industrial Revolution and will be great for students and can be played alone or in teams (11).


  • Along with these points, the BBC also includes lesser known consequences of the Industrial Revolution, like education. 


  • The Industrial Revolution led to an increase in schools, mechanics' institutes, and libraries and an increase in the growth of towns.


  • The BBC also includes the importance of the Agricultural Revolution because it was necessary to provide enough food for England's growing population and fewer farmers were needed so more people could work in factories (8).

The Industrial Revolution from 1750 through 1850.


  • Urbanization was greatly impact by the Industrial Revolution; it created new social classes, but also it caused a growth in the middle class and increased social mobility.


  • The Industrial Revolution impacted working life, city life, and the emergence of child labor.


  • The Industrial Revolution began in England, because of its population growth, accessibility of trade through water, capital investment from overseas colonies, and its stable government (9).

Click here for Fueling the Industrial Revolution an article about the role of slavery in the Industrial Revolution, particularly in England.


  Click here for an overview of the Industrial Revolution done by Khan academy. 



Pre-Industrial Revolution Conditions


Prior to the Industrial Revolution, industry was commonly divided into two systems of production under a single economic model.

external image social-guilds-ft1.jpg

  • The first system was known as the guild system in which there were several guilds in a town or city, each pertaining to a certain craft or product.


  • Those in charge of the shops/production of the different products were required to be part of a guild. This system was successful because it reduced competition between owners and also controlled the number of people in the industry in a certain area as well as the prices and quality of the products.


  • This system was based in cities or towns and required many years of apprenticeship and experience before one could become a master in a certain field.


  • The other system of production was based mainly in the countryside and in small villages and was based in textile and cloth production. This system was known as the putting out system and was commonly paired with those working in agriculture as it was an extra way to make money in the winter when not farming.


    • In this system there was often a middleman that dropped materials off at participating houses and picked them up once the product was made. For example, a middleman may bring material to one house to spin into yarn and then bring the yarn to another house to make the yarn into cloth.


    • The putting out system was the first system to be affected by the Industrial Revolution as production moved into cities and towns as well as closer to sources of power such as water and coal.


  • Since the later Renaissance, Mercantilism had become the cornerstone of economic policy throughout Europe and its colonies. In Mercantilism the government controls the flow of trade through tariffs on imports and exports. Typically a nation will heavily tax imports while lightly taxing exports. This will make local goods cheaper than foreign goods, while making exported goods cheaper in foreign markets.


  • The purpose of Mercantilism was to invite as much money as possible into the nation, while keeping as little money from leaving the nation. In the centuries that proceeded the Industrial Revolution, the shortcomings of Mercantilism became increasingly apparent.


  • As goods became cheaper and more readily available, it became impossible for Mercantilism tariffs to regulate the flow of goods and services. In 1860, England, the nation that began the Industrial Revolution, abolished the last vestiges of Mercantile economic policy.


A. The Rise in Agricultural Productivity


Seed Drill invented by Jethro Tull

  • Several major technological advancements occurred during the European Industrial Revolution that forever changed the way farmers planted and harvested their crops.

external image Essener_Feder_01.pngThe Seed Drill was invented by Jethro Tull in the early eighteenth century. This tool greatly improved the process of planting crops in rural Europe, particularly areas that were previously feudal manors. 


His invention was the horse-drawn seed drill. This drill sowed the seeds of a farm in neat rows. At the time the usual practice was the scatter the seeds by hand, so it was a much more efficient way to operate a farm. He also developed a horse-drawn hoe. 


  • Ploughs and other essential farming tools also saw vast improvements during this era that aided in increasing the yield in a particular crop.


  • Farmers also began to use selective breeding to ensure that the animals they produced were the highest quality.


  • Because of the improvements in Europe's agricultural realm, the population boomed throughout the region and created a high number of workers for the ever increasing number of factory positions that were being created.

Click here for accounts of the "Potato Revolution" between 1695 and 1845.

Check out this interactive timeline of industrial inventions throughout the revolution


B. Transportation Improvements


Regent's Canal at Paddington, 1828

Regent's Canal at Paddington, 1828


  • Canals began springing up across Europe in order to facilitate travel and trade to areas which were previously either completely unreachable or difficult to access.


  • These canals not only allowed people to purchase goods and services which had never been available, but also caused drastic price cuts in both luxury and necessity items. Once it took less time for products to reach their destination, labor, shipping, and traveling costs were reduced and ultimately benefited the consumer.


      • Canals and improved roadways dominated much of the transportation improvement sector of the period.


  • Railroads not only facilitated transport of essential goods such as coal to Europeans, they also encouraged people to move away from the countryside and into cities to work in factories. Although railroads were a major innovation during the European Industrial Revolution, they didn't gain momentum until the end of the era.

Click here for a full history of changes to transportation during the Industrial Revolution from Hofstra

This crash course called "The Railroad Journey and the Industrial Revolution" explains how the spread of railways changed the lives of middle and upper class people by allowing them to travel quickly. Railways quickly changed the relationship between people and nature and was also the reason for the standardization of time (10).

C. The Influence of the Ideas of Adam Smith


external image Essener_Feder_01.pngAdam Smith was the author of several economic books that remain influential and studied to this day.

external image 200px-Paperback_book_black_gal.svg.pngHis most famous and influential book was entitled The Wealth of Nations (click for selections from the text) and discussed issues that were pertinent to the Industrial Revolution era. He sought to show how competitive markets functioned as an "invisible hand" that checked unfair pricing and directed resources to productive uses. In his view of a free-enterprise system, the market, rather than the government, regulated economic life.


  • Because of the boom in technology and production, Europeans were beginning to see wealth as a reachable goal. People were beginning to earn wages for their work, rather than working on small agricultural fields and receiving mostly food and other means of survival for compensation.


  • Adam Smith's ideas were attractive to people during this time because he preached that the government should have no hand in economic affairs. He claimed that the economy would regulate itself through the "invisible hand" that would encourage price competition. He also believed in the theory of "laissez-faire," meaning "let it be." This theory is quite similar to the "invisible hand" theory in that it believes that the economy should be left to regulate itself without interference from the government.


  • It is important to note that while Adam Smith's work was influential, it would be over a century before his economic model would dissolve the Mercantilism model.


Click here for a selection of quotes from Adam Smith.

Adam Smith believed that people worked to serve their own self interest in the economy and that this would benefit everyone. Smith believed that a nation needed to expand its economic production through the division of labor in order to expand its wealth. This calls for specialization, which was important in factories. Smith used an example of a pin factory where workers would produce more pins if each worker had a specialized task in the pin making process, instead of all workers making pins on their own. Smith's ideas would be used in factories to increase production and real wealth, which he viewed as "the annual produce of the land and labor of the society" (7).

Click here for a lesson plan that revolves around Adam Smith and a scavenger hunt

As the "father of modern economics," Adam Smith's ideas are still used today.

Click here for an interesting video discussing the clashing ideologies of Karl Marx and Adam Smith.


D. New Sources of Energy and Technological Innovations

Sources of energy:


  • Before the advent of steam engines, coal mining was extremely dangerous and not very profitable. Water had to be hauled from the mines in buckets by hand.


  • After Watt's Steam Engine was incorporated into the industry, coal became a primary source of energy that literally fueled the Industrial Revolution.


  • Factories, trains, and steam engines were all fueled by coal; these machines were essential to the revolution's success.


  • Coal also became a more affordable option as an energy source after the steam engine was put into use since the engines were able to inexpensively extract large amounts of coal for public use.

Technological innovations:


  • The steam engine was originally invented by Thomas Savery in 1698.


    • While this machine was intended to help mine coal in England, it was largely unsuccessful because of its potential to explode and the fact that it couldn't pump water out of mines that was more than ten feet deep.


    • Thomas Newcomb invented the first successful steam engine in 1712 that was useful for pumping water from coal mines. By 1800, his steam engine had spread throughout Europe and was widely used.


external image Essener_Feder_01.pngJames Watt created the Watt Steam Engine in 1769. Not only did this machine help coal miners, but it could fuel factories and machinery. Watt's invention was the first major success in steam engines and paved the way for other improvements in the field along with improvements in factory production and more efficient transportation.



  • The Spinning Jenny was invented between the years of 1764 and 1767 and greatly increased the amount of yarn that could be produced into cloth. Those people that could afford one made a great profit off of the cloth that was made.


  • The Water Frame was invented by Richard Arkwright in 1768 to produce a certain kind of yarn that was used to make fabric that was more coarse than others. This required the use of water power which was part of the reason that production moved out of the home and nearer to sources of water.


  • The Spinning Mule was invented by Samuel Crompton in 1785 and combined the jobs of the Spinning Jenny and Water Frame into a more efficient machine. It was first powered by water and later by steam, which allowed mills to be placed anywhere, not necessarily near a source of water.


  • The Power Loom  was invented by Richard Cartwright in 1784. It took a number of years to fully develop but had a huge impact on the production of cloth.

Click here for a timeline of inventions during the 1700s

Impact of industrialization on societies:

  • The impact of Industrialization on society was a complicated process that saw a new class of people emerge:


  • The steam engine and other machines increased output exponentially. Products that were once exclusively hand-made, or else made in limited batches, could now be produced quickly, efficiently, and cheaply. Thus, goods that had previously been prohibitively expensive were now readily available for affordable prices.


  • Factories were an almost exclusively urban phenomenon. Historically, there was no such thing as a "working class." The lower-class often did hard-labor or menial tasks, while a middle-and-upper class of specialist laborers, merchants, artists, and elite monopolized most of the desirable work. The explosion of factories meant that uneducated, unskilled labor could now be found in plenty and at a living wage. Thus, a new class of factory workers began to grow in urban centers.


  • As more opportunity opened up in cities, family dynamics shifted. Traditionally impoverished or agricultural families had to stick together to mitigate the work necessary to survive. It was very difficult for someone to split from his or her family support system, since jobs were typically tied to a family-run trade. Factories allowed small groups to split from their extended family units and find readily available work. Thus, the nuclear family began to emerge.


  • As more people began to crowd cities, it became increasingly apparent that city infrastructure was woefully ill equipped to deal with the influx of these new laborers. Governments were slow to react. Thus, overcrowding generated a lack of adequate sanitation, polluted water and air supplies, dangerous city streets, and new epidemics.


  • As factories began to generate more profit, the industrialists who owned said factories began to gather political and financial clout. Thus, the Industrial Revolution saw the rise of corporate power.

external image 200px-Timed_video_game.svg.png

Women in the Industrial Revolution



  The Lowell Mill Girls




external image Test_hq3x.png Sample Test Question


Which of the following best describes the primary aim of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (1776)?

A. to analyze the relationship between economic development and population growth
B. to examine the causes and consequences of fluctuations in the general level of business activity
C. to demonstrate the self-adjusting nature of market activity in a free-enterprise system
D. to show how changes in the availability of money influence production and employment

Correct Answer is C.

Works Cited:
Industrial Revolution. Retrieved March 1, 2007, from Internet Modern History Sourcebook Web site: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/modsbook14.html
Home. Retrieved March 1, 2007, from Great Inventors of the Industrial Revolution Web site: http://www.teachersfirst.com/lessons/inventor/ind-rev-open.htm
Jethro Tull. Retrieved March 1, 2007, from Great Inventors of the Industrial Revolution Web site: http://www.teachersfirst.com/lessons/inventor/ag3.htm
The Full Story of the World's Greatest Social Upheaval. Retrieved March 1, 2007, from Cotton Times: Understanding the Industrial Revolution Web site: http://www.cottontimes.co.uk/index.html
Adam Smith. Retrieved March 1, 2007, from The Victorian Web Web site: http://www.victorianweb.org/economics/smith.html
The Coal Mines: Industrial Revolution. Retrieved March 1, 2007, from Women in World History Web site: http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/coalMine.html
(7) http://www.crf-usa.org/bill-of-rights-in-action/bria-23-1-a-adam-smith-and-the-wealth-of-nations.html
(8) http://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/ks3/history/industrial_era/the_industrial_revolution/revision/1/
(10) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYAk5jCTQ3s
(11) https://jeopardylabs.com/play/the-industrial-revolution26

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