The United Kingdom transitions into the industrial age. Some industrial centres also emerge in the United States.


Agricultural Workforce

The British population mostly works in agriculture. Farming families rent or own farms while others are employed as farm workers that live on or near the farm. Metal workers create farming tools.

Workshop System

Products are mostly manufactured in home workshops. Workers often farm in warmer seasons and produce products during colder months to sell to merchants and/or markets. 

Consumer Revolution

1600s: Luxury goods become increasingly accessible and affordable for the general population in Britain. People buy sugar, tobacco, tea, and coffee. Home decor also becomes popular.

Rise of Fashion

Elegant clothing was originally only available to the upper class. However, it now becomes increasingly popular among the general population in Britain. Fashion grows in importance.

Calico Clothing

1660s: The East India Company introduces calico cotton clothing in Britain. The cheap and colourful clothing from India becomes popular and surpasses spice as the most valuable trade item.

Calico Act

1700: Calico cotton cloth from India increasingly threatens the British wool and linen industry. Local cloth manufacturers convince the British government to ban the import of calico textiles. 

Calico Ban

1721: There is no punishment for selling colico clothing and it is increasingly smuggled into Britain. In response, the British government completely bans the sale of calico clothing.

Lombe’s Mill

1721: After spying out silk mills in Italy, English silk spinner John Lombe builds a fully water-powered silk mill in England. He mass produces silk and becomes a major competitor to Italian silk.

John Lombe engaged in early industrial espionage and built the first fully mechanised factory in the world. However, he died less than a year after the mill’s construction.

Norfolk Four-Course System

1730s: British agriculturist Charles Townshend popularises the four-field crop rotation system in England. It greatly increases farming output and allows livestock to be bred year-round.

Rotherham Swing Plough

Joseph Foljambe of Rotherham invents a lighter cast iron plough. Requiring less animals to pull and one less person to control, it becomes the most popular plough in Britain, Scotland, America, and France.

British Agricultural Revolution

Agricultural innovations steadily improves farm production in Great Britain, but also reduces the amount of required workers. There is an increase in workshop and mill employment.

Population Growth

Britain struggled with famines in the late 1600s, which lowered the population by over 1 million. However, the populations of England and Wales now steadily grow due to the plentiful food supply.

The British Agricultural Revolution took place between 1700-1850. It is considered a major cause of the Industrial Revolution as it forced employment to shift from farming to manufacturing.


Fustian Mills

Fustian is a heavy cotton cloth used for worker clothing and priest robes. The non-banned cloth becomes a popular replacement for calico clothing. Cotton mills emerge in Britain to meet demand.

Flying Shuttle

1733: English weaver John Kay invents a device that allows a single operator to quickly weave thread. It cuts the labour requirements in half and speeds up production.

Upper Priory Cotton Mill

1741: Lewis Paul and John Wyatt build the world’s first mechanised cotton mill in Birmingham using their patented spinning machine. However, Wyatt is soon imprisoned for debt and the mill shuts down. 

Warmley Works

Metallurgist William Champion builds the world’s largest metal processing plant in Warmley. It covers all stages of metal working from smelting ores to producing finished items.

River Transportation

Rivers and roads are the main source of transportation. However, roads are not suitable for carrying large volumes and there is a significant increase in river traffic from emerging industries.

Artificial Waterways

Manipulating water levels becomes increasingly sophisticated with locks and weirs. However, instead of following the river, the idea of creating artificial rivers begins to emerge.

Newry Canal

1742: The first modern canal opens in Northern Ireland to connect the Tyrone coalfields with the Lough Neagh lake and the Irish Sea. However, it has major water supply, width, and lock problems.

Sankey Canal

1757: A modern canal opens between Lancashire Coalfield and the growing industries in Liverpool, England. It is primarily used to transport coal, iron ore, and corn. 

The Bridgewater Canal

1761: Duke Egerton of Bridgewater opens a canal between Worsley and Manchester to transport coal from his mines. The engineering marvel reduces the price of Bridgewater coal by fifty percent.


Birmingham is a prominent market town in England that has a variety of privately-owned workshops. The workshops are often the first to acquire, test, and refine new machinery.

Birmingham Toy Industry

Birmingham is a major centre for small items such as hinges, buttons, and hooks. The small leather, metal, or glass items are called toys, which is derived from Dutch and means ornament.

Spinning Jenny

1764: James Hargreaves is an English weaver living in Lancashire. He invents a machine that can spin multiple balls of yarn or thread at a time. It allows for faster and easier production of cloth.

The First Industrial Revolution primarily takes place in Britain from 1760 to 1830, but expands into some eastern regions of the United States.

Soho Manufactory

1766: English businessman Matthew Boulton completes construction of a large toy workshop in Birmingham. It is the first factory-like building to mass produce items using an assembly line system.

Water Frame

1769: Entrepreneur Richard Arkwright and clockmaker John Kay develop a spinning frame for cotton-spinning. Initially designed to use horse-power, it is soon adapted to use water-power.

Comford Mill

1771: Arkwright builds the world’s first water-powered cotton mill at Cromford. It is the first factory to have continuous production; there are no interruptions between the raw material and the finished product.

Birmingham Canal

Matthew Boulton and other businessmen build a canal in Birmingham to help import material and export products. The canal is gradually extended and expanded into a large canal network.

Birmingham is considered the first modern industrial town in the world and Soho Manufactory is considered to be one of the first modern factories.

Calico Repeal

1774: Cotton mill owners convince the British government to repeal the Calico Acts and allow the sale of pure cotton cloth. The sophisticated local mills can easily compete with foreign cloth.

Boring Machine

English industrialist John Wilkinson invents a machine tool that can precisely enlarge a hole into metal shafts. It greatly improves the reliability and accuracy of cannons, guns, and cylinders. 

Watt Steam Engine

1775: Engineer James Watt partners with Matthew Boulton to develop his fuel efficient steam engine. It uses precision cylinders produced by Wilkinson’s boring machine.

Carron Company

1776: The first Watt Steam Engine is sold to the Carron Company in Scotland. The ironworks company has a lucrative contract to manufacture cannons for the British Armed Forces.

The Carron Company grows to become the largest iron works company in Europe.

Factory Housing

Arkwright builds a large second mill in Cromford, but the town can’t supply enough employees. Arkwright builds cottages to attract workers and hires entire families, including children.

Factory Scheduling

Arkwright workshops and factories have two 13-hour shifts, shift changes, and bell rings for opening and closing times. His 1,150 employees are also given one week of vacation per year. 

Anti-Machinery Riots

1779: A group of English textile workers in Manchester complain that machinery is threatening their skilled craft. When the government ignores their pleas, they riot and destroy machinery.

Haarlem Mill

When a cotton mill is not receiving enough water to fully power its water wheel, Arkwright purchases a steam engine to help improve the water supply. It is the first mill to use a steam engine.

Richard Arkwright is considered Britain’s first industrial tycoon.


Canal Steam Engines

The Birmingham Canal is very popular, but has trouble supplying enough water in certain sections. Two large steam engines are constructed to pump additional water into the canal.

Sun & Planet Gear

1781: Scottish engineer William Murdoch invents a method to convert vertical motion into circular motion with steam engines while working for Boulton and Watt. James Watt patents the invention.

Beverly Cotton Manufactory

1787: A massive new modern cotton factory opens in Beverly, Massachusetts. However, the factory struggles with economic problems due to the heavy construction and equipment costs.

Trade Secrets

The Beverly Cotton Manufactory is extremely secretive about their new mill. They do not want to share information about their newly acquired machinery with their competition.

Smethwick Engine, one of the Birmingham Canal steam engines, is the oldest working engine in the world.

Beverly Cotton Manufactory was the first cotton mill in America and the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.

Soho Mint

1788: Matthrew Boulton builds a minting service in Soho Manufactory with his own patent design. The eight steam engine powered machines can each strike over 70 coins per minute.

Quarry Bank Mill

1789: Irish businessman Samuel Greg marries Hannah Lightbody. He uses his wife’s dowry to modernise his cotton mill near Manchester with the latest innovations.

Sewing Machine

1790: Englishman Thomas Saint invents a sewing machine to reduce the amount of hand-stitching required for leather goods. Although he takes out a patent, he doesn’t advertise the machine.

Canal Mania

1790s: Great Britain enters a period of intense canal building. While many are profitable, some canals are never completed or quickly go bankrupt due to highly speculative ventures. 

Blackstone River Valley

1790: Samuel Slater opens a successful water-powered cotton mill along the Blackstone River in America. The river valley in Massachusetts and Rhode Island grows into a major industrial centre.

Soho Foundry

1795: James Watt and Matthew Boulton build a factory near Birmingham Canal to manufacture the Watt Steam Engine. They use standardised interchangeable parts for easy repairs.


Horses still power many mills and workshops. To better sell his steam engines, James Watt develops a unit of measurement that compares the power of his engines with the power of horses.

Gas Lighting

Scottish engineer William Murdoch works for Soho Foundry. He experiments with creating light from gas and creates a gas lantern. He soon instals gas lighting in his home and in the factory.

Due to its long history of industrial use, the Blackstone River is considered the most polluted river in the United-States.


Smallpox is an infectious disease that causes severe skin rashes, scabs, and possible blindness. Thirty percent of those who contract the disease die, with higher rates in children.

Smallpox Outbreak

Smallpox becomes a major epidemic throughout the world. About 400,000 Europeans died from smallpox every year in the 1700s, with ten percent of children dying of the disease in some regions.

Smallpox Vaccination

1796: British physician Edward Jenner pioneers a method to prevent smallpox. A dead or weakened form of the disease is administered to a patient, which allows the body to develop an immunity.

Infant Mortality

The survival rate of children rises with vaccines and other societal  improvements. In London, England, the rate of death for children under five decreased by about 42% over the past century.

The smallpox vaccine is the first successful vaccine in history and Jenner is considered the father of immunology.

Smallpox was also known as pox, speckled monster, and the red plague. As of 1980, smallpox is believed to have been eradicated.

Wearmouth Bridge

A major cast iron bridge opens over the River Wear. The 237 feet (72 m) bridge is the longest single-span bridge in the world and is viewed as a wonder of the Industrial Age.

Population Increase

The British population has been steadily increasing due to the stable food supply and improved medical treatments. The population of England grew from about 5.2 million to 8.2 million in the past century. 

The Principle of Population

1798: Economist Thomas Robert Malthus writes an essay that warns of future difficulties due to the growing British population. He is concerned that it will lead to food problems and increased poverty.

High-Pressure Steam Engine

1799: British mining engineer Richard Trevithick develops a steam engine that can safely use steam at high pressures. The more efficient engine can be smaller, faster, or more powerful.

Thanos was also influenced by the works of Malthus.

Income Tax

British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger introduces the world’s first modern income tax. It is used to pay for weapons and equipment for British forces in the French Revolutionary War.

1800 Census Act

1800: The British parliament passes an act to perform a census of the population. It is influenced by the writings of Thomas Malthus, but also to assess the number of men available for conflict in Europe.

The United Kingdom

1801: The parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland each passed an Act of Union. It unites the two kingdoms and creates the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

1801 Census

The first modern census is taken in the United Kingdom. It estimates the population of England and Wales to be 8.9 million and Scotland to be 1.6 million. Ireland is not included in the census.

The Puffing Devil

Richard Trevithick builds an experimental road vehicle powered by his high-pressure steam engine. His invention is the first to carry passengers a short distance.

American High-Pressure Engine

ndependent of Richard Trevithick, American engineer Oliver Evans builds the first working high-pressure steam engine in the United States. The engine is first tested on a boat.

Evan’s Inventions

Oliver Evans envisions refrigeration, machine guns, baking ovens, gas lighting, and many other technological ideas. He also builds a makeshift steam-powered amphibious vehicle.

Health and Morals of Apprentices Act

1802: The United Kingdom passes an act designed to improve conditions for apprentices working in cotton mills. However, the act is not strongly enforced.

High–pressure steam engines initiate a rapid expansion of steam use in England and the United States. It was aided in Britain by the expiration of the Boulton and Watt steam engine patent in 1800.


Napoleonic Wars

1803: When Napoleon Bonaparte annexes territory and interferes with trade in Europe, the United Kingdom declares war on France. Additional states gradually join the large European conflict.

One Billion People

1804: The human population reaches 1 billion. There are about 694 million in Asia, 209 million in Europe, 69 million in Africa, 19 million in South America, and 9 million in North America.

Jacquard’s Loom

French weaver Joseph Jacquard invents a programmable loom in the textile manufacturing city of Lyon. The loom can wove different cloth patterns by using a set of punch cards.

City Patent

Emperor Napoleon wants to compete with Britain’s textile industry. He visits Jacquard’s loom and soon grants Jacquard a yearly pension of 3000 francs in exchange for giving the patent to the city of Lyon.

Jacquard’s use of punch cards to control a sequence of operations is a major step in the history of computing.

North River Steamboat

1807: American engineer Robert Fulton invents a steamboat. He successfully carries passengers on a 300 mile (480km) round trip of the Hudson River between New York City and Albany.

Steamboat Company

After further refinements, the North River Steamboat begins regular passenger service. It proves to be commercially successful and Fulton builds another sixteen steamboats.

Erie Canal Commission

1810: A group is formed to oversee the building of a lengthy canal to connect the Great Lakes Basin with the Atlantic Ocean. Robert Fulton soon becomes a member of the commission.

New Orleans Steamboat

Robert Fulton commissions the construction of a steamboat for the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. It initiates an era of commercialized steamboat navigation in the south-central and mid-western United States.

Many American cities, counties, buildings, and streets are named after Robert Fulton.

Robert Owen

Welshman Robert Owen becomes wealthy through investing and then managing a large textile mill in Scotland. At the mill, Owen begins to improve conditions for the workers.

8-Hour Workday

Robert Own encourages an eight-hour workday, which he implements at his textile mill. He coins the slogan “Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, and eight hours rest”.

Cooperative Movement

Robert Owen comes to argue that workers should own the companies they work for and share any profits among themselves. This is in contrast to a small number of privileged business owners.

A New View of Society

Robert Owen continues to advocate for the working class and publishes A New View of Society to explain his socialistic reforms. It is the first of four essays that explain his philosophy.

Robert Owen is an early socialist.

The Luddites

Skilled textile work is being replaced by machines. A secretive anti-machine movement emerges that is inspired by a semi-legendary protester named Ned Ludd who destroyed machinery.

The Luddite Rebellion

1811: The Napoleonic Wars severely weakens the British economy and causes high unemployment. The Luddites initiate a wide-scale rebellion and destroy machinery in textile factories.

Frame Breaking Act

1812: The British government passes a temporary emergency act to discourage the Luddites. Until March 1st, 1814, anyone who destroys textile stocking frames will face the death penalty.

Luddite Execution

Factory owner and machinery advocate William Horsfall is ambushed and killed by a group of Luddites. Fourteen Luddites are tried for the murder and hanged at York Castle in England. 

The term Luddite comes to refer to someone that is anti-technology.

Gas Light & Coke Company

German inventor Frederick Windsor founds a company to supply London, England with gas from coal. The company soon builds the first permanent gas street lights in London.

PS Comet

Henry Bell’s PS Comet begins a passenger service on the River Clyde between Glasgow and Greenock, the first commercially successful steamboat service in Europe

Puffing Billy

1813: Industrial Engineer William Hedley of England invents the coupling of rail wheels, which makes locomotives more efficient on rails. He constructs the Puffing Billy locomotive to showcase his design.

Cornwall Mining

Cornwall in south west England is rich in copper and tin. Hundreds of steam engines pump water out of the deep mines and the extracted precious metals are transported throughout the globe.

Beverly Cotton Closure

The Beverly Cotton Manufactory continued to have financial issues. With the Napoleonic Wars disrupting the economy and oversea trade, the factory is forced to close down.

Boston Manufacturing Company

Boston merchant Francis Lowell smuggles power loom designs from England and acquires trade secrets from the Beverly Cotton Manufactory. He forms a textile company with a group of investors.

Lowell Factory

1813: Francis Lowell builds a water-powered textile factory in Massachusetts using improved designs. It grows to a workforce of 300 and becomes the largest factory in the United States.

New England Factorization

Due to its abundant rapids, many water-powered mills are built along the Connecticut River in New England. The region becomes one of the most industrialized centres in the United-States.

The Lowell Factory is the first integrated spinning and weaving factory in the world.

Battle of Waterloo

1814-1815: Napoleon surrenders when the English decisively defeat the French in the massive Battle of Waterloo. The borders of Europe are redrawn during a diplomatic conference in Vienna.

The Year Without a Summer

1815-1816: Mount Tambora erupts in Southeast Asia and causes a volcanic winter event. Europe struggles with an extremely cold summer, which causes widespread crop failures.

Post-War Riots

The United Kingdom struggles with postwar depression, poor harvests, and unemployment. The Luddite rebellion gives way to large post-war riots. Some conspirators attempt to gain control of the government.

Peterloo Massacre

1819: Lancashire workers demand proper government representation by protesting in Peter’s Square. Cavalry soon charge into the crowd of 60,000, which kills some and injures many.

The Napoleonic Wars will be detailed in an upcoming page.



Product manufacturing requires progressively larger machines, materials, and storage space. Production increasingly moves from home workshops to large mills and factories.

Factory Work

Agricultural innovations continue to reduce the labour required for farming. The British population increasingly finds employment in factories and workshops.

Mill Towns

Towns develop around mills and factories in Britain. Over fifty communities emerge in Manchester, Lancashire, and Yorkshire. Most of the mills revolve around the textile industry.

Decreasing Living Standards

Mill towns quickly become overpopulated. There is not enough clean water and sanitation systems to handle the population levels, which leads to an increase in sickness.

The British population living in cities increased from 17% in 1801 to 72% in 1891.

Manchester Industrial Centre

Many cotton mills are built along the Rochdale canal in Manchester. The city grows into the most prominent industrial centre. It is nicknamed Cottonopolis and Warehouse City.

Child Labour

Children as young as four are hired to work long hours in factories and mines. They work in dangerous conditions, such as crawling through mine tunnels too small for adults.

Quarry Bank Expansion

Samuel Greg greatly expands Quarry Bank Mill near Manchester and buys steam engines to improve water flow in the summer. It grows into the largest cotton mill business in the United Kingdom.

Labour Support

Persuaded by his wife Hannah, Samuel Greg provides housing for his workers and medical care with on-site physicians. He also builds a school and provides education and apprenticeships for the children.

Manchester’s population doubled from 328,000 in 1801 to 700,000 in 1831. It reached 1 million in 1851.

Vagrancy Act

1824: There is an increasing number of homeless, including veterans from the Napoleonic Wars. Despite opposition, the United Kingdom makes it illegal for people to beg for money or sleep in public.

Weights and Measures Act

The British Parliament passes an act that standardises measurements throughout the United Kingdom and its royal territories. The system becomes known as Imperial Units.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens’ father is sentenced to a debtor’s prison. At the age of twelve, Charles is forced to leave school and work under harsh conditions in a shoe polishing warehouse to help support his family.

Factory Acts

The United Kingdom passes an act to improve the labour conditions for children in factories. However, when they are ignored, additional acts are gradually passed to enforce the child labour rules.

Imperial Units replaces the Winchester Standards which had been the weights and measures system for over 230 years.

Erie Canal

1825: New York State completes construction of the Erie Canal. The 363 miles (584 km) long canal creates a navigable water route between the Great Lakes Basin and the Atlantic Ocean.

American Canal Boom

The success of the Erie Canal inspires major canal projects in the United-States. States such as Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Ohio border on bankruptcy while building their canal network.

Town of Lowell

1826: The Boston Manufacturing Company establishes the first large scale factory town in America. It is named after company founder Francis Cabot Lowell who died in 1817.

Lowell Mill Girls

Lowell factories have trouble finding enough employees. They draw young women workers by offering decent pay, lodging in a boarding house, and “a cultured life in the city”.

The Erie Canal was the second longest canal after the Grand Canal in China.

John Deere

1827: American blacksmith John Deere develops and manufactures a cast-steel plow in Illinois. The plow is a commercial success, but Deere continues to improve his design.

Swing Riots

1830: Agricultural workers protest harsh working conditions and farming technology. They destroy farm equipment and write threats signed by a mysterious figurehead called Captain Swing.

Mechanical Reapers

Mechanical horse-drawn reaping machines that can harvest crops in bulk are invented in the United States. Several designs emerge around the same time, which leads to a series of lawsuits.

Robert Hyde Greg

1832: Samuel Greg retires and passes Quarry Bank Mill on to his son Robert. Unlike his parents, the younger Greg opposes further factory reforms, trade unions, and worker safety.

Quarry Bank Mill is well-preserved as an heritage site and museum.

Sadler Report

1832: Parliament member Michael Sadler investigates the treatment and welfare of children in British factories. He gives a detailed account to support further factory reforms.

Factory Act 1833

The United Kingdom passes an act that makes it illegal to employ children under 9 years old in factories. Children from 9 to 13 years are restricted to a maximum of 9 hours per day.

New Poor Law

1834: The United Kingdom passes an act to improve poverty laws and curb abuses. Workhouses are built to provide work and shelter for the poor, but they are notorious for their harsh conditions.

The Works of Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens begins his writing career. His literature becomes popular throughout Europe for its satire, humour, and sharp criticism of modern industrial society.

The Chartist Movement

A large movement organises in Britain that demands social justice and political equality for the working class. They present a charter of reform to the government, but it is rejected.

Economic Recession

Textile innovations slow and most factories are fully equipped. There is a mild economic recession as factories and workshops are no longer required to purchase the latest technologies.

United Kingdom Census

1841: The United Kingdom records the population of England, Wales, and Scotland, which totals 18,553,124. It is the first census to acquire details about every member of a household.

Plug Plot Riots

1842: When another Chartist petition is rejected, riots erupt in England. Some workers remove boiler plugs from steam engines, which halts production. The army is dispatched to quell the rebellion.


The United Kingdom becomes the leading industrial centre in the world, but industrialisation soon spreads to other nations.