Introduction to the Industrial Revolution

In the late 18th century, the world economy embarked on a rapid process of change. During this Industrial Revolution, new technologies greatly magnified the productivity of workers, while fossil fuels pushed manufacturing and transportation systems far beyond the natural limits of human and animal power. As these advances drove the cost of industrial production down, consumption of manufactured goods skyrocketed around the world. By the end of the 19th century, nearly every society on Earth had been affected by the arrival of new products, new means of transportation, new weapons, and new ideas. Scholars have tried to explain the causes of this great transformation since it began.

This unit will explain what industrialization is and provide a brief overview of what the Industrial Revolution was and how it revolutionized people’s lives. We will then study different interpretations of economic theory that attempted to account for these dramatic changes, beginning with pre-industrial theories and culminating with current perspectives on the global economy.