A summary of the Industrial Revolution

Key inventions and developments of the Industrial Revolution including telegrams, steam power, electricity, industry and agriculture.

Shortly before his death in 1883, the historian Arnold Toynbee suggested that in the years after 1750 there was both an agricultural and an industrial 'revolution'. Many historians now challenge this idea. They put the turning point much earlier and suggest that change was much more gradual than Toynbee said.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to deny that the years after 1750 were a time of great achievement:

  • Agriculture - Charles ‘Turnip’ Townshend introduced the Norfolk four-course rotation of wheat‒turnips‒barley‒clover to his farm and Robert Bakewell used selective breeding to develop the New Leicester sheep. Arthur Young promoted new methods to a wider audience.
  • Industry - Richard Arkwright's Mill at Cromford heralded 'the Factory Age' of the textile industry, production of iron increased 30-fold and production of coal increased 20-fold. Newcomen and Watt contributed to the development of steam power to drive machinery more efficiently.
  • Transport and communications - Thomas Telford built roads and canals in the 1700s and George Stephenson and Isambard Kingdom Brunel oversaw the 'Railway Mania' of the 1800s. There had previously been no very fast way of transporting goods and people around the country. However, canals did already exist and so most materials were transported by boat to towns and cities which had to be located on canal routes.

There were also many scientific discoveries and technological inventions that changed society and industry.