The Industrial Revolution: Bet You Didn’t Know

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The Industrial Revolution, which took place from the 18th to 19th centuries, was a period during which predominantly agrarian, rural societies in Europe and America became industrial and urban. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain in the late 1700s, manufacturing was often done in people’s homes, using hand tools or basic machines. Industrialization marked a shift to powered, special-purpose machinery, factories and mass production. The iron and textile industries, along with the development of the steam engine, played central roles in the Industrial Revolution, which also saw improved systems of transportation, communication and banking. While industrialization brought about an increased volume and variety of manufactured goods and an improved standard of living for some, it also resulted in often grim employment and living conditions for the poor and working classes.

Before the advent of the Industrial Revolution, most people resided in small, rural communities where their daily existences revolved around farming. Life for the average person was difficult, as incomes were meager, and malnourishment and disease were common. People produced the bulk of their own food, clothing, furniture and tools. Most manufacturing was done in homes or small, rural shops, using hand tools or simple machines.

Did You Know?: The word “luddite” refers to a person who is opposed to technological change. The term is derived from a group of early 19th century English workers who attacked factories and destroyed machinery as a means of protest. They were supposedly led by a man named Ned Ludd, though he may have been an apocryphal figure.

A number of factors contributed to Britain’s role as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. For one, it had great deposits of coal and iron ore, which proved essential for industrialization. Additionally, Britain was a politically stable society, as well as the world’s leading colonial power, which meant its colonies could serve as a source for raw materials, as well as a marketplace for manufactured goods.

As demand for British goods increased, merchants needed more cost-effective methods of production, which led to the rise of mechanization and the factory system.

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