An economic transformation that was equally far-reaching in its effects as the intellectual revolution of the Enlightenment and the political impact of the French Revolution, swept across Europe and North America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Originating largely in England in the mid-eighteenth century, industrialization spread to the continent (France, Belgium, Germany and Italy), largely moving eastward across the continent.  Industrialization reached across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States in the early nineteenth century.  The introduction of mechanical means of production to replace manual means, at first powered by steam and later by electricity, radically transformed societies and politics in the Western world.  New social classes emerged (the middle and working classes), both of which held new political agenda.  Industrialization also allowed a new consumer-oriented economy to be born.

One of the key spurs to industrialization was the building of the railroads, beginning in the 1840s after the invention of the steam locomotive.  Railroads required iron (later steel), coal and other materials, and, at the same time, transported these materials to factories.  This proved a great boom to industry.  As more and more railroads were built, more and more industry was required to build the railroads, and as more and more industry was built, more and more railroads were needed to supply industry.  Thus, a great cycle of industrial and railroad growth was put in place that fed upon itself and kept industrialization moving forward.

Some recommended online lectures and websites:


This page is copyright © 2008-12, C.T. Evans
For information contact