This course will focus on the emergence and evolution of industrial societies around the world. We will begin by comparing the legacies of industry in ancient and early modern Europe and Asia and examining the agricultural and commercial advances that laid the groundwork for the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. We will then follow the history of industrialization in different parts of the world, taking a close look at the economic, social, and environmental effects of industrialization. The course is organized chronologically and thematically. Each unit will focus on key developments in the history of industry as well as on representative areas of the globe, using primary-source documents, secondary readings, and multimedia resources to illustrate the dynamic nature of industrial change. By the end of the course, you will understand how industrialization developed, spread across the globe, and shaped everyday life in the modern era.
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.
Industry did not begin with the Industrial Revolution. Ancient societies produced consumer goods on a large scale, serving markets spread over hundreds or even thousands of miles. In ancient Rome, India and China, large populations, centralized governments, and well-connected international trading routes created vast markets for all manner of goods, ranging from military and agricultural equipment to textiles and home décor. Entrepreneurs seeking to profit from these markets developed new techniques and new tools for mass production that laid the groundwork for future industrial advances. Many of these technological advances fell into disuse during the medieval period, but entrepreneurs continued to develop new commercial practices to organize and finance large-scale business.
In this unit, we will examine several important industries that developed in the ancient world, such as mining, metallurgy, and textiles. We will then see how merchant entrepreneurs developed the tools and institutions that led to capitalism.
Capitalism, an economic system based on the private ownership of productive power, made the Industrial Revolution possible by creating demands for goods and incentives for entrepreneurs to invest in production. Capitalism had its origins in merchant activity, but by the 17th and 18th centuries, it began to penetrate traditional agricultural and industrial sectors. New crops from the Americas and new ideas about agricultural production led to an Agricultural Revolution in Europe, resulting in growing populations as well as the creation of new wealth among landowners. Capitalism matured as an economic system in the Atlantic World, where investors used capital to buy land in the Americas and captive labor from Africa to produce consumer goods like tobacco, sugar, and cotton for growing world markets. Throughout the period, capitalist merchants tapped existing handicraft producers of manufactured goods, using saved capital to finance industrial production on a growing scale.
In this unit, we will analyze the impact of the Agricultural Revolution on Europe and see how it encouraged the growth of capitalism in Europe, across the Atlantic, and around the world.
The Industrial Revolution began in England, which was by 1750 one of the wealthiest capitalist states in the world. The Industrial Revolution began in England's textile industry, which was struggling to produce goods cheaper and faster for growing consumer markets. Businessmen and factory workers, rather than scientists, developed key inventions that solved major bottlenecks in textile production. As the scale of production grew, the factory emerged as a centralized location where wage laborers could work on machines and raw material provided by capitalist entrepreneurs. By the late 18th century, steam power was adapted to power factory machinery, sparking an even bigger surge in the size, speed, and productivity of industrial machines. Heavy industries like ironworking were also revolutionized by new ideas, and new transportation technologies were developed to move products farther and faster.
Growing businesses soon outstripped the financial abilities of individuals and their families, leading to legal reforms that allowed corporations to own and operate businesses. While England initially tried to protect its industrial technologies, the major ideas of the Industrial Revolution quickly spread to continental Europe and North America.
In this unit, we will examine the major ideas and events of the Industrial Revolution, study the effects the Industrial Revolution had on the economy of England, and see how the process of economic change spread to other parts of the world.
Industrialization was not merely a change in the way societies produced goods. It brought a transformation in the way people lived, turning rural towns into urban manufacturing centers. Newly industrialized societies faced health problems and challenges to conventional family and social structures. Politics in industrialized societies were transformed as traditional landed elites gave way to industrial capitalists and the burgeoning "middle class” of businessmen and professionals. Workers also began to challenge traditional political systems, drawing on new ideologies to suggest alternatives the developing capitalist-industrial world in which they lived
In this unit, we will survey the sweeping changes that industrialization brought to Europe and the rest of the world between the late 18th and mid-19th centuries. We will then examine how working class and middle class individuals and organizations used these changes to challenge traditional elites.
The Industrial Revolution came late to East Asia. By many accounts, China was more industrially developed than Western Europe before 1800, but England and the rest of Western Europe soon surged ahead with the aid of cheap coal, steam power, and the vast natural resources and markets provided by the Americas. Industrialized European states forced their way into traditionally limited markets in both China and Japan during the mid-19th century, flooding both countries with manufactured goods. Chinese officials bitterly resisted European imperial encroachments and lost a losing battle against economic and military imperialism, and Japanese leaders only grudgingly granted limited concessions to foreign interests. While China buckled under the weight of imperialism and domestic insurrection, Japan's government adopted the military and industrial technology of the West to build a strong, centralized state. By the end of the 19th century, Japan was an industrialized, imperialistic power able to successfully resist foreign pressure.
In this unit, we will examine the factors that contributed to two very different outcomes in China and Japan as the forces of industrialization began to affect them in the 19th century.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a so-called "Second Industrial Revolution” centered on electronics and chemicals brought new changes to industrial production and everyday life. While the inventions and early successes of the first Industrial Revolution were the work of small businessmen and individual capitalists, the innovations of the second phase came out of large business organizations. Fierce competition among these companies led to the consolidation of industries by monopoly firms or the creation of cartels. New ideas changed how people worked within these giant firms, resulting in even greater improvements in the speed and efficiency of production. Workers reacted to these changes by forming political associations, seeking bargaining power with large capitalists. For all classes, this period represented a transition to a mass society, characterized by the large-scale marketing and distribution of products, services, and ideas. New machines and new media turned individuals living in limited regions into consumers of products and information from a vast national or international community.
In this unit, we will examine the institutional, political, and social changes that came to industrialized societies in the 19th and 20th centuries.
While the Industrial Revolution brought great prosperity to many parts of the world, it also ushered in many new challenges. In 1914, tensions between capitalist powers spilled over into war, and the new weapons of industrial age produced a horrific slaughter in Europe. After the war, industrial powers struggled to recover in a decade of economic highs and lows. The weak global economy collapsed in 1929, causing widespread unemployment in industrialized societies. The failure of the international community to maintain prosperity and peace led to the Second World War, which devastated Europe and Asia. After the war, the United States and its allies devised a new system for managing the international economy, while the Soviet Union and its allies pulled new satellite states into a socialist economic system.
In this unit, we will examine the effects of industrialization on war, as well as the effects of war on industrialization. We will also study the economic crises of the 1920s and 1930s and compare different recovery strategies.
After the First World War, a revolutionary government in Russia tried to create an alternative model to capitalist industrial development. The new Soviet Union accomplished massive industrial feats before and during the Second World War but at enormous cost to the environment and to Soviet citizens. In China, a successful communist revolution ushered in another experiment in socialist industrialization after 1949, first along Soviet lines and then according to the plans of Mao Zedong. After the Second World War, leaders in India and other newly independent states tried to find a "third way” of development, rejecting capitalism as well as Soviet-style socialism as pathways to industrialization.
In this unit, we will examine alternative plans for industrial development from the Soviet Union, China, and India. We will analyze the efficacy and costs of these different approaches, comparing them to the model followed by capitalist states.
The second half of the twentieth century saw many changes in the pattern of industrialization. While the capitalist states of the West enjoyed two decades of prosperity after 1945, problems in the global economy led to stagnation and decline in many manufacturing sectors in the 1960s and 1970s. Manufacturing power shifted from the West to the East, beginning with the reindustrialization of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Light and then heavy manufacturing moved to Asian production sites, as the cost of labor in the West rose. Southeast Asian states and then communist China entered the market as low-cost producers in the late 1970s and 1980s as previous barriers to international trade were eliminated. By the 1990s, free trade had replaced protectionism as the dominant economic ideology in the industrialized world, creating new opportunities for industrialized and industrializing states as well as new challenges to the stability of the global economic system.
In this unit, we will examine the causes and effects of the decline of manufacturing in the West and the rise of low-cost producers in Asia. We will also study important international agreements that gradually eased barriers to trade between nations.
Optional Course Evaluation Survey
Please take a few moments to provide some feedback about this course at the link below. Consider completing the survey whether you have completed the course, you are nearly at that point, or you have just come to study one unit or a few units of this course.
Link: Optional Course Evaluation Survey (HTML)
Your feedback will focus our efforts to continually improve our course design, content, technology, and general ease-of-use. Additionally, your input will be considered alongside our consulting professors' evaluation of the course during its next round of peer review. As always, please report urgent course experience concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or our Discourse forums.