Traditions and Encounters, AP Edition (Bentley), 5th Edition

Chapter 29: The Making of Industrial Society


The previous chapter describes the dramatic political changes that followed the American and French revolutions. Equally profound were the social and economic changes that accompanied what has sometimes been called the industrial revolution. Beginning in Great Britain about 1750, the processes of manufacturing were transformed. Britain held the lead in industrialization, but eventually the following changes reached western Europe and North America:

  • New sources of energy. The coal-fired steam engine replaced traditional sources of power such as wood, wind, and water. Nations with abundant coal—Britain, Germany, the United States—could benefit from the new technology. Railroads and steamships, fired by the steam engine, created important links between raw materials, industry, and market.
  • New labor-saving technologies. Phases in textile production once done by hand, such as spinning and weaving, were mechanized. Factories replaced cottage industry and became more efficient through the use of interchangeable parts and the assembly line.
  • Increased standard of living. The factory system was tremendously productive. Efficiencies of scale and improved transportation links meant cheaper consumer goods for everyone. The accumulation of great wealth provided the capital for further industrialization.
  • New patterns of work. The factory system transformed rural laborers into industrial workers with rigid timetables and strict discipline. Workers faced long hours of tedious and often dangerous work.
  • New social patterns. Industrialization separated work from home life and created separate spheres for men and women. Women, especially middle-class women, were expected to take care of home and children. Men were expected to work and provide for the family.
  • Urbanization. Industrial centers grew rapidly through the nineteenth century. Large cities struggled to provide such services as water delivery, sewage disposal, police and fire protection, and public education.
Traditions & Encounters, 5e
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