The Industrial Revolution, which began in England, was a period in the late 18th and early 19th centuries when the life of ordinary people was changed dramatically forever. It was a time of numerous inventions, so industry developed so fast that society could barely keep up.
Before the Industrial Revolution, life for most people in England was a farming and rural lifestyle. Communications and travel were limited. Manufacturing was done by natural means, such as windmills. Life was hard, and people worked hard to pay the rent and put food on the table. Education was not available for ordinary people.
However, there were major developments and inventions in agriculture, manufacture and travel that eventually spread throughout Europe and North America. Industry and manufacturing that was once all by hand could now be done by machine. It all started with the textile industry and spread to other products. Factories were built and steam powered machinery increased the manufacture. Enormous amounts of coal had to be burned to make enough steam to power the machines. Increased products meant that more goods needed to be transported, so canals were built, and roads and railways improved.
Towards the middle of the 19th century, steam-powered ships and railways meant progress got faster. Then later in the century, electricity and the development of the internal combustion engine increased the pace at which goods were manufactured and transported.
The effects of all this rapid change on society was enormous. More and more people left the land and went to towns and cities to work in factories. The growth of the towns couldn't keep up with the number of people pouring into them, and so housing was hard to get and people lived in slums in appalling circumstances.
These websites give more information about the Industrial Revolution:
Textile production before the Industrial Revolution: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/domestic_system.htm
Transport in England between 1750 and 1900: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/transport_1750_to_1900.htm
There are links on this page to more information:
Inventions and developments in the cotton industry: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/cotton_industrial_revolution.htm
Coal mining: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/coal_mines_industrial_revolution.htm
Child labour in the Industrial Revolution: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/children_industrial_revolution.htm
Living conditions in industrial towns: http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/industrial_revolution_towns.htm
If you use any part of this in your own work, acknowledge it in your bibliography:
Sydenham, S. & Thomas, R. The Industrial Revolution [online] www.kidcyber.com.au 
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updated May 2013 ©kidcyber