The Industrial Revolution, which took place from the 18th to 19th centuries, was a period during which predominantly agrarian, rural societies in Europe and America became industrial and urban. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain in the late 1700s, manufacturing was often done in people’s homes, using hand tools or basic machines. Industrialization marked a shift to powered, special-purpose machinery, factories and mass production. The iron and textile industries, along with the development of the steam engine, played central roles in the Industrial Revolution, which also saw improved systems of transportation, communication and banking. While industrialization brought about an increased volume and variety of manufactured goods and an improved standard of living for some, it also resulted in often grim employment and living conditions for the poor and working classes.
Impact on society: The Industrial revolution led to several changes in the society, most important of which was the change from chiefly agricultural to service-based society. Similarly, villages started shrinking and small towns became cities due to the influx of labor and the rapid urbanization that took place. Industrialization increased material wealth, restructured society, and created important new schools of philosophy. For the first time since the Neolithic Revolution, people worked outside of the local environment of their homes. As in all productive revolutions, skill greatly determined the quality of life. Artisans had the easiest time transitioning to the new economic paradigm. The fact that they had highly developed manual skills enabled them to adapt to the new machinery much easier than their agricultural counterparts. Women and children were also sent out to work, making up 75% of early workers (Stearns). Families were forced to do this, since they desperately needed money, while factory owners were happy to employ women and children for a number of reasons. First of all, they could be paid very little, and children could be controlled more easily than adults, generally through violent beatings (Sadler). Children also had smaller hands, which were often needed to reach in among the parts of a machine.