Definition of Industrial Revolution

What Was the Industrial Revolution?


A period in human history that spans the 18th and 19th centuries, the Industrial Revolution brought sweeping changes in agriculture, transportation, technology, manufacturing, and resource extraction in Europe, North America and eventually the world. Some of the major changes that took place during this period of time include:

  • Transition from manual labor and draft-animal based economic systems to machine-based manufacturing
  • Increase in use of fossil fuels such as refined coal as a fuel source
  • Boosts in trade through better railways, canals, and roads
  • Introduction of steam power (fueled by coal), which increased production capacity
  • Development of interchangeable parts which made for faster, more efficient manufacturing systems
  • Boosts in agriculture production due to development of better machines and cultivators
  • Mass migration of human populations from farms to cities and an income increase for many
  • Population began to see a significant increase as a result of increased standards of living

Of course, you can imagine that all of these changes brought on by the Industrial Revolution had and continue to have a significant impact on the environment.

  • Increased demand for natural resources due to huge population growth, income increases, and trade and transportation improvements
  • Increased air pollution as a result of boosts in coal burning
  • Increased soil and water pollution due to increases in manufacturing and production of goods, and changes in agricultural management
  • Increased waste concentrated in cities
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