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The Industrial Revolution

Discover the inventors, business leaders, and ordinary workers who created our modern industrial world in a fascinating course taught by a top-rated professor.
The Industrial Revolution is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 100.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Masterful Treatment of a Niche Subject Dr. Allitt, as always, gives a lively, interesting, enjoyable treatment of his subject. The subject of this course, the industrial revolution, may not be of general interest, but for those who are interested, this is a pleasant romp through the topic. Dr. Allitt sorts his course by topic (e.g., railroads, textiles, china, etc.) and, within each topic, presents a chronological development of that topic. He leans heavily on the major personalities involved (e.g., Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse for electrical power generation). He also he does give a layman’s summary of the technology involved. Dr. Allitt is such a good teacher that he teaches a The Great Courses (TGC) course on teaching. He lives up to that standard in this course. I am amazed by the breadth of the mastery of his scholarship. He is, of course, a history specialist. Elsewhere he has shown a keen understanding of American religion as well. Here, he shows that he can teach engineering as well, at least to lay persons. He is always sure-footed. The course guide is average by TGC standards. It is written in a hybrid narrative/bullet format with each bullet a complete paragraph rather than a PowerPoint-like phrase. The course guide averages about seven pages per lecture, which is about average by TGC standards. There are no useful graphics in the course guide. The only appendix is a bibliography. A timeline, a glossary, and biographical notes would have been helpful. I used the audio version and it was perfectly adequate. The course is also available in video and DVD, but I’m not sure how they would be significantly superior to the audio version. The course was published in 2014.
Date published: 2024-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Historian's Delight As a avid history buff, these lectures were perfect for me. I was deeply absorbed in Dr. Allitt's great skills as a story teller of the past. His narrative was expert and the information fascinating. I could hardly wait to watch each new lecture as I learned so much. I felt like I walked back through time and relived the Industrial Revolution, which is the foundation of our wonderful and easy life today. Thank you for these fine lectures on the past. It helped me understand my present blessings.
Date published: 2024-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well-presented history of Industrial Revolution Dr. Allitt is easy to listen to and understand. Good use of graphics and illustrations to augment the lecture. I appreciated how he set the stage for what work was like (and what workers were like) before the Industrial Revolution and how he highlighted museums and locations that can still be visited. A couple of (fairly minor) criticisms. I would have appreciated if the course had ended with more discussion of how the introduction of the microprocessor was the initiation of the next major phase of the Industrial Revolution - the Computer Revolution. In fact, i think someone should create a course about the history of semiconductors + computers + networking + telephony and how they evolved to create the world of devices in which we now live. Much of industrial technology today can be classified as either hardware or software and it would be interesting to explain how we got here. People born in the late 80's or more recently mostly have no idea of how fast we have come this far. So either 12 more lectures to be added or another course maybe? My other minor complaint was that there was no mention of Frederick Winslow Taylor and/or the development and now prevalence of industrial engineering. This is a key concept that was missing, in my view. Overall, an interesting and entertaining course from an excellent presenter.
Date published: 2023-08-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from DVD and Video not worth the money. The lectures are great but they massively lack context. No images, no animations just a few face portraits here and there and a couple of buildings. If this course is re-worked with animations and images, it will be the best course. Until then, it's not worth to pay for the DVD or Video version. Perhaps the audio version is better.
Date published: 2022-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and well presented I enjoyed this course and am glad The Great Courses recommended it be paired with the Gilded and Progressive Ages series. I enjoyed the tone and tenor of the professor's lectures. I appreciated his attempt to be subtly humorous from time to time.
Date published: 2022-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Paints a clear picture Dr. Allitt is quite good at his craft, as the previous lecture series proved. I am especially impressed here how the individual lectures provide a detailed building blocks that support the overall story. Weaving excerpts of period writings are most helpful in "seeing through the eyes of the time".
Date published: 2022-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Presentation of Important History Dr. Allitt delivers the facts surrounding the Industrial Revolution from an unbiased perspective, covering not only the business aspects but also includes the companion social and political issues surrounding the unfolding of the events. I wish these facts were taught to me in high school, but I only received a small dose of the historical information, without supporting explanations. It was a pleasure, listening to Dr. Allitt as he lectures without error or contradiction. The material is well organized and thoroughly researched: If any detail is missing, the course does not suffer. I have a far better understanding of the world and its problems since I completed this outstanding course. I especially appreciated the broad, balanced scope of Dr. Allitt's lecture and the lack of any prejudice regarding the subject matter. I plan on studying more of Dr. Allitt's work in the Great Courses.
Date published: 2022-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Conviced me how much material mattered What a wonderful class. Professor Alitt is a great teacher, and I have had him before. He is entertaining to listen to, and knows the material quite well. I had no idea just how important the industrial revolution was - even up to the present.
Date published: 2022-02-14
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We owe so much of our world to the Industrial Revolution. The Great Courses partners with the Smithsonian to examine the extraordinary events and uncover the far-reaching impact of this incredible era. In 36 fascinating lectures, Professor Allitt introduces you to the inventors, businessmen, and workers responsible for transforming our lives and fueling one of the greatest periods of innovation in human history.


Patrick N. Allitt

We live in a world that has created many new incentives for us to become lifelong learners. Luckily, lifelong learning is a pleasure.


Emory University

Patrick N. Allitt is Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University, where he has taught since 1988. He received his PhD in American History from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard Divinity School and Princeton University. He is a widely published author whose books include A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism; The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities throughout American History; and Religion in America since 1945: A History.

By This Professor

The Industrial Revolution
The Great Tours: England, Scotland, and Wales
The American West: History, Myth, and Legacy
The Art of Teaching: Best Practices from a Master Educator
How Railways Transformed the World
America after the Cold War: The First 30 Years
The Industrial Revolution


Industrialization Is Good for You

01: Industrialization Is Good for You

Step into the story of one of the greatest periods in history. Although there is much to dislike about industrialization-including the loss of traditional ways of life, increased economic inequality, and environmental problems-we should nevertheless be grateful for the Industrial Revolution. Investigate why in this opening lecture.

32 min
Why Was Britain First?

02: Why Was Britain First?

Start at the beginning in the British Isles, where relative political stability, sophisticated financial institutions, colonial trade, a rising population of workers, and a class of scientists, thinkers, and entrepreneurs willing to experiment with innovation all contributed to the birth of the Industrial Revolution.

28 min
The Agricultural Revolution

03: The Agricultural Revolution

In Britain in the 18th century, new agricultural methods came into being, freeing up thousands of workers to move into manufacturing work. Take a look at some of these changes to agriculture, including different uses of the land, the introduction of new crops, and the early mechanization of farming-all of which increased productivity.

32 min
Cities and Manufacturing Traditions

04: Cities and Manufacturing Traditions

Traverse the country to see where industry took off, starting with a detailed look at the advantages and dangers of life in London. Then shift your attention to provincial cities and towns, where industrialists had to combat the guild system of labor, alcohol in the workplace, and workers who preferred the older, slower pace of life.

32 min
The Royal Shipyards

05: The Royal Shipyards

Explore the world of 18th-century shipyards, where the large-scale organization of work, materials, logistics, and complex construction would provide a blueprint for later factory-era industrialization. Find out how ships were made and what challenges shipbuilders faced-including fires, rot and decay, and logistical infrastructure.

31 min
The Textile Industry

06: The Textile Industry

Turn from the conditions that made the Industrial Revolution possible to the actual process of industrialization that began in the textile business. After surveying the work of spinning and weaving textiles, you learn about several key inventors and their innovations, including the flying shuttle, the spinning jenny, and the cotton gin.

30 min
Coal Mining-Powering the Revolution

07: Coal Mining-Powering the Revolution

Rising demand for coal and improvements in mining technology transformed coal mining into a large-scale capitalist enterprise. Dive into one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, see what problems miners had to overcome, and examine some of the solutions. Learn about steam engines, safety lamps, ventilation, and more.

31 min
Iron-Coking and Puddling

08: Iron-Coking and Puddling

Along with coal, iron was one of the most important raw materials for the Industrial Revolution. After reviewing the history of iron, you study how to produce pig iron and forge wrought iron. Then you meet many of the key innovators who improved the process of bringing higher-quality iron into a growing market.

27 min
Wedgwood and the Pottery Business

09: Wedgwood and the Pottery Business

Meet Josiah Wedgwood, whose pottery is among the most famous in the world. Thanks to his innovations in pottery-making technique and his division and "de-skilling" of labor in his factories, he turned his family's cottage industry into an immense, lucrative manufacturing phenomenon.

32 min
Building Britain's Canals

10: Building Britain's Canals

Transportation became critically important as new industries emerged. Find out how canal builders connected major cities by water, which greatly enhanced the country's internal communications and allowed for the transportation of goods over long distances at relatively low cost. Look at the methods of building a canal and several key routes.

32 min
Steam Technology and the First Railways

11: Steam Technology and the First Railways

The invention of the steam engine was a major turning point for industry. Meet the engineers and businessmen who developed and improved the engines and locomotives that would drive the British economy in the 19th century. Key figures include James Watt, Matthew Boulton, John "Iron-Mad" Wilkinson, and George Stephenson.

30 min
The Railway Revolution

12: The Railway Revolution

See how British companies privately financed and built a national railroad system, and consider what it meant for the nation's future. In addition to enabling faster communications, economic stimulus, and a boost to employment, the railroads affected the world of architecture, inspired the building of towns, and created a managerial class in the workforce.

32 min
Isambard Kingdom Brunel-Master Engineer

13: Isambard Kingdom Brunel-Master Engineer

One of the great railway builders, Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed some of the nation's most magnificent suspension bridges, as well as tunnel entrances and railway stations. Witness him then turning his attention to the world of shipbuilding, where he pioneered the production of ocean-going steamships.

31 min
The Machine-Tool Makers

14: The Machine-Tool Makers

Where would the world's machines be without the tools with which to build and service them? We seldom think of the humble nuts and bolts that hold our machines together, but someone had to create and standardize them. Find out about that process and reflect on the importance-and impact-of industrial tools and their makers.

31 min
The Worker's-Eye View

15: The Worker's-Eye View

Step away from the machines and consider the human side of the Industrial Revolution. This lecture shows you how ordinary laborers struggled for autonomy and how they were especially vulnerable to fluctuations in the business cycle. Grapple with the powerful moral objections to capitalism, which were articulated most famously by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

32 min
Poets, Novelists, and Factories

16: Poets, Novelists, and Factories

Survey a wealth of 19th-century British literature, from poets such as William Wordsworth to novelists such as Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell. These works of literature offer a unique perspective on the Industrial Revolution, from evocative descriptions of the new technology to scathing indictments of the emerging labor system.

32 min
How Industry Changed Politics

17: How Industry Changed Politics

As industrialists in the 18th and 19th centuries became wealthy, they were able to gain political power and influence national policy. Delve into the debates over free trade and the political regulation of industry. Then look at some of the era's efforts at political reform and several notable acts of Parliament.

32 min
Dismal Science-The Economists

18: Dismal Science-The Economists

The effects of the Industrial Revolution can be felt in every realm-perhaps none so starkly as the field of economics. Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, and others analyzed the causes and effects of industrialization and put forth the theories of capitalism that still underlie economics today.

32 min
American Pioneers-Whitney and Lowell

19: American Pioneers-Whitney and Lowell

Shift your attention from Britain to the United States, where a class of mobile and educated entrepreneurs stood poised to build an industrial economy. This lecture introduces you to the world of American manufacturing. Learn about Francis Cabot Lowell and Eli Whitney, early innovators in the U.S. textile industry.

31 min
Steamboats and Factories in America

20: Steamboats and Factories in America

Continue your study of American industrialization with a look at the steamships, canals, and railways that opened up the great continent. Then turn to a series of great inventions in the 19th century, including the McCormick reaper, the John Deere steel plow, the telegraph, and the Colt revolver.

32 min
Why Europe Started Late

21: Why Europe Started Late

Great Britain may have started the revolution, but other nations soon followed-and they had the advantage of learning from Britain's trials and errors. Reflect on why the rest of Europe lagged behind in the Industrial Revolution, and take a look at what efforts Belgium, France, and Germany took to catch up.

29 min
Bismarck, De Lesseps, and Eiffel

22: Bismarck, De Lesseps, and Eiffel

After the unification of Germany in 1871, the nation industrialized rapidly. Thanks to a sophisticated educational system that emphasized science, German industries excelled at manufacturing chemicals, electrical equipment, and more. After witnessing the rise in German output, turn to several key innovations in France.

31 min
John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil

23: John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil

Learn the history of one of the most successful companies in American history. As oil became one of the world's most lucrative industries, John D. Rockefeller seized opportunities and built a monopoly with Standard Oil. Consider his questionable business tactics and the antitrust regulation they inspired.

28 min
Andrew Carnegie and American Steel

24: Andrew Carnegie and American Steel

Meet Andrew Carnegie, the American steel magnate who was a fanatic for business discipline, efficiency, record keeping, and technological modernization. See how he drove his competitors out of business as the demand for steel railways and bridges rose. Find out how he organized and diversified his business.

30 min
American Industrial Labor

25: American Industrial Labor

The American belief in upward mobility and its heterogeneous workforce constrained the union labor movement. Nevertheless, many strikes and protests did occur in response to industrialization. Experience the Great Railroad Strike, the Haymarket Square riot, and other important events in the history of American labor.

29 min
Anglo-American Contrasts

26: Anglo-American Contrasts

Compare Britain and the United States in the 19th century to see what forces caused Britain to lose its competitive edge in the Industrial Revolution. While labor unions and fewer raw materials put Britain at a disadvantage, the real difference lay in each nation's attitude toward work, leisure, and social class.

31 min
Electric Shocks and Surprises

27: Electric Shocks and Surprises

We take electricity for granted today, but in the 19th century it was a sensation. Review the science behind electrical technology, from Ben Franklin and Alessandro Volta to Michael Faraday and Samuel Morse. Then learn about the rivalry between Thomas Edison's direct current and George Westinghouse's alternating current.

31 min
Mass-Producing Bicycles and Cars

28: Mass-Producing Bicycles and Cars

Interchangeable parts and mass production took the Industrial Revolution to a new level. Beginning with the bicycle industry in the 1870s and continuing through the rise of automobiles in the 20th century, this lecture shows how mechanized transportation not only changed the world for consumers-it also transformed the business of factory labor.

30 min
Taking Flight-The Dream Becomes Reality

29: Taking Flight-The Dream Becomes Reality

Experience the birth of aviation when two bicycle repairmen from Ohio took off from a beach near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Discover what experiments in flight preceded the Wright brothers-including lighter-than-air zeppelins-and look at the effect aviation had in the years leading up to World War I.

29 min
Industrial Warfare, 1914-1918

30: Industrial Warfare, 1914-1918

Despite its myriad benefits on our world today, industrialization is also responsible for some of the 20th-century's most horrific carnage. Planes, tanks, and chemical weaponry have all played a role in global warfare. Meet the players of the First World War and explore the role played by the new military-industrial-political system.

32 min
Expansion and the Great Depression

31: Expansion and the Great Depression

Marxists fully expected the overthrow of capitalism in the United States or Great Britain. Why did that revolution never come to pass? Immerse yourself in the interwar years, when governments, managers, and workers alike grappled with the psychology of capitalism and the forces of creative destruction.

30 min
Mass Production Wins World War II

32: Mass Production Wins World War II

Reflect on how industry and technology contributed to the phenomenal destructiveness of World War II and helped the Allies win the war. With the Soviet Union's mass-produced tanks and aircraft and U.S. and British bombers and special weaponry, the Allies were well prepared to defeat the industrially weakened Germans.

30 min
The Information Revolution

33: The Information Revolution

Unpack the history of computers, from early calculating machines and cash registers to transistors and integrated circuits. Professor Allitt shows you the political and economic effects of the information age. Who are the winners and losers in the information age? Have we entered a "post-industrial" society?

29 min
Asian Tigers-The New Industrialized Nations

34: Asian Tigers-The New Industrialized Nations

Since World War II, Japan, China, and other Asian nations have emerged as industrial powerhouses. Follow Japan as it gradually built a reputation for making dependable, low-priced goods. Then shift your attention to China and see how it has achieved rapid economic growth in recent decades. Conclude with an examination of modern-day India.

27 min
Environmental Paradoxes

35: Environmental Paradoxes

One key threat from industry is the negative effect on the environment. Examine how businesses and governments have responded to threats such as air and water pollution, oil spills, nuclear fallout, overpopulation, resource exhaustion, and climate change. Find out what solutions government regulation and the free market have to offer.

32 min
The Benign Transformation

36: The Benign Transformation

Conclude your course with some final thoughts about the impact of the Industrial Revolution. Professor Allitt asks whether the revolution is over and if we will continue to benefit from new technological and societal advances. Take stock of everything you've learned and explore what the future may hold.

32 min