The Second Industrial Revolution for AP European History

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

The review questions for this study guide can be found at:

The Second Industrial Revolution Review Questions for AP European History


During the eighteenth century, the development of a more diverse economy propelled by a system of rural manufacturing (sometimes referred to as the First Industrial Revolution) radically increased the demand for manufactured goods. In response, nineteenth-century entrepreneurs and inventors created a new, more mechanized system of production, known as the factory system. This new system of production, coupled with the introduction of new sources of power, produced a Second Industrial Revolution. This second phase of industrialization, lasting from roughly 1820 to 1900, was characterized by the advent of large-scale iron and steel production, the application of the steam engine, and the development of a railway system. The Second Industrial Revolution transformed almost every aspect of European life in the nineteenth century.

The Factory System and the Division of Labor

The factory system was created in order to better supervise labor. In the old, rural manufacturing system (or cottage industry) that characterized the First Industrial Revolution, peasants were left on their own to work at the spinning wheel or the loom. Both the quality and the efficiency of their work depended on factors that were beyond the entrepreneur's control. In contrast, under the factory system, workers came to a central location and worked with the machines under the supervision of managers.

The factory system employed a technique that has come to be known as the division of labor, whereby formerly complex tasks that required knowledge and skill were broken down into a series of simple tasks, aided by machines. The division of labor had several simultaneous effects:

  • It replaced skilled craftsmen with unskilled labor, thereby increasing the supply of labor and decreasing the wages that needed to be paid.
  • It increased the volume that manufacturers could produce, thereby allowing them to sell products for less and still increase profits.
  • It initially drew more women and children into the workforce.
  • As machines did more and more of the work, it decreased the number of workers needed, creating unemployment and competition for jobs.

Iron and Steel

The nineteenth-century iron and steel industry helped to drive the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century. The new machines of the textile industry created increased demand for the iron from which they were partly constructed. New, larger armies demanded more iron for guns, cannon, and ammunition. The growing population required even more iron for nails and tools.

Traditionally, the fuel for the iron smelting process was charcoal, which came from wood. By the eighteenth century, dwindling forests were limiting charcoal supply and steel was being smelted in blast furnaces, using coal as the fuel. In the 1850s, Henry Bessemer, an English engineer, discovered a way to manufacture steel more cheaply and in larger quantities. The use of the Bessemer process (as it came to be called), together with the use of the steam engine to power smelting furnaces, increased the supply of iron and steel to the point at which it could meet the ever-growing demand. In 1860, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Belgium produced approximately 125,000 tons of steel. By 1913, they produced nearly 32 million tons.

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