Industrialization: Origin, Diffusion & Impacts

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  • 0:04 What Is Industrialization?
  • 0:39 Great Britain & Birth…
  • 2:08 Industrialization's Spread
  • 3:08 Transformations
  • 6:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Juliao

David has a bachelor's degree in architecture, has done research in architecture, arts and design and has worked in the field for several years.

Industrialization transformed the world. In this lesson, examine the origins of industrialization and the Industrial Revolution. Learn about the diffusion of industrial progress over Europe and the United States and explore some of the consequences.

What Is Industrialization?

Today, almost every product is mass-produced, but this wasn't always the case. Before industrialization, goods were hand-made by craftsmen. The processes were time-consuming, making the available products very limited and expensive.

Industrialization is the process in which an economy moves from agriculturally-based to mainly manufacturing. This process gradually leads to a class of workers with some buying power who demand products, thus stimulating further production. This lesson will look at the transformation to industrialization and its spread.

Great Britain & Birth of Industry

By the beginning of the 18th century, England and most countries had low living standards and most people worked in agriculture, growing crops that produced barely enough to survive.

The development of plowing and sowing devices triggered the British Agricultural Revolution, significantly raising agricultural productivity. More food was available and the prices went down. People were able to spend money on other things, like clothing.

However, these improvements meant that fewer farmers were able to produce more products. Since there was not enough fertile soil to employ everyone, many became jobless.

The Industrial Revolution started in Great Britain during the second half of the 18th century. It's considered one of the biggest events in the history of humankind because it transformed almost every aspect of daily life.

The textile industry was the backbone of this process. Advances in weaving rose productivity, making clothes more affordable. Therefore, the textile industry quickly expanded and many of those unemployed farmers became the new workforce.

The steam machine, invented by James Watt in 1781, used heat to produce steam, creating constant movement. This engine allowed the mechanization of many manufacturing activities, further pushing industrial growth.

The production of iron also became more affordable thanks to new technologies. By 1820, England's economy relied largely on manufacturers, thus becoming the first industrialized nation.

Industrialization's Spread

The British advances were soon replicated in continental Europe, and the Industrial Revolution gradually spread to other nations. Let's look at this spread one region or country at a time with some greater detail.

1. Europe

In the 1820s, Belgium was the first country to incorporate mechanized processes and industrialize. In the 1840s, Germany and Austria were also experiencing industrial growth. By the end of the 19th century, many European nations had become industrialized.

2. United States

The textiles industry gradually developed in New England, and by the turn of the 20th century, many industrial innovations and new affordable techniques for producing steel put the United States in the fast lane towards industrialization.

3. Japan

Japan was the first Asian country to industrialize, by the end of the 19th century. The economic development brought wealth, and the government promoted new technologies and modernized the country.


The Industrial Revolution and the new economy that emerged brought big changes and transformed the lives of millions. Let's look at some of them, one at a time.

New Social Classes

Cheap labor was vital for the industrial production. The machines were expensive, so the factory owners became a new upper class of capitalists. The factory workers became the working class. They often lived on low wages and had precarious working conditions. As the factories diversified, the need for specialized workers started to rise. These skilled workers earned better salaries and became what we now refer to as the middle class. With industrialization, the living standards of the ordinary people improved for the first time, and it was possible for them to buy some of the goods that they helped create.

Food Supply

The agricultural advances helped to grow more food and the farms were able to supply the cities. Eventually, more technological advances were developed to produce even more. The distribution channels also improved significantly.

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