13.4 Changing Ways of Life and Thought

The Industrial Revolution slowly changed the old social order in the Western world. For centuries, the two main classes were nobles and peasants. While middle-class merchants, artisans, and lawyers played important roles, they still had a secondary position in society. With the spread of industry, a more complex social structure emerged.

Photo of a classroom with a female teacher walking through rows of desks occupied by children, near a chalkboard marked with lessons and diagrams.

Until the late 1800s, the only education available for British students was at either religious schools or “ragged schools,” which were schools for poor children. The Education Act of 1902 established a system of public grammar schools.


  • Identify what values shaped the new social order.
  • Describe how the role of women changed in the Industrial Revolution.
  • Explain the impact of education, new scientific ideas, and religion.
  • Analyze how romanticism, realism, and impressionism reflected the culture of the Industrial Age.

Key Terms

  • cult of domesticity
  • temperance movement
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  • women's suffrage
  • Sojourner Truth
  • John Dalton
  • Charles Darwin
  • racism
  • social gospel
  • William Wordsworth
  • romanticism
  • Lord Byron
  • Victor Hugo
  • Ludwig van Beethoven
  • realism
  • Charles Dickens
  • Gustave Courbet
  • Louis Daguerre
  • impressionism
  • Claude Monet
  • Vincent van Gogh

The New Social Order

The New Class Structure

By the late 1800s, a new upper class emerged in western Europe. It came to include not only the old nobility but also wealthy families who had acquired their riches from business and industry. Rich entrepreneurs married into aristocratic families, gaining the status of noble titles. Nobles needed the money brought by the industrial rich to support their lands and lifestyle. By tradition, the upper class held the tops jobs in government and the military.

Below this tiny elite, a growing middle class was pushing its way up the social ladder. At its highest rungs were the upper middle class, made up of mid-level business people and professionals such as doctors and scientists. With comfortable incomes, they enjoyed a wide range of material goods. Next came the lower middle class, which included teachers, office workers, shop owners, and clerks. On much smaller incomes, they struggled to keep up with their “betters.”

Industrial workers and rural peasants were at the base of the social ladder. The size of this working class varied across Europe. In highly industrialized Britain, workers made up more than 30 percent of the population in 1900.

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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