Industrial Revolution Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

The Industrial Revolution changed everything - how and where people lived, the kinds of jobs they had, how products were made, and how food was grown. How did this happen? Where and when did this start? This lesson will answer these questions and more.

What is the Industrial Revolution?

Before the Industrial Revolution, the economy, or how goods and services are made and used, was based on farming. If you lived in Great Britain in 1700, you probably would have lived in the country. Your clothes were made by hand at home, and food was grown at home, too.

This all changed during the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain (1760-1840), when industry became much more important for the first time ever.

What made the Industrial Revolution Possible?

Just as our lives today are different because of computers, the Industrial Revolution happened when new technology was invented in Great Britain. These inventions included:

  • New, strong materials like iron or steel to make tools, machines, and buildings
  • Steam engine to power a locomotive train or steamship

Drawing of a Steam Engine Locomotive in 1856
Steam engine

  • Machines, like the spinning jenny to make more thread faster

The Spinning Jenny
spinning jenny

  • Coal to run steam engines and factory equipment and make steel and iron

Back then, Britain had a lot of coal and a stable government. This all made Britain the perfect place to start the Industrial Revolution!

The Industrial Revolution in Britain and Around the World

At first, most of these changes happened only in Britain, and the British wanted it to stay that way. They passed laws trying to keep their machines, manufacturing secrets, and trained workers from going to other countries.

But it was not possible. In the early 1800s, the Industrial Revolution spread to other parts of Europe and to the United States. Pretty soon, the United States would move to the top of many industries.

How did the Industrial Revolution Affect People's Lives?

If you lived in Britain in 1800, your life would look very different. You might be living in a busy, crowded city, wearing clothes and eating food that someone else made, and working in a factory.

For the first time, things could get made faster by machines in a factory than at home. Also, there were lots of choices of things to buy. These goods and people could move from place to place on a steamship or locomotive, a much faster way to travel than a horse and carriage!

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