2: The Industrial Revolution
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The Blackford and Kerr chapter gives a good general overview of established opinion on shifts in American business and economic history during the first half of the nineteenth century. Licht's chapter gives more information on some specific topics, and seeks to emphasize the continuing diversity of industrial forms (pages 30-35 are particularly important in this respect).

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the most important shifts taking place in American business between the Revolution and the Civil War? What is driving them? How do shifts in transportation, agriculture and industry relate to each other -- are there any generalizations?
  2. What were the most important industries (defined broadly) during the period?
  3. How were businesses established, and who by? How were they run?
  4. What is distinctive about American industrialization, as opposed to the processes taking place in Britain and other countries? Why?
  5. One thing the readings show is the difficulty of generalizing. But... what shifts might a typical American worker experience during the period? How might work in the mid-nineteenth century differ from work a hundred years later?
  6. Lowell was important historically, and historians have long looked to it as a model for later large-scale American business. In what ways was it ahead of its time? How do you think it was it different from later (say 1900s) factories?
  7. One important point is the lack of "integration" in many industries (see Blackford & Kerr, page 91). What does this mean? How is it different from later developments?
  8. Of all the sets of readings I will assign, this is the least concerned with information. What kinds of information were important to businesses of this era? Why could these firms function without elaborate managerial or accounting systems?

Key Topics:

bulletKey characteristics of American businesses in the first half of the 19th century: Size, industries, reliance on partnerships, relationship of managers to workers, etc.
bulletLowell, Lynn and Philadelphia/NYC diversified manufacturing as alternative forms of industrialization. Make sure you know the characteristics of each -- physical organization of work, stages of historical development, sources of funding, products produced, etc.


Thomas Haigh -- email tdhaigh@colby.edu.    Home: www.tomandmaria.com/tom. Updated 04/21/2002.