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What was the Industrial Revolution?

Factories and steam train in Glasgow, 1831Factories and steam train in Glasgow, 1831The Industrial Revolution is what we call the time when industry was changed hugely by the development of new machinery. It started during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Before then, people made things in workshops or in their homes. During the Industrial Revolution, factories were built in which goods were manufactured on a large scale using machines. Towns and cities grew up around the factories. Many people from the countryside moved there to work. The Industrial Revolution began in Britain, but during the 19th century it quickly spread to other European countries and to North America.


A spinning jenny A spinning jenny

Spinning machines

The textile industry—the production of cloth—was the first to start using modern machines. In 1764, Englishman James Hargreaves (1720–78) invented the spinning jenny. It enabled a person to work eight or more spindles at once. It meant that much more yarn could be produced.

Mechanical cotton spinners, powered by steam or water, could produce 50 times more cotton in a day than someone working on a spinning wheel.

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