5 Steps to a 5: AP European History 2024 - Bartolini-Salimbeni B., Petersen W., Arata K. 2023

STEP 4 Review the Knowledge You Need to Score High
18 The Industrial Revolution


Summary: Between 1815 and 1914, the increasing demand for goods was met by the creation of the factory system, which standardized and increased industrial production. This chapter reviews the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain, its uneven spread across Europe, and the social effects of industrialization, including urbanization, standardization of work, and changes to the class system. The chapter also describes new modes of scientific explanation, such as the kinetic theory of gases and Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.


Key Terms:

Image Industrial Revolution The phase of the industrialization process, lasting roughly from 1820 to 1900, characterized by the advent of large-scale iron-and-steel production, the application of the steam engine, and the development of a railway system.

Image Factory system A system of production created in order to better supervise and centralize labor, increasing efficiency. In the factory system, workers came to a central location and worked with machines under the supervision of managers.

Image Division of labor A technique whereby formerly complex tasks that required knowledge and skill were broken down into a series of simple tasks, aided by machines.

Image Bessemer process A process, invented in the 1850s by English engineer Henry Bessemer, that allowed steel to be produced more cheaply and in larger quantities.

Image Steam engine A power source that burns coal to produce steam pressure. First used in the early eighteenth century to pump water out of coal mines, it came to be used to drive machinery as diverse as the bellows of iron forges, looms for textile manufacture, and mills for grain, and, in the nineteenth century, as a source of locomotive power.

Image Internal combustion engine Developed in 1886 by two German engineers, Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz, an engine that burns petroleum as fuel. When mounted on a carriage, it was used to create the automobile.

Image The Railway Boom The rapid development of a railway system, beginning in Great Britain in the 1830s. The development of railway systems further spurred the development of heavy industry, as railroads facilitated the speedy transportation of iron and steel while simultaneously consuming large quantities of both.

Image Class consciousness A sense of belonging to a “working class” that developed among European workers during the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. It developed partly due to their working together in factories and living together in isolated slums.

Image Garden cities An urban planning movement that endeavored to balance urban and residential areas with greenspaces and agricultural countryside.

Image Zollverein An economic organization comprised of German states, led by Prussia, to promote free trade among members and impose protective tariffs on imports.

Key Individuals:

Image Charles Darwin

Image Henry Bessemer

Image Thomas Newcomen

Image James Watt

Image Gottlieb Daimler

Image Karl Benz

Image Friedrich List

Image Sergei Witte

Image Rudolf Clausius

Image James Maxwell

Image Thomas Edison and Nikolai Tesla

Image Louis Pasteur

Image Robert Owen

Image Joseph Lister



During the eighteenth century, the development of a more diverse economy propelled by a system of rural manufacturing (sometimes referred to as proto-industrialization or even the “First Industrial Revolution”) radically increased the demand for manufactured goods. In response, nineteenth-century entrepreneurs and inventors created a new, more mechanized system of production, known as “the factory system.” This new system of production, coupled with the introduction of new sources of power, led to what is termed the Industrial Revolution (or sometimes the “Second Industrial Revolution”). This process of heavy, concentrated industrialization, lasting roughly from 1870 to 1914, was characterized by the advent of large-scale iron and steel production, the application of the steam engine, and the development of a railway system. The Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century transformed almost every aspect of European life.

The Industrial Revolution Begins in Great Britain

In Great Britain, a number of variables fostered the emergence of new industries and modes of production, well before the rest of continental Europe. First, new agricultural methods in the eighteenth century resulted in a production boom that lowered prices and the demand for agricultural labor, while also increasing available money for families to purchase manufactured goods. Great Britain’s mercantilist traditions and extensive colonies resulted in surplus capital for investment, additional markets for manufactured goods, and credit and banking institutions to finance industrial enterprises, as well as a culture that embraced wealth, commerce, and the associated risks. Great Britain enjoyed geographic advantages, too, including ample supplies of key natural resources (coal, iron), compact territory that made creation of transportation networks easier, and access to navigable ports and rivers. Political conditions were also favorable, with a stable government that supported private enterprise, few internal trade barriers, and isolation from wars on the European continent. The Crystal Palace, made of glass and steel, constructed for “The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations,” the first industrial fair in 1851, was a symbol of Great Britain’s industrial achievements.

Despite Great Britain’s remarkable progress, there were occasional barriers to industrialism. For example, Great Britain made some limited attempts at protective tariffs, most notably imposing the Corn Laws of 1815, which were intended to protect British landowners from cheap imported grain (not just corn) that flooded the market after Great Britain’s blockade of Europe when the Napoleonic Wars ended. These laws benefited the nobility, who owned the bulk of the fertile land, but hurt both the lower classes now spending most of their income on grain, as well as the manufacturers who suffered a decline in demand as disposable income declined. When the Reform Act of 1832 extended suffrage to the merchant class, Parliament became more sympathetic to those opposing the Corn Laws, and eventually repealed them in 1846. As industrialism and manufacturing matured in Great Britain, its success spurred other European nations to encourage industrialism within their own borders.

The Factory System and the Division of Labor

The factory system was created in order to better supervise labor. In the old, rural manufacturing system (or cottage industry) that characterized European proto-industrialization, peasants were left on their own to work at the spinning wheel or the loom. Both the quality and the efficiency of their work depended on factors that were beyond the entrepreneur’s control. Beginning in the textile industry, new more efficient machines, like the spinning jenny and the water frame, were cost-prohibitive for individuals and required power sources. This led to the development of factories, where workers came to a central location and worked with machines under the supervision of managers.

The factory system employed a technique known as “the division of labor,” whereby formerly complex tasks that required knowledge and skill were broken down into a series of simple tasks, aided by machines. Additionally, larger, centralized factories allowed entrepreneurs to take advantage of power sources required to operate new machines. With the division of labor, skilled craftsman were replaced with unskilled labor, thereby increasing the supply of labor and decreasing the wages that needed to be paid. At the same time, the volume that manufacturers could produce increased, thereby allowing them to sell products for less and still increase profits. As machines did more and more of the work, the number of workers needed decreased, which created unemployment and competition for jobs.

Iron and Steel

The iron and steel industry helped to drive the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. The new machines of the textile industry created increased demand for the iron from which they were partly constructed. New, larger armies demanded more iron for guns, cannons, and ammunition. The growing population required even more iron for nails and tools.

Traditionally, the fuel for the iron-smelting process was charcoal, which came from wood. By the eighteenth century, dwindling forests limited the charcoal supply, and steel was smelted in blast furnaces, using coal as the fuel. In the 1850s, Henry Bessemer, an English engineer, discovered a way to manufacture steel more cheaply and in larger quantities. The use of the Bessemer process (as it came to be called), together with the use of the steam engine to power smelting furnaces, increased the supply of iron and steel to the point at which it could meet ever-growing demand. In 1860, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Belgium produced approximately 125,000 tons of steel. By 1913, they produced nearly 32 million tons.

New Sources of Power


Coal mines provided the most important fuel of the Industrial Revolution. Initially, coal was used to heat homes and to fuel the blast furnaces of the expanding iron and steel industry. Later, demand increased even further as steam engines devoured mass quantities of coal for fuel. Wherever there were natural deposits of coal, huge mining industries grew up around them; agricultural production in these areas was largely abandoned, and the peasants were drawn by the thousands to subterranean work in the mines.


The perfection of the steam engine increased both the scale and the pace of heavy industry by replacing human muscle and hydropower. The steam engine was first used in the early eighteenth century to pump water out of coal mines. It was perfected and made more efficient by Thomas Newcomen and James Watt. The improved version was used to drive machinery as diverse as the bellows of iron forges, looms for textile manufacture, and mills for processing grain. The shift to steam power allowed entrepreneurs to relocate their mills away from water sources. During the 1820s, entrepreneurs began to exploit the potential of the steam engine as a source of locomotive power; its first use in this way was to power ships. In the 1830s, it was adapted to power railway locomotives.


Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the Second Industrial Revolution received another boost from the widespread application of electrical power. More versatile and more easily transported than steam engines, electrical generators were used to power a wide variety of small- and large-scale factories and mills. By 1881, the first large-scale public power plant was constructed in Great Britain, and over the next two decades, plants were built and lines were run to illuminate houses across Europe.

Petroleum and the Internal Combustion Engine

In 1886, two German engineers, Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz, perfected the internal combustion engine, which burned petroleum as fuel, and mounted it on a carriage to create the first automobile. The early German automobiles were luxury items. But in 1908, the American engineer Henry Ford produced the “Model T,” an automobile for the common man, which he began to mass-produce, creating yet another large factory-based industry. The internal combustion engine, along with its cousin the diesel engine, made transportation and travel cheaper and, therefore, more widely available.

The Railway Boom

In the 1820s, the British inventor George Stephenson developed a railway line with trains pulled by steam-powered locomotives. The Stockton and Darlington Line opened in 1825, and by 1830, another major line traveled between Liverpool and Manchester. The speed and reliability of the new locomotives made them a huge success, which led to what would come to be known as “the Railway Boom of the 1830s and 1840s,” as competitors quickly developed their own systems. The development of railway systems further spurred the development of heavy industry, as railroads facilitated the speedy transportation of iron and steel while simultaneously consuming large quantities of both.

The Reciprocal Nature of Heavy Industry

The four major components of the Second Industrial Revolution—the iron and steel industry, the coal industry, steam power, and the railways—had a reciprocal effect on one another:

• The iron and steel industry required improvements in the steam engine to run its blast furnaces, greater amounts of coal to fuel the engines, and railways to transport both the coal and the smelted iron and steel.

• The coal industry required more and improved steam engines to pump water out of the mines and to power digging machinery; it also required railways to transport the coal.

• The steam power industry required iron and steel to forge the engines, coal to run them, and railways to transport them.

• The railways required huge amounts of steel and iron for the construction of the engines, cars, and tracks; steam engines to drive the locomotives; and coal to fuel the engines.

Working together, these four industries created an ever-increasing cycle of supply and demand that drove the Second Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century.

The Spread of Industrialization

As described earlier, the Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain, but did not take hold immediately in continental Europe, as those nations did not possess the same favorable conditions. Transportation in continental Europe was problematic, with few good roads and many customs barriers across its rivers and borders. Guilds were more powerful there, acting to protect traditional craft systems from industrial change. Particularly in France, wars created political and economic turmoil, limiting access to new technologies from Great Britain. This was exacerbated by Great Britain’s attempts to maintain its advantage by restricting access to its engineers, technology, and industrial equipment.

A key factor in the spread of industrialism was the development of new commercial banking enterprises. As continental Europe tried to “catch up” with Great Britain, the scale and cost of industrial equipment had increased beyond individual financing. New commercial banks in continental Europe held small deposits from numerous customers, allowing them to amass huge amounts of capital, which they then invested in new industrial enterprises. Like joint-stock corporations, the liability of shareholders was limited to the original investment. This helped make industry feasible in continental Europe. Slowly, industrialization spread from west to east. As it did, the pace and degree of government intervention increased.

France and Belgium

Belgium was one of the first to follow Great Britain, having access to its own reserves of natural resources and the advantage of a compact territory. The Belgian government undertook construction of a railroad to integrate the nation. France’s transition to industrialism was more gradual than Great Britain’s. Though the medieval guilds were ended by France’s Revolution, doing so limited France’s population and strengthened the position of the peasantry. During Napoleon’s reign, he sponsored huge infrastructure projects, including roads, canals, and ports. The French government also encouraged the construction of railroads through public-private partnerships in which the government paid for much of the construction costs. With the Bourbon Restoration came tariffs on inexpensive British goods to protect French industries.

German States

Although the German states had access to large coal and iron deposits, there were numerous barriers to industrialization, including limited access to ports serving the Atlantic trade routes. Traditional institutions, like serfdom and guilds, continued, which impeded free movement of labor and establishment of industry. Also, political fragmentation limited Germany’s economic impact. Prussia emerged as an industrial leader, creating Zollverein, a protective customs union formed by a coalition of German states. This was influenced by German economist Friedrich List, who argued that nations should reduce internal trade barriers but employ protective tariffs to foster the development of fledgling domestic industries. When private capital proved to be insufficient, the governments of the German states took action; they financed railway construction, subsidized locomotive industry, and even nationalized railways altogether. The economic and transportation integration of the German states helped facilitate their eventual unification under Prussia. Later, government investments in heavy industry and technical education made Germany a world industrial power in the Second Industrial Revolution, also known as the “Technological Revolution.”

Eastern Europe and Russia

In Eastern Europe, traditional economic systems persisted, including a conservative and powerful landed aristocracy supported by an agricultural peasantry, including serfs. These powerful elites lacked the incentive to invest in modern industries, which might threaten the status quo. In Russia, a military defeat in the Crimea highlighted the weakness of its economy. Reforms implemented by Alexander II included creating a mobile labor force by ending serfdom, and agricultural reforms to improve output. The government, under the direction of Count Sergei Witte, Minister of Ways and Means, then Minister of Finance, and finally Prime Minister, built railroads to connect resources, factories, and markets, including the Trans-Siberian Railway. Witte also provided incentives for foreign investment, stabilized the currency, and funded development of telegraph lines and electrical plants. By 1900, Russia was the fourth-largest producer of steel in the world.

Social Effects of Industrialization

Rural Areas

The Industrial Revolution transformed European life across all demographic groups, but not always in the same way or evenly. A general change was population growth, more due to the reduction in wars, famines, and epidemics than to increased birth rates. Ending serfdom created large classes of landless peasants who had to pay rents, regardless of the harvest. In some rural areas, this overcrowding meant smaller plots of land for families. In Ireland, the potato required a relatively small space to sustain a family, making millions of rural Irish dependent on them. Crop failures led to widespread starvation among the Irish, some of whom emigrated to the United States. In other rural areas, migration of labor to the cities created different problems.


Cities transformed from centers of government and trade to manufacturing centers. Factories were located in cities for access to transportation, energy, and labor. Millions of people migrated to cities in search of work. Not designed to accommodate such a huge influx of people, cities struggled with overcrowding. Housing was scarce. Human waste and refuse were thrown in the streets. The waste ran into local water supplies. As a result, outbreaks of diseases, like cholera, were common. Crime and fraud were widespread. City governments were unwilling or unable to step in to improve conditions, never having had to in the past.

Working Class

For many members of the working class, the nature of their work, and therefore their lives, fundamentally changed. In agriculture, there are busy periods, but there are also long stretches of inactivity, and the workers could often set their own pace. Factory owners couldn’t afford to let machines sit idle, so the workers were expected to work constantly for the duration of their shift.

Discipline was harsh and unforgiving. No social insurance laws existed to protect workers in case of injury or unemployment, or to guarantee wages. Initially, in coal mines and factories, entire families worked side by side as they had done when farming. Child labor was common, and often preferable, as children’s small size afforded them some advantages in mines and around machines, but they typically earned less than a third of a man’s wages. Pauper children—orphaned or abandoned by parents—were “apprenticed” by parish authorities to factories or mines, where they received miserable housing and board for hours of unrelenting labor. Eventually, in Great Britain, government inquiries into working conditions led to the passage of a minimum age of nine years for child labor (the Factory Act of 1833) and the limitation of work hours for child and female labor (the Ten Hours Act of 1847), though these applied mainly to textile and coal industries.

Industrial workers were particularly vulnerable to the volatility of business cycles and market forces. If an economic downturn was severe enough, an entrepreneur could lose his entire business. But before that, he would fire workers or reduce wages, as necessary. In England, to guard against a potentially radicalized poor like that which contributed to the Revolution in France, “Anti-Combination Laws” were passed to limit workers from organizing. Despite this, workers formed trade unions, using collective actions like strikes to improve their position.

Middle Class

The economic benefits of the Industrial Revolution were not evenly distributed, but one clear winner was the growing middle class. This included owners and managers of factories and mines, bankers, lawyers, doctors, and skilled artisans, among others. Though investing in industry carried risks, the profits for successful enterprises were sizeable. Members of the middle class were able to move out from the cities to suburbs, employ servants, and even purchase large estates alongside traditional aristocrats. These wealthy professionals and businessmen became known as “the bourgeoisie.” Eventually they sought political power to match their economic and social status. Some artisans and craftspeople who were members of traditional guilds resisted industrialism. They feared competition from cheap, factory-produced goods. One resistance group in the early 1800s, the Luddites, destroyed machines in textile factories in a futile attempt to prevent mechanization of the industry.

Women and Family Life

As previously mentioned, families worked side by side in early factories and mines, as they had in the agriculture fields. Eventually, the responsibilities and hours of parents no longer coincided with the hours of their children. With restrictions on child-labor hours, parents and children no longer had the same schedules. These restrictions also resulted in changes for women, as they needed to be home to care for their children.

Laws were passed limiting women’s factory hours. This had implications for female labor. As reform movements examined factory and mining labor practices, the role of women was also examined. Much was made about new opportunities for women in the workplace, but most women in factories were unmarried. People feared that women and men working together would result in immoral behavior, so it was discouraged.

Family life evolved, with the focus shifting to a nuclear family. As living standards increased, especially in the middle class, marriage was seen less as an economic imperative, and more as a romantic arrangement. Women were perceived as caretakers of the home and family, again, especially in the middle class. Thus, female employment, particularly for working-class women, centered on domestic service or work that could be done in the home, like laundry or sewing. For the most economically vulnerable women, prostitution was a means of survival.

Second Industrial Revolution

New Technology

Beginning around 1870, the Second Industrial Revolution was not characterized by innovations in heavy industry, but rather by new technologies that improved upon existing methods. Based on the work of Thomas Edison and Nikolai Tesla, electricity was distributed across a public grid, transforming both economic and social life. Combined with the smaller internal combustion engine, electricity extended the use of labor-saving machinery into previously artisanal industries; this expanded the mass production of goods. These cheaper factory-produced goods and new labor-saving devices began making their way into newly prosperous middle-class homes.

Improvements in the Bessemer process made refining iron into more durable steel more efficient, and it reduced the price of steel substantially. Railways expanded dramatically as a result. The discovery of petroleum not only changed the fuel needed to run machines, but it also led to the development of new materials—like vulcanized rubber, plastics, and fertilizers. Refrigerated rail cars, ice boxes, and canning processes dramatically changed the way food could be stored and consumed. Steamships provided faster transport of goods across oceans. Communications were also revolutionized, first with the telegraph and later with the telephone. These new technology combined to create a truly global marketplace, with the communications systems available to handle international orders for raw materials and manufactured goods, and the distribution networks available to fulfill them.

Medical Advances

Louis Pasteur demonstrated the importance of microorganisms in natural processes. His work improved food safety through the pasteurization of food, in which food is heated to kill bacteria. His work also resulted in the development of vaccines for diseases like cholera, diphtheria, and typhoid. Joseph Lister pioneered the use of antiseptics, reducing post-surgical mortality, and anesthesia, which later broadened the scope of surgical interventions. These advances gave rise to medical schools with rigorous, scientifically based curricula, including some for women. The London School of Medicine for Women was founded in 1874 by Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (although Dorothea Erxleben of Germany had been granted an MD more than a hundred years earlier).

Urban Reforms

As cities became more crowded and the problems associated with urbanization grew more acute, reformers attempted to ameliorate the problems. The British, who were at the forefront of industrialism, were also the pioneers of many reforms. Often driven by a self-interested middle class concerned about the spread of crime, filth, and disease, these reform movements were responsible for public works projects like sewers, water purification, and plumbing, as well as the gradual assumption of responsibility for public health by government entities. Sir Edwin Chadwick was one such reformer; he was partly responsible for “the modern administrative state.” Whether in his 1842 report The Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population, which demonstrated a causal link between poor sanitation and disease, or in the Poor Law Commission report, which argued for consistent but draconian conditions in poorhouses, Chadwick advocated for centralized, efficient public administration of social programs.

Internal combustion engines and petroleum made automobiles, street cars, street trolleys, and other forms of mass transit possible, which in turn changed residential patterns as middle classes moved from cities to suburbs. Early forms of urban planning began with “the garden city movement,” pioneered by Sir Ebenezer Howard of Great Britain, which sought to balance greenspaces and countryside with urban areas. Model villages were created like New Lanark (by Robert Owen) and Port Sunlight, based on the idea that providing quality housing and pastoral environments would result in increased productivity. Though these towns charged comparatively low rents, wages were also low and residents were often subject to paternalistic rules set by the industrialist or landowner. Government authorities eventually addressed the lack of affordable housing, through local taxes used to build cheap public housing in Great Britain, and through generous credit terms in France.

In France, Napoleon III chose Georges-Eugène Haussmann to renovate Paris by removing medieval walls; widening streets; filling city centers with museums, parks, theaters, and government buildings; and lining streets with new glowing gas lamps. Haussmann’s vision included apartment buildings with a homogenous, coherent exterior that became part of the urban landscape. Former residents relocated to the suburbs, using new mass transit systems to commute to work.

Business Changes

Although there wasn’t a worldwide depression during this time, volatility in the business cycles led to periods of economic hardship in different places and at different times. Protective tariffs were imposed to protect emerging domestic industries from competition by cheap foreign goods. Economic zones emerged, with distinctions between industrial producers of manufactured goods (Western Europe) and agricultural exporters of raw materials (Southern and Eastern Europe). In Germany, cartels, or groups of businesses, coordinated with each other to impose production quotas and to fix market prices. Germany, as a later industrializing nation, also took advantage of economies of scale and new machinery to create mega-sized factory plants, which allowed goods to be produced more cheaply and with less labor.

Wage-based workers were especially vulnerable to market pressures, as they could be easily fired and hired in response to market fluctuations. Efforts to unionize had mixed success, particularly in England where attempts to create a national federation of unions failed, but local trade unions persisted. Economic historians Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels saw these struggles as a continuation of historic clashes of socioeconomic classes, in this case with the capitalist bourgeoisie exploiting the labor of the workers, or the proletariat. Articulated in the Communist Manifesto in 1848, this theory helped explain the development of class consciousness, especially among the working class.

Social Changes

That each social class now lived and worked together facilitated class consciousness. An elite class developed, merging aristocratic landholders with newly wealthy industrialists, partly due to changing views on marriage and partly due to elite schools that both groups attended. This upper class often pursued government or military jobs, reinforcing their influence. Middle classes often worked to create a semblance of an upper-class lifestyle.

Men provided income and women were viewed as the guardians of the perfect family. The cult of domesticity envisioned beautiful, gentle mothers who kept a perfect home, sang and played piano, excelled at domestic arts, and raised perfectly behaved children. Often the reality was much different, and many middle-class wives who couldn’t afford enough domestic servants toiled behind the scenes to create the illusion of perfection.

In addition, being excluded from most workplaces served to keep women dependent on fathers and husbands for their economic security. This caused them to be relegated to marginalized forms of work, like piecework sewing in sweatshops. Later, opportunities opened up for middle-class women as teachers, nurses, or shop clerks, but these were low-wage positions. For some women, who lacked family or marital protection, prostitution was the only viable option. It is important to note that Eastern European nations followed a different pattern. Though some implemented land reforms intended to liberate the serfs and create a mobile workforce, they were met with resistance. Landowners, often members of the new local assemblies, retained the best land. Peasants were obliged to repay the landowners, which was difficult given the infertility of their new land. This situation made it difficult for them to leave while they still owed money to the landowners.

Mass Culture

As standards of living increased and prices declined, a consumer culture developed. Department stores, which aggregated a variety of goods, were created to make shopping easier and more enticing. Mass marketing was used to attract new customers. Advertising found a home in newspapers with mass circulation, as well as on radio shows, which captured the public’s imagination.

With the advent of public education systems, beginning as voluntary elementary education in France in 1833 and later spreading to most Western European nations in the form of compulsory education for boys and girls, literacy rates soared. Public education served to reinforce patriotism, reflected liberal beliefs in science and progress, and created a literate, disciplined workforce. With the standardization of working hours came the standardization of leisure hours. Leisure became commercialized, as mass transit allowed people to travel to entertainment venues. Spectator sports, beaches, recreation centers, dance halls, theaters, and amusement parks all flourished. This created a mass culture through a commonality of shared experiences.

Science in an Industrial Age

Advances in gas theory and a spirit of scientific realism dominated the physical sciences in the nineteenth century. Physicists in this period concentrated on providing a scientific understanding of the processes that drove the engines of the Industrial Revolution. In the middle of the nineteenth century, the German physicist Rudolf Clausius and the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell developed the Kinetic Theory of Gases. Their theory envisioned gas pressure and temperature as resulting from a certain volume of molecules in motion. Such an approach allowed them to analyze, and therefore to measure and predict, pressure and temperature statistically. Later in the century, physicists such as Julius Robert von Mayer, Hermann von Helmoltz, and William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, pursued this kind of statistical analysis to articulate the laws of thermodynamics.

The success of “matter-in-motion” models in physics created a wider philosophical movement that argued that all natural phenomena could and should be understood as a result of matter in motion. The movement, known as “scientific materialism,” was first articulated by a trinity of German natural philosophers: Karl Vogt, Jakob Moleschott, and Ludwig Büchner. By the end of the nineteenth century, scientific materialism had become the foundational assumption of the scientific view of the world.

The natural sciences of the nineteenth century were dominated by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. As a young man, Darwin had sailed around the globe as a naturalist for the H. M. S. Beagle. During the Beagle’s five-year voyage, commencing December 27, 1831, and ending on October 2, 1836, Darwin collected specimens for shipment home to England and made observations on the flora and fauna of the many continents he explored. Twenty-three years later, he published a book titled On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. In On the Origin of Species, Darwin offered an answer to the two questions at the heart of nineteenth-century natural science: Why was there so much diversity among living organisms? and Why did organisms seem to “fit” into the environments in which they lived? Darwin’s answer, unlike earlier answers that referred to God’s will and a process of creation, was materialist. He argued that both the wide range of diversity and the environmental “fit” of living organisms to their environment were due to a process he termed “natural selection.” The fact that many more organisms were born than could survive led, Darwin explained, to a constant “struggle for existence” between individual living organisms. Only those individuals who survived the struggle passed their physical characteristics onto their offspring. Over millions of years, that simple process had caused populations of organisms to evolve in ways that produced both the amazing diversity and the environmental “fit.”

On the Origin of Species went through six editions, and Darwin’s theory became the central organizing principle of the science of biology, which developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1871, Darwin published The Descent of Man, which explained Darwin’s views on how human beings had come into existence through the process of natural selection.

Review Questions


Multiple Choice

Questions 1—3 refer to the following two passages:

The blessings which physio-mechanical science has bestowed on society, and the means it has still in store for ameliorating the lot of mankind, have been too little dwelt upon. . . . [I]n the factory, every member of the loom is so adjusted, that the driving force leaves the attendant nearly nothing at all to do, certainly no muscular fatigue to sustain, while it procures for him good, unfailing wages, besides a healthy workshop gratis: whereas the non-factory weaver, having everything to execute by muscular exertion, finds the labor irksome, makes in consequence innumerable short pauses, separately of little account, but great when added together; earns therefore proportionally low wages, while he loses his health by poor diet and the dampness of his hovel. . . .

The constant aim and effect of scientific improvement in manufactures are philanthropic, as they tend to relieve the workmen either from niceties of adjustment which exhaust his mind and fatigue his eyes, or from painful repetition of efforts which distort or wear out his frame.

Andrew Ure, The Philosophy of the Manufacturers, 1835

Any man who has stood at twelve o’clock at the single narrow door-way, which serves as the place of exit for the hands employed in the great cotton-mills, must acknowledge, that an uglier set of men and women, of boys and girls, taking them in the mass, it would be impossible to congregate in a smaller compass. Their complexion is sallow and pallid—with a peculiar flatness of feature, caused by the want of a proper quantity of adipose [fatty] substance to cushion out the cheeks. Their stature low—the average height of four hundred men, measured at different times, and different places, being five feet six inches. Their limbs slender, and playing badly and ungracefully. A very general bowing of the legs. Great numbers of girls and women walking lamely or awkwardly, with raised chests and spinal flexures. Nearly all have flat feet, accompanied with a down-tread, differing very widely from the elasticity of action in the foot and ankle, attendant upon perfect formation. . . . A spiritless and dejected air, a sprawling and wide action of the legs, and an appearance, taken as a whole, giving the world but “little assurance of a man.”

P. Gaskell, The Manufacturing Population of England, 1833

1. Based on the two passages, what can one logically conclude about Great Britain in the 1830s?

A. There was general consensus about the benefits of industrialization for British laborers.

B. There was scientific evidence for the detrimental effects of industrialization on British laborers.

C. There was a wide difference of opinion about the benefits of industrialization for British laborers.

D. There was a general consensus about the detriments of industrialization for British laborers.

2. Based on the two passages, what was the most likely source of disagreement between Ure and Gaskell?

A. The degree to which British labor has become industrialized

B. The physical effects of industrial production on the industrial worker

C. The effect of industrialization on the wages of industrial workers

D. The economic benefits of industrialization for Great Britain

3. Which of the following can one conclude about Great Britain in the 1830s?

A. It was being widely argued that industrial production was physically detrimental to industrial workers.

B. Efforts to reform working conditions in factories were underway.

C. It was being widely argued that women and children should not be working in factories.

D. It was being widely argued that industrial production was economically beneficial to industrial workers.

Chapter Question (Causation)


4. Briefly explain the reciprocal nature of industrial production in this period and give TWO examples that illustrate the point.

Answers and Explanations

1. C is correct because the two passages could be used as evidence for the existence of a wide difference of opinion about the benefits of industrialization for British laborers. A and D are incorrect because the differing opinions expressed in the two passages argue against there being any consensus of opinion on the benefits of industrialization for British laborers. B is incorrect because neither passage offers scientific evidence.

2. B is correct because Ure states that industrial work leaves the worker “nearly nothing at all to do” and causes “no muscular fatigue,” while Gaskell details the numerous detrimental physical effects of industrialized work. A is incorrect because the two passages offer no evidence of disagreement over the degree to which British labor had become industrialized. C is incorrect because only Ure addresses the effects of industrialization on wages. D is incorrect because neither passage addresses the effects of industrialization on the economy of Great Britain.

3. A is correct because the fact that Gaskell explicitly makes the argument, while Ure (a defender of industrial production) feels it necessary to refute the charge, allows one to infer that it was an argument that was fairly widely made. B is incorrect because neither passage refers to the existence of a reform movement. C is incorrect because Ure makes no mention of women and children, and Gaskell’s implication is not sufficient to infer that such a view was widely held. D is incorrect because Gaskell makes no mention of it and Ure’s assertion is insufficient to infer that it was widely held.

4. Suggested answer:

Thesis: The four major components of the Industrial Revolution—the iron and steel industry, the coal industry, steam power, and the railways—had a reciprocal effect on one another because each developed in response to a demand created by the others, and each stimulated further demand for the others.

Paragraph Outline:

I. The iron and steel industry required improvements in the steam engine to run its blast furnaces, greater amounts of coal to fuel the engines, and railways to transport both the coal and the smelted iron and steel.

II. The coal industry required more and improved steam engines to pump water out of the mines and to power digging machinery; it also required railways to transport the coal.

Rapid Review


Between 1815 and 1914, the demand for goods on the part of a steadily increasing population was met by entrepreneurs who created the factory system. The new system standardized and increased industrial production. As the century went on, the development of four interrelated heavy industries—iron and steel, coal mining, steam power, and railroads—combined to drive Europe’s economy to unprecedented heights, constituting an industrial revolution. The urbanization, standardization of work, and effects of the class system wrought by the Second Industrial Revolution significantly transformed social life in Europe.

The changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution led to the development of materialist modes of scientific explanation. This was manifested in the physical sciences by the kinetic theory of gases and in the natural sciences by Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

Further Resources

Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist—industrialization and workhouses