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A History of World Societies, Sixth Edition
Web Exercises
Chapter 23: The Industrial Revolution in Europe

The industrial revolution in Europe that occurred in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries dramatically reshaped world history. As McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition) states, "Perhaps only the development of agriculture during Neolithic times had a similar impact and significance." Like the agricultural revolution several thousand years before, the industrial revolution began as a major shift in the way items were produced. The items themselves were not new, only the means of production. Specifically, industrialization allowed for the mass production of manufactured items through the use of new machines and technology. The steam engine was the major technological breakthrough. During this time period, entrepreneurs and inventors used the steam engine to revolutionize the manufacturing of textiles and iron. They also used these engines to profoundly alter modes of transportation. These changes restructured the everyday lives of millions of people and posed new problems and possibilities for governments and philosophers. The following Internet activities will explore this transformation in production and its consequences for the societies it affected.

Helpful Hints:
  • You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore different sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and questions detailed in each activity.
  • On many web sites you can increase the size of the images by clicking on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine fine details in photographs.
Activity One:
  • Go to The Miner's Friend. Study the text and images on this page, and then click on the hyperlinked section "To the Gentlemen Adventurers in the Mines of England" and read that text. Also click on the word "Description" at the bottom and review that site. This web page is a sales brochure. What is its author, Thomas Savory, marketing? Why does he call it "the engine for raising water by fire"? Who is his audience? What is his strategy to convince these people that they need his product? Thomas Savery was marketing a machine that could pump water out of coal mines, and he was one of many engineers who contributed to this process.
Activity Two:
  • Besides coal and iron, another area of the British economy that steam engines revolutionized was textile manufacturing. Go to The Rise of the Factory System and read the section on "Domestic Manufacture," which discusses what is commonly known as the "putting-out system."  Before the introduction of steam, how and where were most cotton textiles produced in Great Britain? Summarize your answer in one paragraph. Review Chapter 22 of McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition) and make a list of the technological developments during the eighteenth century, before the introduction of the steam engine to the textile industry, that increased the productivity of workers in the cottage industry. These technological advancements transformed the British textile industry, and toward the end of the eighteenth century, Britain was one of the world's leading producers of textiles.
  • Steam engines revolutionized - or completely altered - the British textile sector. Steam disrupted the cottage industry and led to the birth of the factory system. To explore this process, read Modern History Sourcebook: Richard Guest: The Steam Loom, 1823. After completing these exercises, write a brief essay explaining how steam engines revolutionized the production of cotton textiles. Did steam change the nature of what was produced or how it was produced?
Activity Three:
  • The steam engine also led to the development of whole new enterprises, particularly in transportation. For example, engineers began fastening steam engines to ships. Some British engineers used the steam engine to develop the railroad locomotive, a whole new form of transportation. To understand this process better, read Development of the Steam Locomotive (make sure to click on the "Click here to continue" links to open subsequent pages of the essay). For further information on The Rocket, the first passenger train, see The Rocket. How did these engineers take advantage of technological developments in the past century? In other words, what role did the steam engine and improved iron production and coal mining play in the development of locomotives? What impact did the growth of railroads have on factory owners such as in the textile industry? What impact did it have on ordinary people?
Activity Four:
  • The processes that altered the British economy quickly spread to continental Europe and the United States in the nineteenth century and changed the lives of millions of people. For some this change increased their wealth and prestige; for others it ruined their livelihoods and destroyed their lifestyles. This activity and the next two will explore these varied experiences.
  • Read the excerpt at Modern History Sourcebook: Observations on the Loss of Woollen Spinning, 1794. This essay examines the transition from the cottage industry to the factory system in the production of textiles. Who, according to this author, benefited? Who was harmed? What impact did this transition have on families in the English countryside? How does the author describe conditions in the new factories for those who worked there? Do you believe this author welcomes the new era or fears it? Why or why not?
Activity Five:
  • Women and children were especially vulnerable to the problems identified in Activity Five. Go to Women in World History Curriculum:Textile Workers and examine the chart presented here. What kinds of jobs in textile factories did women hold? Why do you think, as the chart demonstrates, their pay was so much lower than that of male workers? Now go to Women in World History Curriculum: The Coal Mines. Study the images at this site and read the quotes from women and children who worked the coal mines. Why did coal mine owners employ so many women and children? Were there any safety laws protecting them? Why do you believe that so many women and children were susceptible to this kind of exploitation? For some clues, read the essay Child Labor.
Activity Six:
  • These women and children that you've examined were part of the growing working class in Great Britain in the nineteenth century. To explore the whole concept of class during the industrial era, read the essay Social Class. How does this site define the working class? What other classes emerged in this time period? Essentially, class involved occupation. Those who worked for wages in factories were part of the working class, and those who owned the factories or helped manage them were the upper and middle classes. There was wide stratification within each group.
  • From our current outlook, it was the working class that received the fewest benefits from industrialism. This conventional wisdom, however, was not as evident to observers at the time. For example, read the account at Modern History Sourcebook: Andrew Ure: The Philosophy of the Manufacturers, 1835. List several reasons Ure views the growth of the factory system positively. Why does he argue that the growth of the factory system was beneficial to the working class? For another view read The Physical Deterioration of the Textile Workers. How does this account contradict Ure's argument? Now review the section "The New Factory Workers" on pages 749-750 in McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition). According to the authors of your text, which assessment is more accurate, or is there truth to both? Summarize your answer in 1-3 paragraphs.
Activity Seven:
  • Although the impact of industrialization varied among Europeans, for millions it represented progress and hope for a better life. Railroads in particular expanded people's horizons and aspirations. Railroad construction across the continent boomed, as the charts at Modern History Sourcebook: Spread of Railways in 19th Century demonstrate. Railroads meant increased ability to travel, merchandize products, and exchange goods and peoples with distant places.
  • The authors of McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition) describe the train stations erected in the urban eras as "the cathedrals of the industrial age." To explore this analogy, read the passages and study the images at Gare d'Austerlitz and Gare du Nord. (Be sure to enlarge the images by double-clicking on them.) Do you agree with the authors? Do these two train stations in Paris resemble cathedrals? How do they symbolize the industrial era? What materials were used to build them? Why else is the analogy to cathedrals relevant? Do many people congregate there? For what purpose? If these train stations are cathedrals, what "god" are they exalting?