Second Industrial Revolution

Second Industrial Revolution

The Second Industrial Revolution, typically dated between 1870 and 1914, was a second phase of the Industrial Revolution, involving several developments within the chemical, electrical, petroleum, and steel industries. ["Western Civilization", page 679] Other key developments during this period include the introduction of steam-driven steel ships, the development of the airplane, Mass production of consumer goods, the perfection of canning, mechanical refrigeration, and other food preservation techniques, and the invention of the telephone. (This Second Industrial Revolution is sometime labeled as the separate Technical revolution.) The second industrial revolution is termed the second phase of the Industrial Revolution, since from a technological and a social point of view there is no clean break between the two.

Since this period includes the rise of industrial powers other than France and Britain, such as Germany and the USA, it may be used by writers who want to stress the contribution of these countries or relativize the position of the UK.


Late nineteenth century

It might be argued that it branches from the middle of the nineteenth century with the growth of railways and steam ships, for crucial inventions such as the Bessemer and Siemens open hearth furnace steel making processes were invented in the decades preceding 1871, producing cheaper steel which allowed cheaper, quicker steam transport.


The German Empire came to rival or replace the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland as Europe's primary industrial nation during this period. This occurred as a result of several factors:

* Germany, having industrialized after Britain, was able to model its factories after those of Britain thus saving a substantial amount of capital, effort, and time. While Germany made use of the latest technological concepts, the British continued to use expensive and outdated technology and therefore were unable (or unwilling) to afford the fruits of their own scientific progress.
* In the development of science and pure research, the Germans invested more heavily than the British, especially in the chemical industry.
* The German cartel system (known as "Konzerne"), being significantly concentrated, was able to make more efficient use of fluid capital.
* Some believe the reparation payments exacted from France after that country's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 had provided the needed capital to allow massive public investments in infrastructure like railways. This provided a large market for innovative steel products and facilitated transportation once installed. Following Germany's annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, a number of large factories were also taken over.

United States

In the United States of America the Second Industrial Revolution is commonly associated with electrification as pioneered by Nikola Tesla, Thomas Alva Edison and George Westinghouse and by scientific management as applied by Frederick Winslow Taylor.

Industrial workers

This period, like the First Industrial Revolution, was marked by a significant migration of impoverished rural workers, to urban areas in search of industrial labour at low wages. Lack of employment opportunities commonly resulted in unemployment and crime. This period is also notable for an expanding number of white-collar workers and increasing enrollment in trade unions.


Many inventions were improved upon during the Second Industrial Revolution, including printing presses and steam engines.


One of the most crucial inventions for the communication of technical ideas in this period was the steam-powered rotary printing press from the previous decades of the revolution. This in turn had been developed as the result of the invention of the endless-web paper-making machine at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The second industrial revolution also saw the introduction of mechanical typesetting with the Linotype and the Monotype, and of wood pulp processes to free papermaking from the limited supply of cotton and linen. This diffusion of knowledge in Britain, at least, was also the result of the repeal in the 1870s of taxes on paper which encouraged the growth of technical journalism and periodicals by cheapening production costs.

Inventions and their applications were much more diffuse in this Revolution (or phase of a revolution) than earlier. This period saw the growth of machine tools in America capable of making precision parts for use in other machines. It also saw the introduction of the assembly line for the production of consumer goods.


Four-stroke cycle (or Otto cycle)
1. Intake
2. compression
3. combustion & expansion
4. exhaust] The steam engine was developed and applied in Britain during the 18th century and only slowly exported to Europe and the rest of the world during the 19th century, along with the industrial revolution. In contrast, in the second industrial revolution practical developments of the internal-combustion engine appeared in several industrialized countries and the exchange of ideas was much faster. To give but one example, the first practical internal-combustion engine ran on coal gas and was developed in France by Etienne Lenoir, where it had a certain limited success as a stationary engine in light industry.

The internal combustion engine was tried out as a motive force for primitive automobiles in France in the 1870s, but it never was produced in quantity. It was Gottlieb Daimler of Germany who effectively exploited the breakthrough of using petroleum instead of coal gas as a fuel, for the automobile a few years later. Then it was Henry Ford of the United States who, still later, made the internal combustion engine a mass market phenomenon with a tremendous effect on society. The two stroke petrol engine was initially invented by the British engineer Joseph Day of Bath, who later licensed it to American entrepreneurs whereupon it quickly became the 'poor man's power source', driving smaller machines like motor cycles, motor boats and pumps, and becoming a cheap and reliable driver of small workshops before the days of widespread electrification.

ee also

* Revolution
** British Agricultural Revolution/Neolithic Revolution
** Scientific Revolution
** Industrial Revolution
** Information Revolution
** Digital Revolution
** Chemical Revolution
** Green Revolution
** Nanotechnology
* Capitalism in the nineteenth century



* Beaudreau, Bernard C. "The Economic Consequences of Mr. Keynes: How the Second Industrial Revolution Passed Great Britain By," (New York, NY:iUniverse, 2006)

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