The Evolution of Economy: Changes from the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Melissa Hurst

Melissa has a Masters in Education and a PhD in Educational Psychology. She has worked as an instructional designer at UVA SOM.

Explore how the economy has evolved from the agricultural era into a postindustrial society during the second agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution; how changes in technology and settlements impacted the workforce and economic power; and the primary, secondary, and tertiary economic sectors.

Economy and Society

Economy, in this lesson, refers to the ways people use and interact with their environment to meet their needs. Economy includes how goods are produced, exchanged, distributed, and consumed. The economy is an important aspect of society, and as the economy has evolved over time, societies have, too.

This lesson will walk you through the evolution of economy from the agricultural revolution through the postindustrial era. We will look specifically at how technology and settlement changes have impacted the economy. We will also discuss the three sectors of a modern economy: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: The Modern Economy: Primary, Secondary & Tertiary Sectors

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Economy and Society
  • 0:44 Agricultural Revolution
  • 2:34 Industrial Revolution
  • 3:49 Postindustrial Society
  • 4:48 3 Economic Sectors
  • 6:21 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Agricultural Revolution

The second agricultural revolution initiated the beginning of the evolution of economy. This period, between the 18th century and end of the 19th century, experienced rapid improvements in agricultural production and farm technology.

During this time, inventions like the plow, the wheel, and the number system, allowed humans to perform tasks more efficiently. These changes had both positive and negative effects on society. Farmers learned more practical and efficient farming practices, like rotating crops and using fertilizer, which led to better and bigger surpluses of food.

Tools were crafted out of longer lasting materials, and new agricultural technologies made human work more efficient. During this agricultural age, towns and cities grew, and certain regions became commerce and trade centers.

The benefits of these inventions included a greater surplus of food due to efficient processes (for example, a plow pulled by animals could cover far greater areas of land than one operated by a human).

Another benefit included more time for people to pursue and engage in other activities that were not directly related to the survival of the people. More time could be spent on activities like music and philosophy, which led people to discover different means of supporting themselves.

However, during this period we also saw some negative impacts, including a greater division of labor and status in which the wealthy gained control of the surplus resources and power became more centralized. Those that were wealthy were able to gain control over surplus resources and could afford a better living quality. Differences in social classes by ethnicity and gender increased.

Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution brought about a rapid and significant change in the economy due to the introduction of power-driven machinery and other energy sources. Societies developed from agricultural to industrial rapidly. Work that was previously done by individuals was now being performed in centralized settings in cities with large factories and on equipment capable of producing massive amounts of products quickly. The steam engines, textile mills, and other large-scale equipment are products of this era.

The Industrial Revolution allowed for faster and larger production of goods and more diverse populations, but also led to negative factors, including:

  • Overcrowding in cities due to the large number of people moving to urban settings to be closer to factories.
  • Skilled workers were replaced with low-skilled workers who left agricultural work. The low-skilled workers were underpaid and overworked.
  • The inequality gap between the rich and the poor established in the Agricultural Age persisted and widened in the Industrial Age as the rich continued to stockpile and control resources while the poor faced overcrowded and poverty-ridden situations.

Postindustrial Society

The postindustrial society is a more recent development. The previous revolutions discussed were established on the production of goods, but the postindustrial society is rooted in information and services. In the postindustrial society, we see a shift from products to ideas and knowledge, from hands-on skills to literacy skills, and the decentralization of the workforce because work is not centralized around city factories.

The shift in the economy is most obvious in its workforce. In the U.S., half of the workforce is currently employed in service industries, including government, sales, banking, and education.

In the postindustrial society, also sometimes known as the information society, the power resides with people in charge of storing and distributing information. An educated workforce excels, while those without higher degrees are still underpaid and overworked as in the industrial society.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it now
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account