A planet transformed by humanity
The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution happened between around 1750 and 1850; it’s often considered the most important event in human history since the domestication of plants and animals. It paved the way for the prosperity much of the Western world takes for granted today.

The revolution was born in England, but it spread quickly all over the world – never before have so many people’s lives changed so fast. Many of the technologies that enabled the revolution stemmed from the invention of the steam engine in 1784. Its efficiency and power lifted industry from modest workshops to high-speed factories.

Advances in one sector spurred greater activity in another. Increased factory demand for supplies meant better transportation was needed. Canals and railways meant raw materials and finished goods could be moved quickly and in bulk.

The Industrial Revolution caused huge problems as well as benefits. Burning coal polluted the air in cities causing health problems. Inadequate sanitation and refuse collection created horrifying outbreaks of disease; factory workers were poisoned by hazardous materials. Yet despite its toll on nature and on humans, the revolution moved steadily forward, and in time it has affected almost every society on the planet.


Article History global past
The Industrial Revolution
IGBPStockholm Resilience CentreStockholm Environment InstituteCSIROIDHPGlobaïa