Industrial Revolution, Definition, Causes, and Impacts

The foundation of the Industrial Revolution was laid in Great Britain around the 18th century. Manufacturing of goods shifted to capital-intensive from labor-intensive methods. It started with the mechanisation of spinning in the textile industry in the 1780s that had spread in full swing by the 1830s.  Advances in steel and chemical industries, petroleum, electric, and automobile sectors were made by the 19th century. The Industrial Revolution became the turning point after the domestication of animals and plants, which took our society towards modernisation.

Industrial Revolution


The Industrial Revolution is generally defined as series of changes that took place between 1760 and 1840 in Great Britain. The term Industrial Revolution was coined for the first time by the English economic historian Arnold Toynbee (1852–83) who used this term to describe the economic development in Britain that took place between 1760 and 1840.

First Industrial Revolution

Before the Industrial Revolution, Great Britain was flourished with various cottage industries like spinning, weaving, and dying. With the coming of machines, mass production of goods was being done in a far lesser time period due to which market demands were being fulfilled. Invention of steam power engine around the same time helped the revolution to reach its apex. New manufacturing techniques in iron industry made the product cheaper with higher quality output. This later spread to Europe and the United States.

Horse Wheel, a product of the First Industrial Revolution

Horse Wheel, a product of the First Industrial Revolution

Second Industrial Revolution

As new inventions were constantly taking place, the second wave of industrialsation took place between the mid-19th century and the early 20th century. It started with mass production of steel and later grew to chemical, petroleum, and automobile industries.  To reduce the usage of coal, hydroelectricity was introduced by which one could notice the impact being made on the electrification sector. Better machines, tools, and inventions made its mark by making the United States one of the world’s leading industrialised economies.


Numerous social and institutional changes were being made in Britain around the mid-17th century. Historians believe that some of the changes taking place in the society prompted the revolution taking place.


The rise of capitalism in society was taking place. People were demading laissez-faire capitalism. They did not want any control by the government and wanted a free-market economy where economic affairs were handled by individuals themselves.

laissez-faire Capitalism

Mining of coal

Great Britain had huge coal reserves that were easily obtainable. Its presence in the upper surface layers of earth made it easily extractable. The invention of steam engines by Thomas Comen made the extraction of coal faster and cheaper than earlier methods.

Coal Miners GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Patent Rights

The government granted patent rights to inventors, giving them a limited monopoly over its sale which motivated people into technological developments.

Patent Rights of an early machine gun

Patent Rights of an early machine gun

Agricultural Revolution

Better methods of practicing agriculture such as crop rotation and seed drill were introduced, which improved the output. Private ownership of land and advanced tools and machinery improved the agricultural sector in the 17th century. Production of food was becoming less labor-intensive and efficient, which made farmers find an alternative source of income. People became informed about disguised unemployment and understood that if they would work elsewhere, they could earn more which made them migrate to the cities in search of work.

An English farmer using new farming techniques during the Industrial Revolution

An English farmer using new farming techniques during the Industrial Revolution

Imperialism in Europe

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Great Britain was considered the world’s most powerful state. Imperialism in Europe gave Great Britain large sources of raw material and also acted as a market for its goods. Europe being easily accessible for Britain made it easier to ship goods and utilise the market.

An animated depiction of Imperialism in Europe during the Industrial Revolution

An animated depiction of Imperialism in Europe during the Industrial Revolution


The Industrial Revolution changed people’s lives in a huge way. Had the industrialisation did not take place, we would not experience the urbanisation that we experience today. The revolution impacted the economic, social, cultural, and technical aspects of society.

Positive Impacts

Factory System

The introduction of the factory system improved the working style of people. The factory system started the division of work with which the specialisation of function emerged. The Agricultural revolution had left many farmers unemployed who then joined the factory system. The factory system also addressed the uncertainty regarding the sale of goods in the cottage industry as the entire task from manufacturing goods to its distribution and sale in the market was the sole responsibility of the owner; however, the factory system, by giving a fixed income, removed this.

Factory system during the Industrial Revolution

Factory system during the Industrial Revolution

Socioeconomic Development

The economic conditions improved with a steady income. People were now able to sustain themselves and improve their standard of living. As better quality goods were available at a lesser price, it became affordable for them, and it eventually increased the GDP of the country.


More and more people were migrating to towns in search of work which led to an increase in the urban style of living. Proper sanitation and water supply were being developed.

Urbansation during Industrial Revolution

Urbansation during Industrial Revolution

Agricultural Revolution

 Agriculture, being a non-industrial section, got was immensely benefitted by the Industrial Revolution as it introduced new farming techniques. Machines were being used for better working, which reduced the time taken, and improved efficiency of the work.

Transportation and Communication

The steam engine invented by Thomas Comen began the advancement in transportation. Steam power boats and ships changed the speed at which goods were being transported. Improved canal and waterway network improved after making changes in the navigation routes. William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone improved the communication channels by the invention of the telegraphy system in 1837.

steam engine

Negative Impacts

Poor working conditions

As craftsmen started losing their jobs, they had to work in industries to sustain their survival, making them industrial slaves. Child labor was emerging as a big area of concern. The power was lying in the hands of the capitalist who were only concerned about their profits, and they did not consider providing good working conditions to workers, also, workers were paid less.

A child labour in a factory during the Industrial Revolution

A child labour in a factory during the Industrial Revolution

The decline of the cottage industry

Craftsmen and artisans were losing their source of income as machine-made goods were of better quality and price, which decreased the demand for handmade goods, which led to the shutting of the cottage industries.

Rise of Slums

Workers started living closer to factories, giving rise to unorganised towns which did not have proper sanitation and water supply. Later, these unorganised towns came to be known as slums. Overcrowding in cities further gave rise to various environmental issues like air pollution, water pollution, etc.

Pollution and Environmental Issues

The pollution levels with the setting up of industries increased tremendously. The land was being cleared of its vegetation to set up the new factories. The burning of coal was causing a lot of smoke, thereby polluting the air. Chemical discharge was increasing the levels of untreated waste. Industrial pollution was causing harm to the environment.

Industrial revolution GIFs - Get the best gif on GIFER

Add Comment