Industrial Revolution

A Roberts loom in a weaving shed in 1835.
Handloom weaving in 1747, from William Hogarth's Industry and Idleness
European colonial empires at the start of the Industrial Revolution, superimposed upon modern political boundaries.
A weaver in Nürnberg, c. 1524
A model of the spinning jenny in a museum in Wuppertal. Invented by James Hargreaves in 1764, the spinning jenny was one of the innovations that started the revolution.
The only surviving example of a spinning mule built by the inventor Samuel Crompton. The mule produced high-quality thread with minimal labour. Bolton Museum, Greater Manchester
The interior of Marshall's Temple Works in Leeds, West Yorkshire
Lombe's Mill site today, rebuilt as Derby Silk Mill
The reverberatory furnace could produce cast iron using mined coal. The burning coal remained separate from the iron and so did not contaminate the iron with impurities like sulfur and silica. This opened the way to increased iron production.
The Iron Bridge, Shropshire, England, the world's first bridge constructed of iron opened in 1781.
Horizontal (lower) and vertical (upper) cross-sections of a single puddling furnace. A. Fireplace grate; B. Firebricks; C. Cross binders; D. Fireplace; E. Work door; F. Hearth; G. Cast iron retaining plates; H. Bridge wall
A Watt steam engine. James Watt transformed the steam engine from a reciprocating motion that was used for pumping to a rotating motion suited to industrial applications. Watt and others significantly improved the efficiency of the steam engine.
Newcomen's steam-powered atmospheric engine was the first practical piston steam engine. Subsequent steam engines were to power the Industrial Revolution.
Maudslay's famous early screw-cutting lathes of circa 1797 and 1800
The Middletown milling machine of c. 1818, associated with Robert Johnson and Simeon North
The Thames Tunnel (opened 1843).
Cement was used in the world's first underwater tunnel.
The Crystal Palace housed the Great Exhibition of 1851
The Bridgewater Canal, famous because of its commercial success, crossing the Manchester Ship Canal, one of the last canals to be built.
Construction of the first macadam road in the United States (1823). In the foreground, workers are breaking stones "so as not to exceed 6 ounces in weight or to pass a two-inch ring".
Painting depicting the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830, the first inter-city railway in the world and which spawned Railway Mania due to its success.
Wedgwood tea and coffee service
Winchester High Street, 1853. The number of High Streets (the primary street for retail in Britain) in towns and cities rapidly grew in the 18th century.
The Black Country in England, west of Birmingham
Manchester, England ("Cottonopolis"), pictured in 1840, showing the mass of factory chimneys
A young "drawer" pulling a coal tub along a mine gallery. In Britain, laws passed in 1842 and 1844 improved mine working conditions.
Luddites smashing a power loom in 1812
Levels of air pollution rose during the Industrial Revolution, sparking the first modern environmental laws to be passed in the mid-19th century.
Slater's Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Sächsische Maschinenfabrik in Chemnitz, Germany, 1868
Sir Henry Bessemer's Bessemer converter, the most important technique for making steel from the 1850s to the 1950s. Located in Sheffield (Steel City)
Regional GDP per capita changed very little for most of human history before the Industrial Revolution.
Interior of the London Coal Exchange, c. 1808.
European 17th-century colonial expansion, international trade, and creation of financial markets produced a new legal and financial environment, one which supported and enabled 18th-century industrial growth.
As the Industrial Revolution developed British manufactured output surged ahead of other economies.
William Bell Scott Iron and Coal, 1855–60
William and Mary Presenting the Cap of Liberty to Europe, 1716, Sir James Thornhill. Enthroned in heaven with the Virtues behind them are the royals William III and Mary II who had taken the throne after the Glorious Revolution and signed the English Bill of Rights of 1689. William tramples on arbitrary power and hands the red cap of liberty to Europe where, unlike Britain, absolute monarchy stayed the normal form of power execution. Below William is the French king Louis XIV.
A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery by Joseph Wright of Derby (c. 1766). Informal philosophical societies spread scientific advances
A primitive lifestyle living outside the Industrial Revolution
A dog forced to eat trash due to pollution, the Industrial Revolution has forced animals into harsh environments most are unable to survive in, leading to starvation and eventual extinction

The transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe, and the United States, in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840.

- Industrial Revolution

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Steam engine

Heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid.

A model of a beam engine featuring James Watt's parallel linkage for double action.
A mill engine from Stott Park Bobbin Mill, Cumbria, England
A steam locomotive from East Germany. This class of engine was built in 1942–1950 and operated until 1988.
A steam ploughing engine by Kemna
Jacob Leupold's steam engine, 1720
Early Watt pumping engine
Steam powered road-locomotive from England
A triple-expansion marine steam engine on the 1907 oceangoing tug Hercules
Union Pacific 844 a "FEF-3" 4-8-4 "Northern" type steam locomotive
An industrial boiler used for a stationary steam engine
An injector uses a jet of steam to force water into the boiler. Injectors are inefficient but simple enough to be suitable for use on locomotives.
Richard's indicator instrument of 1875. See: Indicator diagram (below)
Centrifugal governor in the Boulton & Watt engine 1788 Lap Engine.
An animation of a simplified triple-expansion engine. High-pressure steam (red) enters from the boiler and passes through the engine, exhausting as low-pressure steam (blue), usually to a condenser.
Double acting stationary engine. This was the common mill engine of the mid 19th century. Note the slide valve with concave, almost "D" shaped, underside.
Schematic Indicator diagram showing the four events in a double piston stroke. See: Monitoring and control (above)
Animation of a uniflow steam engine.
The poppet valves are controlled by the rotating camshaft at the top. High-pressure steam enters, red, and exhausts, yellow.
A rotor of a modern steam turbine, used in a power plant
Turbinia – the first steam turbine-powered ship
Operation of a simple oscillating cylinder steam engine
An aeolipile rotates due to the steam escaping from the arms. No practical use was made of this effect.
Flow diagram of the four main devices used in the Rankine cycle. 1) Feedwater pump 2) Boiler or steam generator 3) Turbine or engine 4) Condenser; where Q=heat and W=work. Most of the heat is rejected as waste.
A steam locomotive – a GNR N2 Class No.1744 at Weybourne nr. Sheringham, Norfolk
A steam-powered bicycle by John van de Riet, in Dortmund
British horse-drawn fire engine with steam-powered water pump

By the 19th century, stationary steam engines powered the factories of the Industrial Revolution.


Process of changing from working largely or exclusively by hand or with animals to doing that work with machinery.

A water-powered mine hoist used for raising ore. This woodblock is from De re metallica by George Bauer (pen name Georgius Agricola, ca. 1555) an early mining textbook that contains numerous drawings and descriptions of mining equipment.
The Salisbury Cathedral clock ca. 1386. A clock is a mechanical instrument rather than a true machine. Although this clock had iron gears, many machines of the early Industrial Revolution used wooden parts until around 1800.
Two involute gears, the left driving the right: Blue arrows show the contact forces between them. The force line (or Line of Action) runs along a tangent common to both base circles. (In this situation, there is no force, and no contact needed, along the opposite common tangent not shown.) The involutes here are traced out in converse fashion: points (of contact) move along the stationary force-vector "string" as if it was being unwound from the left rotating base circle, and wound onto the right rotating base circle.

The Industrial Revolution started mainly with textile machinery, such as the spinning jenny (1764) and water frame (1768).

Factory system

Method of manufacturing using machinery and division of labor.

Reconstructed historical factory in Žilina (Slovakia) for production of safety matches. Originally built in 1915 for the firm Wittenberg and Son.
New Lanark mill
Cromford mill as it is today.
The Soho Manufactory in 1800.

The factory system was first adopted in Britain at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the late eighteenth century and later spread around the world.

Second Industrial Revolution

Phase of rapid scientific discovery, standardization, mass production, and industrialization from the late 19th century into the early 20th century.

A German railway in 1895.
A telegraph key used to transmit text messages in Morse code.
The ocean liner, a steamboat. As the main means of trans-oceanic travel for more than a century, ocean liners were essential to the transport needs of national governments, commercial enterprises and the general public.
A diagram of the Bessemer converter. Air blown through holes in the converter bottom creates a violent reaction in the molten pig iron that oxidizes the excess carbon, converting the pig iron to pure iron or steel, depending on the residual carbon.
The Barrow Hematite Steel Company operated 18 Bessemer converters and owned the largest steelworks in the world at the turn of the 20th century.
A rail rolling mill in Donetsk, 1887.
U.S. Patent#223898: Electric-Lamp. Issued 27 January 1880.
Three-phase rotating magnetic field of an AC motor. The three poles are each connected to a separate wire. Each wire carries current 120 degrees apart in phase. Arrows show the resulting magnetic force vectors. Three phase current is used in commerce and industry.
A graphic representation of formulas for the pitches of threads of screw bolts.
The BASF-chemical factories in Ludwigshafen, Germany, 1881
HMS Devastation, built in 1871, as it appeared in 1896
Propellers of the RMS Olympic, 1911
Benz Patent-Motorwagen, first production automobile, first built in 1885
1910 Ford Model T
Major telegraph lines in 1891.
Workers on the first moving assembly line put together magnetos and flywheels for 1913 Ford autos in Michigan.
Relative per capita levels of industrialization, 1750–1910. (Relative to G.B. in 1900 = 100).

The First Industrial Revolution, which ended in the middle of the 19th century, was punctuated by a slowdown in important inventions before the Second Industrial Revolution in 1870.


Period of social and economic change that transforms a human group from an agrarian society into an industrial society.

The effect of industrialisation shown by rising income levels in the 19th century. The graph is showing that the gross national product (at purchasing power parity) per capita between 1750 and 1900 in 1990 US dollars for First World nations (Europe, United States, Canada, Japan) and Third World nations (Europe in east, Southern Asia, Africa, Latin America).
Industrialization also means the mechanization of traditionally manual economic-sectors such as agriculture
Factories, refineries, mines, and agribusiness are all elements of industrialisation
Guangzhou dusk panorama
2006 GDP composition of sector and labour force by occupation. The green, red, and blue components of the colours of the countries represent the percentages for the agriculture, industry, and services sectors respectively.

After the last stage of the Proto-industrialization, the first transformation from an agricultural to an industrial economy is known as the Industrial Revolution and took place from the mid-18th to early 19th century in certain areas in Europe and North America, starting in Great Britain, followed by Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, and France.


Combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock, formed as rock strata called coal seams.

Example chemical structure of coal
Coastal exposure of the Point Aconi Seam in Nova Scotia
Coal ranking system used by the United States Geological Survey
Chinese coal miners in an illustration of the Tiangong Kaiwu encyclopedia, published in 1637
Coal miner in Britain, 1942
Coke oven at a smokeless fuel plant in Wales, United Kingdom
Production of chemicals from coal
Castle Gate Power Plant near Helper, Utah, US
Coal rail cars
Bulldozer pushing coal in Ljubljana Power Station, Slovenia
Extensive coal docks seen in Toledo, Ohio, 1895
Coal production by region
Aerial photograph of the site of the Kingston Fossil Plant coal fly ash slurry spill taken the day after the event
Protesting damage to the Great Barrier Reef caused by climate change in Australia
Tree houses for protesting the felling of part of Hambach Forest for the Hambach surface mine in Germany: after which the felling was suspended in 2018
A coal mine in Wyoming, United States. The United States has the world's largest coal reserves.

While coal has been known and used for thousands of years, its usage was limited until the Industrial Revolution.

Mass production

Production of substantial amounts of standardized products in a constant flow, including and especially on assembly lines.

A modern automobile assembly line
Sometimes production in series has obvious benefits, as is the case with this 5-sickle casting mold from the Bronze Age on show at a museum in Yekaterinburg, Russia.
This woodcut from 1568 shows the left printer removing a page from the press while the one at right inks the text-blocks. Such a duo could reach 14,000 hand movements per working day, printing around 3,600 pages in the process.
A pulley block for rigging on a sailing ship. By 1808, annual production in Portsmouth reached 130,000 blocks.
Mass production of Consolidated B-32 Dominator airplanes at Consolidated Aircraft Plant No. 4, near Fort Worth, Texas, during World War II.
The assembly plant of the Bell Aircraft Corporation in 1944. Note parts of overhead crane at both sides of photo near top.
Ford assembly line, 1913. The magneto assembly line was the first.

Some mass production techniques, such as standardized sizes and production lines, predate the Industrial Revolution by many centuries; however, it was not until the introduction of machine tools and techniques to produce interchangeable parts were developed in the mid 19th century that modern mass production was possible.


Regional development, alongside commercial agriculture, of rural handicraft production for external markets.

Intensive farming of wheat in Lund, Sweden

The term was introduced in the early 1970s by economic historians who argued that such developments in parts of Europe between the 16th and 19th centuries created the social and economic conditions that led to the Industrial Revolution.


Economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit.

Cosimo de' Medici, who managed to build an international financial empire and was one of the first Medici bankers
A painting of a French seaport from 1638 at the height of mercantilism
Robert Clive with the Nawabs of Bengal after the Battle of Plassey which began the British rule in India
The Watt steam engine, a steam engine fuelled primarily by coal propelled the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain
The gold standard formed the financial basis of the international economy from 1870 to 1914.
The New York stock exchange traders' floor (1963)
Many analysts assert that China is one of the main examples of state capitalism in the 21st century.
The economic model of supply and demand states that the price P of a product is determined by a balance between production at each price (supply S) and the desires of those with purchasing power at each price (demand D): the diagram shows a positive shift in demand from D1 to D2, resulting in an increase in price (P) and quantity sold (Q) of the product.
Adam Smith
The subscription room at Lloyd's of London in the early 19th century
An industrial worker among heavy steel machine parts (Kinex Bearings, Bytča, Slovakia, c. 1995–2000)
The Industrial Workers of the World poster "Pyramid of Capitalist System" (1911)

Modern capitalist societies developed in Western Europe in a process that led to the Industrial Revolution.

Assembly line

Manufacturing process in which parts (usually interchangeable parts) are added as the semi-finished assembly moves from workstation to workstation where the parts are added in sequence until the final assembly is produced.

An Airbus A321 on final assembly line 3 in the Airbus Hamburg-Finkenwerder plant
Hyundai's car assembly line
Lotus Cars assembly line as of 2008
Motor assembly line at Willys-Overland Company, Toledo, Ohio, 1920
The pulley block was the first manufactured product to become fully automated, at the Portsmouth Block Mills in the early 19th century.
The Bridgewater Foundry, pictured in 1839, one of the earliest factories to use an almost modern layout, workflow, and material-handling system
Ford assembly line, 1913. The magneto assembly line was the first.
1913 Experimenting with the mounting body on Model T chassis. Ford tested various assembly methods to optimize the procedures before permanently installing the equipment. The actual assembly line used an overhead crane to mount the body.

Before the Industrial Revolution, most manufactured products were made individually by hand.