Industrial Revolution


The Industrial Revolution began in England in the middle of the 18th century and spread to the rest of Europe and the United States in the early 19 th century. This era changed the way people worked and lived. New machines were invented and a large part of the population moved from the countryside to urban areas.


The growth of industries (manufacturing)

Before the Industrial Revolution people worked at home on farms or in small workshops. Making cloth was done entirely by hand. Cotton was spun to thread or yarn on a spinning wheel.

In the 1700s people began buying more and more goods, so textile traders began to look for faster and cheaper ways of producing clothes. The first spinning machine came up in the early 18th century and by 1780 spinning was done mostly in new factories where workers gathered.


Steam engine

New machines that were introduced during the Industrial Revolution needed more and more power to work. Up to the 18 th century England got most of its energy from waterwheels that were run by the flow of rivers.

In the 1760s the Scottish engineer James Watt invented the steam engine. It was able to run factory machines and was powered by coal, which was Great Britain’s primary raw material.


Iron making

The Industrial Revolution could not have developed without coal and iron. Coal was needed to make steam engines run and to produce iron. At the beginning of the 18 th century iron makers found a way to extract pure iron out of iron ore. They used coke, which was purer than coal and burned hotter, to melt the ore.

As a result, the iron production increased and by the early 1800s enough iron was produced to make the goods that people needed, like machine frames, water pipes, rails etc.

England’s coal mines boomed during the Industrial Revolution. Miners digged deeper into the earth to find as much coal as they could and in the 19 th century England became the world’s largest coal producing country. Most of it came from the Midlands, around Sheffield , Birmingham and Coventry. Because the burning of coal produced a lot of smoke and darkened the skies this area was also called Black Country.





The mass production of goods during the 18 th and 19 th centuries called for new methods of transportation. New roads and a system of canals carried products made in factories to markets all over Britain. Coal, which was needed in factories in great quantities, was also transported on canals.

George Stephenson built a type of steam engine that could move on rails. In 1830 the Liverpool to Manchester railroad was opened and in the following twenty years railroads linked all major towns in Britain.

By the 1850s steam powered ships replaced sailing ships and became the primary way of transporting goods and people across the oceans. This increased world trade because ships were no longer dependent on good and strong winds in order to reach their destinations.



How life and work changed during the Industrial Revolution

Factories that came up during the Industrial Revolution changed the way people lived and worked in a dramatic way. Urbanisation made families move to the cities in order to get work. As a result, these urban areas became more and more overcrowded. They were often dirty and unhealthy places to live in because of the pollution that came from factories and iron mills.

Factory work created many problems for labourers. For the first time in history a large number of people had to work together in the same place. Machines forced workers to work quickly and without much rest.

The workday began and ended at certain times. Many factory people worked up to 16 hours a day for very little money, because factory owners wanted to keep production costs low. Sometimes whole families went to work in factories: while men were employed at iron and steel mills ,women and children found work in new textile factories. However, working conditions were bad and many workers became ill and died. There was no union at that time to protect them.

Although lower and middle class workers led a hard and troublesome life, middle and upper class citizens improved their lifestyle. They gained more power and money.

The Industrial Revolution also led to an increase in Great Britain’s population because people had better housing and better medical care in the towns and, thus, lived longer.



Spread of the Industrial Revolution


The Industrial Revolution began in Britain for a number of reasons. First, the country had raw materials, like iron ore and coal. Other materials, like cotton came from overseas colonies. By the end of the 18 th century the country became the world’s largest colonial power. The colonies then became big markets for the industrial goods that Britain produced.

In the early 1800s the Industrial Revolution spread to the European mainland and across the Atlantic to the United States. By 1850 Belgium, France and Germany became leading industrial nations on the continent.

Japan was one of the first Asian countries to start producing goods in factories and Russian industrialisation started in the early 1900s. China and India didn’t become industrial powers until after World War II, largely because both countries were occupied by foreign powers.


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  • although =while
  • area = region
  • call for = need
  • canal = a long passage that is dug in the ground and filled with water for boats to travel along
  • century = a hundred years
  • certain =special
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • cloth = material that is used to make clothes
  • coke = material that is produced from coal and burned to produce heat
  • colonial power = a country that had a lot of colonies all over the world
  • costs =how much you must pay for something
  • cotton =a plant with white hairs on its seeds; used for making clothes
  • create = make
  • dependent = something you need very much
  • destination = the place that something or someone is going to
  • develop = grow
  • dig =to make a hole and get something out of the earth
  • employ = to get work
  • engineer = someone who designs roads, bridges or machines
  • entirely =completely , totally
  • era = a period of time in history
  • extract =to take out of , dig out
  • factory = a building in which you produce goods with machines
  • flow =how the river moved
  • force = to make someone do something
  • foreign power = another country
  • frame =structure
  • gain = get, receive
  • gather = get together
  • goods = products produced by machines
  • improve = to make better
  • increase = go up
  • introduce = here: to use something for the first time
  • invent = to make or create something new
  • iron mill = a factory that produces iron
  • iron ore = rocks from which you get iron
  • labourers = workers
  • largely = mainly
  • leading = very important , number one
  • lifestyle = the way you live
  • link = connect with
  • little = not very much
  • mainland = the continental part of Europe , not the islands
  • major = important
  • manufacture = to make or produce goods
  • mass production = to produce goods in great numbers
  • medical care = to have doctors and hospitals in a place
  • melt = to make something very hot so that it becomes a liquid
  • Midlands = middle part of Great Britain
  • miner =someone who works under the ground and removes coal from the earth
  • occupy = controlled by an army of another country
  • overcrowded = if too many people live somewhere
  • overseas = a foreign country that is across the ocean
  • owner = the person who something belongs to
  • pollution = to make air, water etc. very dirty
  • population = the people who live in a country
  • power = run
  • primary = main, most important
  • protect =defend, guard
  • pure = not mixed with anything else
  • quantity =the amount of something
  • rail = the metal tracks on the ground on which trains move
  • raw material = materials like coal, oil, cotton that are used to make industrial goods
  • reach = get to
  • reason =cause, why something is done
  • replace =substitute, exchange
  • spinning machine = machine that people used to make cotton into thread
  • spin—spun = to make cotton into a thread by twisting it
  • spread = to move to
  • steam engine = a machine that produced power by burning coal and making hot water
  • steam powered = run by a steam engine
  • thread = a long thin string of cotton used to make cloth
  • thus = that is why
  • trade = the buying and selling of products
  • troublesome = hard and full of problems
  • union = an organization formed by workers to protect their rights
  • urban = everything that has to do with the city or is city like
  • urbanisation = a city-like area with many houses and where many people live
  • water pipe = round tubes that have water in them
  • waterwheel =a large wheel that is turned by water and used to make machines work
  • working conditions =the situation in which people had to work
  • workshop = a room or a building where tools and machines are used for making and repairing things
  • yarn = thick thread made of cotton or wool