The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, improved efficiency of water power, the increasing use of steam power, the development of machine tools and the rise of the factory system.
Textiles were the dominant industry of the Industrial Revolution in terms of employment, value of output and capital invested; the textile industry was also the first to use modern production methods.
The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain and most of the technological innovations were British. By the mid-18th century Britain controlled a global trading empire with colonies in North America and political influence over the government of India by the East India Company. The development of trade and the rise of business were major causes of the Industrial Revolution.
The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in history; almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. In particular, average income and population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth. Some economists say that the major impact of the Industrial Revolution was that the standard of living for the general population began to increase consistently for the first time in history, although others have said that it did not begin to meaningfully improve until the late 19th and 20th centuries. About the same time the Industrial Revolution was occurring, Britain was undergoing an agricultural revolution, which also helped to improve living standards and provided surplus labour available for industry.
GDP per capita was broadly stable before the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the modern capitalist economy, while the Industrial Revolution began an era of per-capita economic growth in capitalist economies. Economic historians are in agreement that the onset of the Industrial Revolution is the most important event in the history of humanity since the domestication of animals and plants.
The precise start and end of the Industrial Revolution is still debated among historians, as is the pace of economic and social changes. Eric Hobsbawm held that the Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the 1780s and was not fully felt until the 1830s or 1840s, while T. S. Ashton held that it occurred roughly between 1760 and 1830. Rapid growth of mechanized textile manufacturing, iron production and steam power did not occur until after 1800, at first occurring mainly in Great Britain. Mechanised textile production spread from Great Britain to continental Europe and the United States in the early 19th century, with important centres of textiles, iron and coal emerging in Belgium and the United States and later textiles in France.
An economic downturn occurred in the late 1830s when the adoption of the original innovations of the Industrial Revolution slowed and their markets matured while the pace of technological and economic progress temporarily slowed, but nevertheless continued with the increasing adoption of steam transport (locomotives, steamboats and steamships), the large-scale manufacture of machine tools and the use of increasingly advanced machinery in steam-powered factories. Rapid economic growth began to occur after 1870, springing from a new cluster of innovations in what has been called the Second Industrial Revolutin.