Industrial Revolution

Starting in the late 18th and early 19th century, the Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain and quickly spread across the world. The introduction of coal-fired steam engines led to changes in manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, family life and immigration patterns. Because the Industrial Revolution was a global phenomenon, you can find information about it in the history of almost every country. Try to narrow your research to a particular industry, time period or geographic area. You might start by finding an entry in a good print encyclopedia or by reading a short, general book on your topic. This will give you an overview and help you to refine your search. 

Check out the starting your research project page before you begin! Some possible subject areas for a project on the Industrial Revolution might include:

the enclosure movement
innovations in textile manufacturing
living conditions for the working poor in England
the birth of trade unions

We can't fit every resource about the Industrial Revolution on to this list! A topic guide is just the beginning of building your bibliography.

Reference materials

This is the place to start any research project. Reference books offer short, authoritative information on every topic. These books must be used in the library. Most contain bibliographies of important books on your topic. A good first stop would be any of the standard print encyclopedias in the Beaver collection: Encyclopedia Americana, World Book or Britannica.


American Eras. 973.5 Am3 Volumes 1783-1815 (Development of a nation) and 1800-1860 (Westward expansion) have information on the Industrial Revolution in the U.S.
Cayton, Mary, ed. (1993.) The Encyclopedia of American social history. REF 973.En1 A 3 volume set with white covers. Look in the index.
Spangenburg, Ray. (1994). The history of science in the nineteenth century. REF 509.034 Sp2 1994


Britannica Online Great for pre-search and primary sources, including speeches, essays, biographies, court decisions, editorials and photos.
Gale Virtual Reference Library Especially important here is the chance to search the Gale encyclopedia of U.S. economic history.
General Reference Center Gold
Routledge Reference Resources One box searching connects you electronically to many reference books. Especially useful for non-U.S. topics.


Books about the social aspects of the Industrial Revolution will be found in the 300s. Biographies can be found at 921, listed alphabetically by the subject's last name (for example, an autobiography of Andrew Carnegie, American industrialist and philanthropist, would carry the call number: 921 Carnegie)

Blumberg, Rhoda. (1996). Full steam ahead : the race to build a transcontinental railroad. 385.0973 B62 1996 159 pages.
Gourley, Catherine. (1999). Good girl work : factories, sweatshops, and how women changed their role in the American workforce. 331.3108 G74 1999 96 pages.
Stalcup, Brenda. (2002). The industrial revolution. 330.9034 In2 2002 269 pages.
Steinberg, Theodore. (1994). Nature incorporated : industrialization and the waters of New England. 333.91 St3 1994 284 pages.


For these Gale Group Resources, use the subject guide search option to craft a search. You can also ask one of the librarians to help you come up with some search terms.
Academic OneFile
Expanded Academic ASAP
General OneFile
Student Edition
Biography Resource Center For information on famous people associated with the Industrial Revolution. Search by the person's last name.
Facts on File For pre-search, biographies, primary sources and images.

Internet sites

The History Guide A History Guide lecture entitled The Origins of the Industrial Revolution in England.
Internet Modern History Sourcebook This link takes you directly to the Industrial Revolution page of this Fordham University site.
Lowell National History Park Learn about the role the Lowell mills played in the Industrial Revolution.
The Science Museum This London museum's site is a great source for information on inventions and the changes they introduced to the world of work and everyday life.

BPL: Electronic Resources

History Study Center This resource was designed just for students! Start here to learn more about the history of the Industrial Revolution, see a timeline of important events, learn about key people and places. An excellent starting point for your research.
History Resource Center: U.S.. A good starting point for pre-search and fact-checking as well as more advanced searches. Use the subject search. This site will also let you limit your searches to reference, biographies, periodicals, news, primary sources or maps and multi-media.
America: History and Life. This database indexes scholarly and popular articles on American history. You can limit your search to full text if you want articles instead of citations.
Archive of Americana. Search for primary sources: pamphlets, newspapers and government publications.

Updated, 9-09