37 Facts About The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution was a defining event in history. It was a period of economic prosperity yet unprecedented labour. So, read on to learn 37 facts about the Industrial Revolution.

Fact 1: The Industrial Revolution began in the mid-18th century.

  • It ended in about 1830.

Fact 2: Great Britain was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.

  • Before the Industrial Revolution spread around the world, it began in Britain because of the following reasons: 1) Britain had plenty of coal and iron ore. These resources were needed to run the machines during the period. 2) Britain had solid governance. 3) Britain had captured many countries, all of which provided more raw materials, and marketplaces for the said goods to be sold.

Fact 3: Coal was a tremendous influence on the industrial revolution.

  • Coal could produce 3x more energy than timber. It became the primary source of energy in the country. 

Fact 4: As coal mines got deeper and deeper, there was a high risk of them flooding out.

  • People looked for ways to pump the water out. They developed a steam engine to remove water from hundreds of meters below ground.

Fact 5: The term ‘Industrial Revolution’ was first popularised by Arnold Toynbee in 1852. 

  • Arnold Toynbee was an English economic historian who described Britain’s economic development from 1760 to 1840, as ‘an industrial revolution’.

Fact 6: The first factory established was a water-powered cotton spinning mill.

  • This factory was owned and operated in 1771 by Richard Arkwright. It was located in a village called Cromford in Derbyshire. It had 200 workers working 12-hour shifts.

Fact 7: People literally migrated to the cities during the Industrial Revolution. 

  • The Industrial Revolution was a time for urbanisation and population growth. People from rural areas moved to cities, so they could be closer to their work/ factories. One of its lasting impacts was boosting the population by 260%. By 1900, the British population was living in tight, flourishing, but cramped towns.

Fact 8: A second industrialisation took place!

  • During the latter part of the 19th century, a new batch of innovations was released and led to rapid economic prosperity. This period was described as the “Second Industrial Revolution” or the “Technological Revolution”.

Fact 9: The production of textiles also increased during this period.

  • The textile industry was flourishing during this period. The British textile industry used 52 million pounds of cotton in 1800, which increased to 588 million pounds in 1850.

Fact 10: ‘Canal Mania’ is a real thing.

  • This refers to the period of intense canal-building in Britain. During the 1790s and 1800s, tons of money was invested into creating canals in Britain. By 1850, Britain had over 4,000 miles of canals/ waterways in the country!

Fact 11: The first canal to follow a new route was the Bridgewater canal.

  • The Bridgewater canal was the first to follow a totally new route, from collieries in Worsley to Manchester. It was opened in 1761 by the Duke of Bridgewater and reduced his shipping costs by 50%. This made the coal much cheaper, and thereby inspiring merchants to open a whole new market.

Fact 12: ‘Railway Mania’ was also a very real thing too during the Industrial Revolution.

  • The first railway line in Britain opened in 1825. It was a 25-mile-long railroad built by the Stockton and Darlington Railway company. It connected places like Shildon, Stockton-on-Tees, and Darlington. 

Fact 13: Industrialisation caused problems.

  • The Industrial Revolution had many downsides too, the most significant effects were pollution related. And climate change is thought to have been rooted somewhere around this time too.

Fact 14: People were being replaced by machines.

  • Machines were developed to perform many of the jobs and tasks previously performed by people, to provide efficiency and to deliver more goods.

Fact 15: Even animals were replaced by machines.

  • Animals that were usually used for transport, farming, and other tasks were replaced by machines too. For example, horse-drawn ploughs were replaced by mechanical ploughs. 

Fact 16: Most people liked the improved economic conditions in Britain.

  • Why? Because machines could make things quickly, efficiently, and in large scales. This meant that daily living necessities including food, clothes, and household tools were plentiful and cheaper. Moreso, the increased demand for technical skills and knowledge led to a better education system and scientific advances.

Fact 17: The Luddites were a group of artisans who did not see the merit of the Industrial Revolution. 

  • They were a group of English textile artisans who were against traditional livelihoods being wiped out by new machines. They resorted to many forms of resistance, including riots, sabotages, and fighting with the British Army.

Fact 18: A 12-hour workday was considered normal.

  • The working practices among many people were very unhealthy and critical. Men, women, and children performed repetitive, dangerous, and stressful jobs. The poor working class was often exposed to terrible living conditions, poverty, and even early deaths.

Fact 19: Some countries are yet to experience an Industrial Revolution.

  • These nations are termed as the “Third World” or “Developing Countries”.

Fact 20: The cotton cloth was the country’s chief export during the Industrial Revolution.

  • There were tons of factories providing raw cotton, and unfortunately, slave labour was also rampant then. These cotton companies were made up of Britsih-owned African slaves that were forced to work on plantations.

Fact 21: The steam engine was one of the pivotal inventions during the industrialisation.

  • It was Thomas Newcomen’s brainchild in 1712. The first and original version of the steam engine was used to pump water out of mines.

Fact 22: The popular saying, ‘the sun never sets in the British Empire’ came from this time.

  • It was used to describe the vast power of the British Empire at the time. Between the 18th and 20th centuries, Britain acquired many territories in the world, making it the largest empire of all. It had successfully captured Europe, America, Africa, and Asia. The phrase was first used by Fray Francisco de Ugalde. 

Fact 23: A new economic system, “Industrial Capitalism”, was created.

  • Before the Industrial Revolution took effect, merchants were considered as the most important people in the economy. Then it became the private owners of factories who made bigger profits and generated the greatest wealth.

Fact 24: Children were used just as much as adults in the Industrial Revolution.

  • Kids were small enough to get into those small places that were difficult to clean. Half of the factory workers in Britain during the 1800s were kids aged under 14. 

Fact 25: It was legal to put homeless children into forced labour.

  • The Industrial Revolution was known for its many human rights cases of abuse. One example was legalising the use of homeless children for apprenticeships and other forms of forced employment. Today, the government does not support these kinds of abuses.

Fact 26: Males and females were paid different wages.

  • Women were paid up to a third of what men earned. A typical male factory worker could earn 10 cents an hour with a 10-hour daily duty. In a week, they could get 20 to 30 shillings. On average, female factory workers earned 7 shillings per week. This was way worse for children who were paid between 2 and 4 shillings per week.

Fact 27: Due to the Industrial Revolution, breakfast became the most important meal of the day.

  • Fathers, mothers and children would be out of the house early in the morning and working long shifts at the factories. Hence, it was important for them to start the day off with a large, somewhat healthy meal, to keep them working for the whole day until they got home later in the night. 

Fact 28: There was an act passed in 1833 that made schooling for 2 hours a day mandatory for all young kids. 

  • The Act was called, ‘The Factory Act’, it applied to English children during the Industrial Revolution.

Fact 29: Cholera was a huge problem in 1831 to 1832, with an outbreak that led to 7,000 deaths.

  • Due to poor plumbing and lack of sanitation, there was a cholera outbreak that caused significant mortality. Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhoea, dehydration, and even death when left untreated. From 1848 to 1849, the number of people perished from cholera in London increased by 15,000.

Fact 30: Humphrey Davy invented the safe miner’s lamp for miners to use while working, as there were too many explosions happening because of the gas lamps used prior to this invention. 

  • The miner’s safety lamp is a candle with a heat-absorbing metal mesh wrapped around the outside to reduce the temperature, and to prevent the methane from combusting. Davy’s invention helped in lowering the risk of accidents and fatalities among the miners.

Fact 31: Sewers were under-developed at this time so you often had human-waste related issues on the streets. 

  • It was not uncommon to have build-ups of faeces and horrible smells on the stress, and not to mention the water contamination caused by human waste. Human wastes like urine and faeces were collected in cesspits under houses. They were drained into rivers, thereby polluting the locals’ source of drinking water.

Fact 32: The average life expectancy of someone in the Industrial Revolution was 37 years of age!

  • The average life expectancy in London during 1841 was 37 years old. In Liverpool, it was even less at 26 years of age. Worse than this, a child had up to a 33% chance of passing away before reaching 5 years of age. 

Fact 33: The ‘Enclosure Act’, passed by Parliament, was an act that privatised much of the farmlands in and around Britain.

  • Peasant farmers had direct access to open fields so they could breed livestock, cultivate agriculture, and catch fish, prior to the Industrial Revolution. With the Enclosure Act, peasant farmers lost access to an open method of harvest and production. This resulted in the farmers, farmworkers and anybody else who worked on the farm being made to work in factories to earn a living.  

Fact 34: Medicines weren’t revolutionised during this period and patients were treated with primitive methods.

  • However, they were able to start making some of the equipment that we see around today, for example, test tubes and microscope lenses.

Fact 35: In 1853, a ‘Smoke Nuisance Abatement Act’ was passed to try and limit the damage caused by all the smoke coming out of the heavy industrial areas.

  • The was the government’s first attempt at reducing pollution in Britain. 

Fact 36: About one-third of the British population passed away from TB between the years 1800-1850. 

  • Tuberculosis or TB is a fatal medical condition caused by bacteria that infects the lungs and affects the person’s ability to breathe. This disease was very rampant during the British Industrial Revolution, because there was poor sanitation, hygiene, poor nutrition, and close living quarters.

Fact 37: Coffee was popularised during the revolution by British workers.

  • Coffee drinking was a common habit among the poor British working class during the Industrial Revolution. Coffees were a cheap meal replacement, and they were also great for a quick pick-me-up as families worked for long hours in factories.


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