The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
Contact Us

HIST4380 The Industrial Revolution and Its Impacts

Semester 1 (2021-2022)

Lecture TimeMonday 4:30pm - 6:15pm

VenueLSK 210


Lecturer Ian MORLEY (Tel.: 39437116 /

Teaching Assistant Claudia Isabelle Violeta MONTERO (

Course Description

Course HIST4380, an elective course for both major and non-major students, grants a survey of the origins and transformations of industrial society over the last two centuries or so, a period of time within which industrial nation-states have reached new heights of power and acquired the dominant share of the world’s wealth: a wealth once dominated by Westerners but increasingly challenged in recent years by the rise of, for example, Southeast Asian nations. This comparative studies programme shall allow students to obtain a critical understanding of the nature of industrial society from multiple perspectives through fostering a multidisciplinary approach to industrialization and many of the changes in society it helped to establish. The course will give students the opportunity to critically consider the ideas and the conditions in Europe and elsewhere that produced industrial change, capitalism, and political reform/democracy – processes that the West considered then and still considers today as desirable for itself and other parts of the world.

The curriculum, with its active learning approach, gives particular focus to pre-industrial Europe and its economy, 1800s Britain, urbanisation and its effects upon social classes, public health, housing, and ways of living, i.e. themes considered critical to successful governance today. The course is designed to build transferable skills such as thinking critically, well-constructed writing, and the clear presenting of oral arguments both in individual and group learning scenarios. In so doing students will be expected to engage with a range of academic disciplines such as History (social and economic, cultural and urban), Social Studies, Economics, and Geography, so as to answer questions such as:

  • In what ways did industrialization fundamentally change societies?
  • What factors accounted for the beginning of the Industrial Revolution?
  • How did patterns of urbanization change as a consequence of industrial growth?
  • How did social class and political relations shift due to industrial progress?
  • How did industrial changes affect the role of women or children in the workplace?
  • Were the First and Second Industrial Revolutions the same, or were they different?
  • How did rural developments affect the rise of industry, e.g. in Europe’s past?
  • What dangers arise from rapid industrial and urban transition? Are these dangers universal? Do they exist in our world?
  • How can understanding industrial development in the past give deeper comprehension of the contemporary world?


Course Aims

At the end of the course students should be able to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Recognize and explain key events that led to upheavals within the economies and societies of Europe, North America and Southeast Asia, in so doing enhancing existing knowledge of what shaped these continents and so made them what they are today;
  2. Grasp the relationship between the evolution of industrialization and the changing nature of societies;
  3. Consider broad issues within History in greater depth so as to make connections between industrial growth and different contexts;
  4. Demonstrate historical knowledge development via online exercises and class-centred exercises;
  5. Exhibit critical thinking and research skills through the writing of a scholarly essay and the compiling of an online portfolio.

Lectures and Student Responsibilities

Students are required to attend all class functions and to arrive prepared for lectures. This includes arriving on time, having paper on which to record notes, listening attentively to the Lecturer, and, where possible, joining in any Lecturer-led discussions. 

Week 1 

(6th September 2021)

Introductory Lecture 

An overview of industrial development and its images from the late-1700s onwards.

Week 2

(13th September 2021)

Agriculture and Proto-Industrialisation 

Are changes in society necessary prior to the arrival of industrialisation and the shift from agrarian to industrial society? If so, are there any necessary steps beforehand? What was the condition of Europe’s economy prior to the mid-1700s? How important were rural changes to industrial development?

Week 3

(20th September 2021)

Defining the Industrial Revolution 

What is meant by the terms ‘Industrial Revolution’ and ‘industrialisation’. In what ways was industrial growth and change revolutionary? What were the social impacts of industrial development? What were work and living conditions like in the early days of the Industrial Revolution?

Week 4

(27th September 2021)

Industrialisation and the European Continent 

Why did the Industrial Revolution first occur in Britain? Why did, for example, France industrialise later? How and when did Eastern Europe industrialise? Were there any different pre-requisites in Mainland Europe in order for industrialisation to occur?

Week 5

(4th October 2021)

Society and Governance 

How did governments, both local and national, deal with changes in urban society? How did industrialisation affect politics? What institutional changes are needed to adequately govern an industrialising/industrial society?

Week 6

(11th October 2021)

Technology: (i) Transportation 

How important is technology to the development of industrialisation, and also its expressions? What inventions were crucial to the industrial progress of (at first) Britain but also other nations? What impacts did inventions, such as the train, have upon urban living?

Week 7

(18th October 2021)

Technology: (ii) Skyscrapers and their Symbolism 

Why have cities taken on huge vertical scales? What role has technological developments had in allowing cities to grow high? Which city is the home of the skyscraper? What do tall buildings represent about the state of societies (in Asia)? Why is the home of the skyscraper now SE Asia? What political, economic and cultural messages are these buildings sending?

Week 8

(25th October 2021)

Industrialization and Cities 

What are the universal impacts industrial growth has upon urban places? In what ways can these influences overcome time, geography and cultural matters? What effects become apparent when rapid urban growth is established as a consequence of economic progress?

Week 9

(1st November 2021)

Public Health and National Prosperity: (i) Physical Well-being 

With reference to the 19th century British industrial cities attention shall be given to the association between health and wealth, and how in some instances due to integrated social policies causes of burdens for the poor can become cures. Attention shall also be given to the impact of diseases such as Cholera, SARS, HIV/AIDS, Avian Influenza, etc., in Asia.

Week 10

(8th November 2021)

Public Health and National Prosperity: (ii) Mental Well-being 

This class provides an opportunity to openly discuss many of the broader issues associated with health, well-being, and economic progress. With reference to the Kingdom of Bhutan and Thailand, the class shall discuss why some Asian countries have started to put people’s psychological health before economic advancement.  The class will also examine the history of the concept of mental well-being, and its erosion after industrialization took off in Europe. Particular attention will be given to the practice of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan.

Week 11

(15th November 2021)

Industrialization, Social Class, and Social Structures

What new social dynamics are created in industrial change? Can these dynamics reflect themselves in political forms, or social class consciousness and organisation? What social class conflict events in history are reflections of the tensions brought about by industrial change and, for example, greater democratic rights?

Week 12

(22nd November 2021)

Jumping Forward: Asian and Chinese Industrial Development 

What changes have occurred in Asian societies since 1950? What is the extent of these changes? Have the changes been good or bad? Are the changes affecting everyone in the same way? Have under-classes been created and how is modern life for these people? How are governments in Asia dealing with slum housing and social marginalisation? Are the lessons from history in other parts of the world being utilised in Asia today? When did China industrialise? What role has Chinese politics played in determining industrial change? What success have Chinese governments had in controlling the impacts of industrialisation?

Week 13

(29th November 2021)

Open Class Forum 

With students as partners in the learning process, the final class offers opportunity for discussion of topics previously raised in the course and topics not covered within the curriculum.

Assessment & Assignments
Documentary review (30%)

This assignment (2000 words) centres upon critically appraising a video documentary/demonstrating critical thinking.

Take-home exam (30%)

A summary exercise (1500-2000 words in length) that utilizes materials students have collected in their online portfolio, in so doing encouraging learners to reveal their own thoughts and conclusions about the industrial revolution and its impacts The take-home exam, in particular, focuses on students applying classroom/book knowledge to real-world themes/issues.

Participation grade (40%)

This grade is given in relation to classroom and e-learning activities:

  • Attendance of lectures and tutorials, and engagement with classmates in group learning activities (30 points);
  • The compiling of an e-portfolio (10 points), an online work platform designed to allow students to follow-up on course-related subjects of their own personal interest and choice. The e-portfolio gives chance to further develop critical thinking and knowledge development, i.e. matters transferable to other courses at CUHK, and for the promotion of lifelong learning on topics selected by/of interest to the students.

The tutorials (4 in total) give students the chance to discuss in some detail the topics introduced in the lectures, and to help them sort out any problems in understanding that they may have. Time is also set aside to consider how industrialization has corresponded with changes in the broader world. Group activities shall be integrated into tutorial classes so that students can ‘do History’ but for tutorials to run effectively all students will be expected to have prepared beforehand, e.g. by reading and by thinking about the class topic in question. Materials to read shall be given by your lecturer each week and by consulting this course book. You also need to be prepared to join in the discussions within the tutorials: active learning is a basic of HIST4380. But do not be afraid to ask questions if you are in doubt: by asking a question you may help others get a better grasp of the topic as well as well as helping yourself!


Core Reference Book


Core reference book Peter N. Stearns, The Industrial Revolution in World History. Copies of this book can be purchased at the CUHK book store


Materials to be used in this course include:

  • Aldcroft D.H., and Ville S.P. (eds.), The European Economy, 1750-1914: A Thematic Approach (1994)   UL  HC240.A6657
  • Ashworth W., A Short History of the International Economy since 1850 (1975)  UL  HC53.A8 1987
  • Braudel, F., Civilisations and Capitalism (1981, 1982 and 1984)  UL  HC51.B67413 1982
  • Brown, I., Economic Change in South-East Asia 1830-1980 (1997)   UL  HC441 .B75 1997
  • Cambridge Economic History of Europe (1966)   UL  HC240.C312 1966
  • Mathias P., and Davis J.A. (ed.), The First Industrial Revolutions (1989)  UL HC240.F46
  • Deane P., The First Industrial Revolution (1979)  UL  HC254.5.D3 1979
  • Harrison J.F.C., The Birth and Growth of Industrial England 1714-1867 (1973)  UL  DA480.H28
  • Malthus T., An Essay on the Principal of Population (1998)  UL  HB851.M3
  • Mathias P., The First Industrial Nation (2001)  UL  HC253.M36
  • Smith A., Wealth of Nations (1994)  UL  HB161 .S6522 1970
  • Teich M., and Porter R. (eds.), Industrial Revolution in National Context. Europe and the USA (1996)  UL  HC53 .I53 1996
  • Vente, R.L. and Peter S.J. Chen, Culture and Industrialisation: An Asian Dilemma (1980)  UL  HC412.C84


Many articles from journals such as Economic History Review, American Economic Review, Journal of Economic History, International Review of Social History, Journal of British Studies, History Workshop, Past and Present, Journal of European History, shall also be utilised. Furthermore, reputable online sites and online files will be used as resource materials, including:


Sky 100 Fieldtrip

To offer a fresh perspective as to the form and meaning of skyscrapers in Hong Kong, students are invited to participate in a visit to the Sky 100 on November 19 2021.

Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at

With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of these policies, regulations, guidelines and procedures.

  • In the case of group projects, all members of the group should be asked to sign the declaration, each of whom is responsible and liable to disciplinary actions, irrespective of whether he/she has signed the declaration and whether he/she has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the problematic contents.
  • For assignments in the form of a computer-generated document that is principally text-based and submitted via VeriGuide, the statement, in the form of a receipt, will be issued by the system upon students’ uploading of the soft copy of the assignment.

Assignments without the properly signed declaration will not be graded by teachers.

Only the final version of the assignment should be submitted via VeriGuide.

The submission of a piece of work, or a part of a piece of work, for more than one purpose (e.g. to satisfy the requirements in two different courses) without declaration to this effect shall be regarded as having committed undeclared multiple submissions. It is common and acceptable to reuse a turn of phrase or a sentence or two from one’s own work; but wholesale reuse is problematic. In any case, agreement from the course teacher(s) concerned should be obtained prior to the submission of the piece of work.

Back to top