Test Your Knowledge of the Industrial Revolution



By: Dustyn Deerman

7 Min Quiz

Image: imagedepotpro/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

We can all look back at our time in grade school and recall learning about the Industrial Revolution. We were educated on the push for innovation and fresh inventions, the emergence and immense growth of factories, and the living and working conditions people were faced with during this time. From its birth in the United Kingdom to its arrival in the United States, this transformative time in history not only impacted technology but forever changed the world in a multitude of ways.

So, how much do you honestly remember from your school days? Can you recall the actual decade the Industrial Revolution began? Can you describe the conditions that lead to the labor unions we still see in use today? What about naming not only the most important inventions of this time but those who were responsible for their creation?

Whether you're looking to brush up on a piece of history you may have forgotten a bit about or you want to show off your steel trap of a memory, it's time to test your knowledge of what went down during the age of expanding landscapes, incredible innovation and the ultimate shift in life as people knew it. Let's see what you got!

Which decade do historians agree on as the start of the Industrial Revolution?

Economic historian Arnold Toynbee first described the time from 1760 to 1840 as the Industrial Revolution. Since then, historians agree on 1760 as when it began and spread throughout Europe and the United States.


What country did the Industrial Revolution actually begin in?

Events leading up to the Industrial Revolution first began in the United Kingdom. Prior to its arrival, manufacturing was typically done in people's homes using hand tools or basic machines. It wasn't until around 1790 that the Industrial Revolution arrived in the United States.


What was the Enclosure Movement?

During the Agricultural Revolution, British parliament passed legislation that allowed for what was shared land to be privately owned. This led to wealthy farmers buying as much of it as they could, which then forced smaller farmers off of their land. As a result, those who no longer had a means to farm went to cities in search of work in factories and mines.


Who is credited with bringing the Industrial Revolution to the United States?

Samuel Slater was an English-American industrialist known as the "Father of the American Industrial Revolution" after he introduced the first water-powered cotton mill to the United States using technology he brought with him from the United Kingdom. He built tenant farms and towns around his mills, which first emerged in Rhode Island.


How did the Industrial Revolution impact population distribution in the United States?

With the boom of factories and mills in urban cities, people began to leave rural communities and farms in incredibly high numbers, all of them seeking work. This caused a major uptick in population in those cities, especially ones on the east coast. This also lead to a number of issues, especially overcrowding.


In what region of the United States was the Industrial Revolution most prevalent?

The eastern coast of America specifically was at the center of the Industrial Revolution. When Samuel Slater built his first mills and factories in Rhode Island, this set up the whole region to become the powerhouse it was during this time. Factories soon began to pop up all over the area, especially in cities like New York and Boston.


What were some economic effects the Industrial Revolution had on Americans?

The Industrial Revolution marked a time when the middle class truly began to thrive, but the working and poor classes only grew to be poorer. The upper class, especially those who owned factories, saw incredible growth in their wealth. This also helped lead to the emergence of wealthy corporations.


As populations grew in cities, the working poor were forced to live in a specific type of housing. What were they called?

Tenements were a run-down and often overcrowded type of apartment that would house multiple families at a time. These especially existed in the poor areas of large cities, and eventually also became the primary type of housing immigrants had to live in after they would arrive in America.


Who invented the cotton gin and transformed the way cotton was picked and processed?

In 1793, American inventor Eli Whitney introduced the cotton gin and forever changed the way seeds were removed from cotton and processed for use in textiles. The machine was especially used in the South, where plantations of cotton fields were in abundance.


How did the cotton gin impact America both economically and socially?

While the cotton gin lead to an immense rise in the yield of cotton and placed America at the front of all production worldwide, it also lead to the growth of slavery. The cotton gin did reduce the need for human labor, but with the increase of cotton demand it forced the need for slaves to grow and pick it.


The use of child labor was very common during the Industrial Revolution. What was this exactly?

Child labor has always existed, but never was it so prominent as it was during the Industrial Revolution. Low-income families started sending their children to factories so that they could bring home some money as well. However, they were barely paid anything and often were used in situations that were especially dangerous, leading to severe injuries.


Where was "Cottonopolis"?

The nickname "Cottonopolis" was given to the city of Manchester, England. It was famed as the world's first industrial city, and during the Industrial Revolution was revered as the home of the cotton industry in the U.K. Still, it would never come close to how successful America's South was in the cotton industry.


Who invented the assembly line?

Henry Ford, who is also the founder of the Ford Motor Company, first introduced his assembly line in 1913 in his auto factory. After he did this, he was able to build a car in under three hours when it used to take twelve! This innovation forever changed the way the auto industry manufactures vehicles.


What lead to the creation of labor unions during the Industrial Revolution?

Labor unions initially formed because workers were fed up with the working conditions they were subjected to, but even more importantly, that the government took very little interested in making sure standards were in place or that any sort of regulation was active in how businesses treated their employees.


What did labor unions actually do for factory, mill, and mine workers during this time?

One of the most notable things that labor unions introduced and organized at this time were strikes. This helped them peacefully negotiate with employers to get better working conditions and pay for workers in factories, mills and mines.


Who was President when the Industrial Revolution arrived in the United States?

The Industrial Revolution arrived in the United States in 1790. George Washington was President from 1789 to 1797, leading the country through the formative years of technological advances in machinery and manufacturing.


How were women significantly affected by the Industrial Revolution?

A majority of women during the Industrial Revolution were not wealthy and were forced to enter the workforce to help provide for their families. While this could have been an empowering moment, they earned a fraction of what men were paid.


Who were the Lowell Mill Girls?

The Lowell Mills girls were young women who joined the workforce of their own accord in Lowell, MA. At the time, Francis Cabot Lowell was able to offer the thousands of them competitive pay and even provided housing. By 1840, they made up nearly three-quarters of the mill workforce.


Who was responsible for inventing the telegraph?

Samuel Morse developed the telegraph in the 1830s and 1840s, transmitting electrical signals from one station to another through wire that was laid in between them. On May 24, 1844, Morse sent his famous message, "What hath God wrought?" from Washington to Baltimore.


Eli Whitney invented something else after the cotton gin. What was it?

After he invented the cotton gin, Eli Whitney began to build firearms. He was the first to use interchangeable parts in his manufacturing process, which then cut down the time it took to make them and made it cheaper to repair if needed. It was also easier for unskilled laborers to manufacture products.


Who were the Luddites?

“Luddite” is a term still used today to describe people who dislike new technology, but it was first used to describe disgruntled workers who rallied against the Industrial Revolution in England. Some even broke into factories and smashed textile machines after their appeals for government aid were ignored.


A few political and economical ideologies emerged during the Industrial Revolution. What was one of the most prominent ones?

Classical liberalism emerged as a response to industrialization and urbanization during the Revolution in both the U.S. and U.K. It focused on a belief of individual liberty and a very limited, small government; that people should be able to sell their products, goods or services to others without intervention from the government, unless people's welfare was in jeopardy.


Who founded Utilitarianism?

Jeremy Bentham was an English philosopher and political radical who founded the basis of Utilitarianism on the idea that actions should be judged based on their consequences; that morally appropriate or "good" behavior will not do any harm to others, but instead increase overall happiness or "utility."


Who was Karl Marx?

Karl Marx was also known for his work as a historian, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary. He believed that no one, or no class, should have any sort of power over another. Marxism's biggest drive was to remove power from the corporations and government.


What was an invention that improved the textile industry?

James Hargreaves invented the Spinning Jenny in England during the early days of the Industrial Revolution. It helped bring the textile industry out of people's homes and into factories. As production sped up and output increased with this new machine, more and more people were needed to spin and process cloth.


What sort of economic system did America have as a result of the Industrial Revolution?

While capitalism had its roots and existed before the Industrial Revolution his the United States, this was the period that it hit its stride. Capitalism exists with the base belief that private individuals or companies can invest their money how they wish, so they can make greater profits and build their wealth. It functions with the assumption that the market will determine costs through demand, and that the government will not interfere in how it all plays out.


Corporations grew in their power during the Industrial Revolution. Why was this?

Corporations like the Standard Oil Company founded by John D. Rockefeller and the U.S. Steel Company founded by Andrew Carnegie implemented practices like "cutting out the middle man" and underselling their competitors that would lead to these other businesses either going under or having to sell to corporations. This type of business practice is heavily practiced by corporations today.


It's argued that the steam engine was the most important invention of the entire Industrial Revolution. Why?

Before steam power and the steam engine, a majority of factories were powered by wind, water or even horse or man. Prior to its creation, factories also had to be placed along sources of water and were not able to expand beyond that. With the steam engine, factories and their machines became more efficient, and people were able to travel by steam-powered locomotive, ship and car.


Aside from corporations and the rich, who really benefited from the Industrial Revolution?

Because the middle class had more job opportunities than they ever had before, they were able to lift themselves up out of the lower standards of living they had experienced before. The middle class started to enjoy better, healthier diets, as well as other luxuries that having a little more money can offer.


Labor unions fought for workers' rights during the Industrial Revolution. What is an example of something still practiced by them today?

Labor unions were responsible for creating successful strikes during the Industrial Revolution, setting up for the continued use of them to fight for workers' rights or benefits even today. It allows for peaceful protest and helps protect the jobs of workers who decide to strike. An example of recent strikes in America is the teachers' strikes across a number of states.


Who invented the machine called "The Reaper"?

Cyrus McCormick invented the reaper in 1831, speeding up the process of harvesting wheat, grains, and other crops by replacing the process of having to cut down everything by hand. The reaper was horse-drawn and also mechanized, increasing productivity and removing some of the hard labor farmers had faced for decades up to this point.


What major health concern plagued the working class in large cities?

A high number of factories that popped up all over large cities were guilty of dumping waste into rivers, which were used for drinking water by many in these cities. This especially affected the working and poor class, who were already in overcrowded, unhealthy living conditions. Other forms of pollution also became a problem, causing other issues like trouble with breathing.


Why was James Watts so important to the Industrial Revolution happening in the United Kingdom?

James Watts was an English inventor and mechanical engineer whose improvements in steam engine technology drove the Industrial Revolution, first in the United Kingdom and eventually in the United States. He took the existing engine created by Thomas Savery and Thomas Newcomen and made it smaller and more efficient, not needing as much coal to function as before.


John McAdam is known as "The Father of the Modern Road". Why is this?

John McAdam was a Scottish engineer whose innovation was the biggest advancement in road design and construction. Some of these roads still exist today and are named after him. Before the McAdam Road, large rocks were laid to create a surface for roads. McAdam's design used crushed rocks and allowed for much smoother roads, which were able to be done faster and cheaper.


Overall, why is the Industrial Revolution such an important moment in history?

The Industrial Revolution was a significant fundamental change in the way goods are designed, produced and manufactured, which also ultimately altered the way people lived. It was also the moment in history where we can see a complete change in society on every level; politically, economically and socially new ideas emerged.


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