13.1 The Industrial Revolution Begins

For thousands of years following the rise of civilization, most people lived and worked in small farming villages. Then a chain of events set in motion in the mid-1700s changed that way of life. Today, we call this period of economic change the Industrial Revolution. Production shifted from simple hand tools to complex machines, and sources of energy shifted from human and animal power to steam and, later, electricity.

Illustration of a factory with many smokestacks and chimneys emitting smoke, surrounded by a walled gate labeled went worth works as pedestrians and carriages travel by.

Industrial cities and towns grew up around factories like this one. Factories provided resources, goods, and jobs.


Based on this image, how do you think life changed because of industrialization?


  • Describe how changes in agriculture helped spark the Industrial Revolution.
  • Analyze why the Industrial Revolution began in Britain.
  • Explain the role of steam technology and textile manufacturing in the Industrial Revolution.
  • Describe how the factory system and transportation revolution advanced industry.
  • Trace how the Industrial Revolution spread.

Key Terms

  • Industrial Revolution
  • anesthetic
  • enclosure
  • James Watt
  • smelt
  • capital
  • enterprise
  • entrepreneur
  • putting-out system
  • Eli Whitney
  • turnpike
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester

New Ways of Working Change Life

Like the Enlightenment, which occurred around the same time, the Industrial Revolution was partly an outgrowth of the Scientific Revolution of the 1600s and 1700s. The Scientific Revolution focused attention on the physical world, and thinkers used the scientific method to conduct controlled experiments. This scientific approach helped inventors to devise new technologies to improve life. These technologies would change the way work was done.

In contrast with most political revolutions, the Industrial Revolution was neither sudden nor swift. It was a long, slow, uneven process. Yet it affected people's lives as much as previous political changes and revolutions had. From its beginnings in Britain, it spread to the rest of Europe, to North America, and around the globe.

A Rural Way of Life

In 1750, most people worked the land, using handmade tools. They lived in simple cottages lit by firelight and candles. They made their own clothing and grew their own food. In nearby towns, they might exchange goods at a weekly outdoor market.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments