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UNIT 19: Global Industrialization



This unit explores the broad human consequences of the Industrial Revolution. Between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries, the patterns of human life around the world were transformed by rapidly accelerating changes in agriculture, manufacturing, and power. New agricultural techniques provided more food for a rapidly growing world population. Remarkable machines accelerated the speed with which textiles and other goods were manufactured. The steam engine, the use of coal, and the arrivals of railroads, steamships, and telegraphs shrank the world dramatically, tightening and strengthening connections between once-distant places.

All of these innovations drastically altered the relationships between workers and work, cities and countries, products and populaces. Moreover, they dramatically rearranged the world's peoples in new demographic patterns as cities grew up and out, human populations shrank in some places and grew in others, local economies unfolded into regional and then world economies, and people, ideas, machines, and capital migrated from place to place.

In the late nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution was offered as proof that Europe was the most advanced civilization in world history. The new industries of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe-accompanied by transformed social patterns, mastery of sweeping technological innovations, and increasing global dominance-were assumed to reflect the genius of European peoples, as well as the absence of such genius in other places.

These assumptions tended to disguise the ways that industrialization relied on the exploitation of natural resources from the rest of the world-on terms that explicitly favored the West. In the British Empire, for example, such terms gave rise to protectionist policies that favored domestic manufacturers over colonial textile industries-policies that effectively destroyed those industries. In the Belgian Congo, such terms encouraged policies aimed at removing all valuable natural resources at an appalling human cost.

The Industrial Revolution's new industries transformed the world with astonishing speed. The day-to-day stuff of life was completely transformed all over the globe, as human relationships forged in isolated worlds of housework and farming gave way to an interconnected world of consumer and producer, worker and factory, city and country.


Time Period: 1750-1900

Industrialization has knit the world together -not just in having wrought profound technological change, but also in the consequences, both economic and social, of that change. Industrialization allowed for the mechanization of Euro-American societies and the mass production of commodities and finished goods. At the same time, industrialization facilitated the destruction of local environments all over the world with pollution and resource depletion. Industrialization also provided the means by which Europeans, Americans, and the Japanese dominated cultures and societies around the globe through both formal and informal imperialism. As a result, the "progress" of the nineteenth century should be viewed globally, with truly global consequences that still challenge the planet and its peoples.

AP Themes:

  • Examines interactions in economics and politics by exploring the ways that industrialization depended on global networks of finance, trade, resource extraction, and demand.
  • Explores technology, demography, and environment by focusing on the ways that industrialization's technological innovations affected both population growth and environment.
  • Discusses systems of social and gender structure by exploring the nature of social changes wrought by industrialization. One common thread is that industrialization frequently resulted in changing gender roles and ideologies because so many women entered the work force.


  • Question 1: How did the Industrial Revolution affect flows of labor and capital around the world?
  • Question 2: How did industrialization affect the world's demographic patterns such as migration, population growth, and urbanization?
  • Question 3: What are the some of the social and environmental consequences of industrialization?
  • Question 4: How did the technological changes of the Industrial Revolution promote increasing global integration and also emphasize differences between peoples?


How is this topic related to Increasing Integration?

During the Industrial Revolution, new methods of transportation, communication, science and technology developed. These methods integrated cities with the surrounding countryside, and they integrated diverse regions to form a global web of interdependence.

How is this topic related to Proliferating Difference?

Because the Industrial Revolution began in Europe, Westerners often thought of themselves as superior to other peoples of the world. Such thinking led Westerners to emphasize the racial and technological differences between themselves and others. In addition, industrialization allowed industrialized countries to exploit non-industrialized countries, which created significant global economic differences.

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