The Industrial Revolution

By Michael Jenkinson

The Industrial Revolution Explained

The years between the mid 1700's and the mid 1800's brought huge changes to the world, especially in the country of Great Britain. Prior to this time, the economy of the nation relied upon agriculture. In small rural areas all over the nation communities worked the land, farmed, raised livestock all for their own use among these small communities. People used what they had around them to take care of all of their needs. Even though the feudal system was already a thing of the past, the working class peasants still relied on wealthy landowners for their livlihood. Education was limited, usually to the upper class who could afford private tutors, schools and entrance to the available colleges.


During this time, a change happened in producing and selling goods, and in getting raw materials to produce these goods. Imperialism meant that Britain expanded into Asia and Africa. These areas of the world were full of abundant raw materials that could be used in mass producing goods. At the same time, advances in manufacturing processes, tools and other production processes were rapidly being made. These technological advances changed everything. Subsistence farmers were given the opportunity to work in factories, increasing their income and encouraging many people to move toward city living. Manufactured and imported goods were available for purchase and people were no longer required to provide all of their needs from the materials available around them. For the first time in history a huge population of people had a rapid increase in standard of living.

Inventors of the Industrial Revolution

There were thousands of inventions and discoveries made during the Industrial Revolution that changed the world. This article will highlight just a few of these important people and how they helped shape the future.


Industry became a massive source of production of goods and an employer of thousands of people. The steel industry was able to produce steel for the first time in a mass production thanks to the development of Henry Bessemer. He patented a cost effective process for manufacturing steel. The textile industry was the largest industry in Britain. Thanks to the import of cotton from South East Asia new fabrics could be manufactured. Eli Whitney contributed to the success of this industry with his invention of the cotton gin. The cotton gin sped up the process of removing the seeds from the cotton fiber. The steam engine was also a very important invention of the Industrial Revolution. Invented by James Watt, the steam engine was used in boats and trains making transportation faster than ever before. Advanced in medicine were also very important during this time. Edward Jenner was a physician who discovered the concept of vaccination. His smallpox vaccination, the first, was a defense against a disease that had been the number one most deadly disease of human kind. Louis Pasteur was also a scientist who did work with vaccines and disease prevention. His process for heating milk and food stuffs to kill bacteria was a major discovery in health. All of these inventors and so many more contributed to the successes of the Industrial Revolution.

Factory Systems and the Growth of the Middle Class

The inventions of the Industrial Revolution changed the way people did everything. Many people who had once lived in rural areas moved into the cities to work in the new factories. Factories, for example textile factories, were able to employ thousands of people. These factories used the most current technologies to mass produce textiles for use all over the world.


The factory workers had harsh working conditions--long and dangerous hours. Many factories employed children under these conditions. The income of the average person did increase since they were now able to work for salaries instead of farm work. Housing conditions were often subpar and very crowded, and disease spread quickly in these conditions. This is one reason the development of new vaccines and health care also grew during this time.


Famine and hunger was not as big of a problem as it had been in the past thanks to transportation improvements that helped lower food costs. In fact, all of the products that were used on a regular basis fell in cost because of better production methods and distribution methods.


During this time, not everyone lived in poor conditions. A new middle class of working professionals was created. These workers were able to enjoy life in a way that not many people in the past had been able to. They were able to earn enough income to maintain a home, good food and gain educations.

How Invention Changed Society

The textile industry was a major part of Britain's industrialization. This was the first system to use a factory production system. Machinery such as the cotton gin and the flying shuttle were able to increase production to make huge profits--more product in less time equals more money! Communities were established that revolved around factories. Living conditions revolved around city life. Factory workers worked in dangerous conditions and for long hours. Children had always worked, but during the factory boom many children were in very dangerous conditions. Some people, such as the Luddites, were concerned about the working conditions in factories and made public what those conditions were. They and others fought for labor reforms, unions and legislation designed to protect child and other workers.


To supply these large urban populations with goods, food and other needs was a task that had not been needed in the past. The inventions of the steam engine and the steam boat made transportation easier and faster than ever before. Necessary goods could be transported to and from every destination and could supply more of these mass produced goods than ever before. Providing people with abundant food had always been a problem in farming societies. Now more people had access to better nutrition.


Other health concerns of the new urban society were diseases that spread rapidly through out the crowded population. Medical professionals such as Jenner and Pasteur took a look at disease in a new way. Their work with vaccines changed the world in a lasting way--preventing deadly diseases for the first time ever. This allowed for a population growth and longer life spans.