Industrial Revolution Outline

Below is an outline for the Industrial Revolution I developed for one of my students. The idea was that it would give said student lots of good information from which a paper could be developed without writing it for them. Please feel free to use this for your own students.

All the best,

Matt B.

Industrial Revolution Outline:

Quick Facts – The Industrial Revolution (~1750 to ~1914) can actually be broken down into two separate Revolutions.

1) The First Industrial Revolution (~1750 to 1850) was led by Great Britain and based primarily on the development of the textile industry and the steam engine.

2) The Second Industrial Revolution (1850 to ~1914) was led by the United States and Germany. This was based primarily on steel, chemicals and later electricity.

Each country had its own advantages and disadvantages going into the Industrial Revolution, but in general there were a number of global factors that made the Revolution possible to begin with.

1) The end of the “Little Ice Age” – The last of the extended cooling periods of the planet begins to end around 1700. The planet would gradually begin to warm over the next 100 years.

2) Agricultural Revolution – With temperatures slowly increasing worldwide the growing seasons are also affected. This allows for longer growing seasons and a wider variety of crops. Variation in diet leads to a more nutritious diet for much of the world.

3) Population Boom – The combination of a warmer climate along with an increase of nutritious foods leads to another population boom in Europe and much of the world. This will in turn provide the man power that is needed for the coming Industrial Revolution.

Great Britain

Great Britain was ready to lead the Industrial Revolution. Here are some of the reasons why.

1) Free from external threat – The last successful invasion of the British Isles was in 1066 by the Normans. Since that point there had been a number of small isolated wars within the Isles but these were very limited in scope and did not greatly hinder the growth or prosperity of England, later Great Britain.

2) Few Religious Restraints - These isolated wars had broken the monopoly of Anglicanism in Great Britain, allowing for more personal freedoms along with the theological and scientific debate.

3) Great Minds – Many of the brightest stars of the Scientific Revolution and later the Enlightenment were British Citizens who led the world in not only research but also invention.

4) Property Rights – Great Britain was the first to develop and allow for individual property rights and land ownership. This freedom was initially unknown on the Continent.

5) High Standard of Living – Along with the Dutch and the British Colonies, Great Britain had one of the highest standards of living in the world during this period. This is in part due to its ability to feed its population, as well as individual rights that allowed its people to improve their situation.

6) Cash Economy – While bartering was still common in the colonies, the idea of a money based economy had taken hold in Great Britain. This would allow the early industrialists and their consumers to actually purchase goods for set prices as opposed to bartering and haggling.


France had a much slower start than its primary rival Great Britain when it came to Industrialization. It however would pick up the pace after 1850.

1) The Long Peace – Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, Continental Europe remains relatively stable for almost a century (the Crimean and Franco-Prussian Wars, though terrible were both relatively short). This, along with the warming climate, allows for Frances population to recover.

2) Peasant Population – A large portion of the French population is still tied to the land, similar to the peasantry of the middle ages.

3) Socio/Economic Traditions – Even with the French Revolution, The Terror and the Rights of Man and Citizens, many traditions of class remain in France. This is seen particularly in the peasantry who are not as likely to upset these traditions as the lower classes of Great Britain would be.

4) Cut Throat Capitalism – One such tradition or way of thinking that France was slow to get rid of was that Capitalism was promoting yourself or your product over that of another. This was seen as anti-social for many in France.

5) Railroads – Though one of the largest countries on the Continent, France has relatively few railroads. It would not be until the 1850 railroad boom that it would begin to catch up with Britain and Germany.


Though forced to play catch up for much of the First Industrial Revolution, Germany will be one of the leaders of the Second. The development of its steel and chemical industries allowed the German economy to boom following the Unification of 1871.

1) Catching Up – With Great Britain leading the First Industrial Revolution with textiles and steam, the German states are forced to catch up.

2) Low-Cost British Goods – Britain’s mass produced textiles undermine early German efforts to develop their own industry.

3) Building On – By the time of the Great Exhibition (May 1st, 1851 to October 15th, 1851), the Continent, including the German States, are beginning to catch up with Great Britain by building off and improving British designs.

4) Unification – The development of a Unified Germany under Prussian control is achieved by Otto Von Bismarck in 1871 following the end of the Franco-Prussian War.

5) Steel – The driving force behind the Second Industrial Revolution, the Ruhr Valley steel industry would make Germany one of the world leaders in steel.

6) Universal Primary Education – Germany was one of the first countries to offer basic education for all its citizens. This in turn led to an increase in University attendance giving Germany one of the largest populations of University graduates.

7) Chemicals – One of the University programs that Germany dominated in was Chemistry. This led to significant developments in chemistry in Germany during the Second Industrial Revolution.

United States

Similar to the German states, the United States played catch up with Great Britain for much of the First Industrial Revolution. This was due in part to vast quantities of raw cotton being shipped overseas to Britain as opposed to being produced into cloth here. American industry, with its close ties to Britain, grew faster than industry on the European continent and would soon overtake Britain in the Second Industrial Revolution.

1) Catching Up – With Great Britain leading the First Industrial Revolution with textiles and steam, the United States are forced to catch up.

2) Low-Cost British Goods – Britain’s mass produced textiles are cheaper to buy than they are from the fledgling textile manufacturers of New England.

3) Building On – New England textile mills are able to build upon and improve numerous British designs.

4) Steel – Much like Germany, the United States had an area of the country that was known for its steel production. This “Steel Belt” ran from Pittsburgh to Chicago and was the heart of the steel industry.

5) King Cotton – The development of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin in 1794 makes the production of cotton cheap and easy, leading to the expansion of cotton plantations and slavery in the American South. Cotton was the raw material behind the British textile boom and made its growers very rich.

6) Inter-Changeable Parts – First developed by the arms industry, interchangeable parts made of steel became one of the back bones of the Second Industrial Revolution. The machine precision of these parts made mass production easy and allowed for the same piece every time.

7) Transportation – The development of info structure in the United States, particularly in the areas of canals and railroads, greatly reduced the costs of getting raw materials to manufacturers and goods to markets. Harnessing the vast expanses of the United States allowed it to become a leader of the Second Industrial Revolution.


Though the world leader during the Renaissance, Italy was slow to industrialize. This was due in part to its protracted unification which is not complete until 1870. Italy will begin to industrialize rapidly at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Russia and Japan

The first of the non-western or partially western powers to industrialize, both these countries are hampered by similar issues. Ironically the parallel industrialization of these two countries will lead them to war with each other in.

1) Socio-Economic – Both Russia and Japan have large peasant or serf populations that are tied to the land up to the 20th century. This makes personal and industrial development difficult.

2) Traditional Restraints – Both Russia and Japan had centralized governments where the Czar or Emperor ruled all. Additionally both these countries tended to look inward and did not entirely trust westernization.

Middle East

During the Middle Ages the Middle East was at the forefront of continued learning, debate, development and technology. These advantages however began to dwindle in the centuries leading up to the Industrial Revolution until there was little room for debate or scientific exploration left in the region.

1) Invasion – The Middle East never entered a period free of external threats. Even during the period of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922), raids from nomadic invaders disrupted much of the Middle East.

2) Rise of Conservatism – Following the Middle Ages a more conservative view of Islam (which means submissive to God) began to take hold in the Middle East. Religious debate and scientific experimentation began to be seen as threatening to the teachings of the Koran or even worse as outright blasphemy.

3) Centralized Government – Similar to Russia and Japan, the Caliphates and Sultanates of the Middle East were headed by one man who had all the power and owned all the land. This severally hampered industrial experimentation development.


During the period of the Industrial Revolution China was known to be one of the largest countries in both landmass and population in the world, much like today. However it shared with the Middle East numerous disadvantages that stunted its industrialization until well into the 20th Century.

1) War – External threats continued to be an issue for China throughout this period, but a series of brutal civil wars and rebellions would cost the Chinese millions of lives during the mid to late 19th century.

2) Ethnocentrism / Isolationism – During the Age of Exploration Europe “discovered” that China was far more advanced in many aspects of science and technology. As the influence of Europe began to grow however China began to turn inward. Similar to the Middle East this distrust of the West developed into stagnation.

3) Centralized Government – Again the Chinese Emperor’s of the various Dynasties owned everything. This severally hampered industrial experimentation and development.


Matt B.

American & European History Tutor

50+ hours
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