13.2 Social Impact of Industrialism

The Industrial Revolution brought great riches to most of the entrepreneurs who helped set it in motion. It also provided employment for farmers and farmhands displaced by the changes in agriculture. But these jobs came with a heavy price. Millions of workers who crowded into the new factory towns endured dangerous working conditions, unsanitary and overcrowded housing, and unrelenting poverty.

Photo of a woman working in a factory, with a man and child also working closely behind her.

Men, women, and children worked side by side in many factories. Conditions in cotton mills could be cramped, as this photograph inside a mill in Lancashire shows.


  • Outline the growth of industrial cities and the emergence of new social classes.
  • Describe the working conditions in factories and mines.
  • Analyze the benefits and challenges of industrialism.
  • Describe the ideas of Adam Smith and other thinkers regarding free enterprise.
  • Identify the origins and characteristics of socialism and communism.

Key Terms

  • urbanization
  • tenement
  • labor union
  • standard of living
  • social mobility
  • free market
  • Thomas Malthus
  • Jeremy Bentham
  • utilitarianism
  • socialism
  • means of production
  • Robert Owen
  • Karl Marx
  • communism
  • proletariat
  • social democracy

Industry Causes Urban Growth

In time, reforms would curb many of the worst abuses of the early Industrial Age in Europe and the Americas. As standards of living increased, people at all levels of society would benefit from industrialization.

The Industrial Revolution brought rapid urbanization, or the movement of people to cities. Changes in farming, soaring population growth, and an ever-increasing demand for workers led masses of people to migrate from farms to cities. Almost overnight, small towns around coal or iron mines mushroomed into cities. Other cities grew up around the factories that entrepreneurs built in once-quiet market towns.

The British market town of Manchester numbered 17,000 people in the 1750s. Within a few years, it exploded into a center of the textile industry. Its population soared to 40,000 by 1780 and 70,000 by 1801. Visitors described the “cloud of coal vapor” that polluted the air, the pounding noise of steam engines, and the filthy stench of its river.

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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