Until the end of the 1700s, the economies of all the world’s major civilizations were principally agriculture, and their societies were rural. Most people in most nations lived in the countryside and worked at growing food and tending livestock. Over the course of centuries, trade and commerce, as well as arts and crafts, had become increasingly important as sectors of economies throughout the world. Compared to agriculture, however, they remained relatively minor.
In Europe, this state of affairs changed dramatically during the end of the 1700s and the first half of the 1800s. The mass production of goods by means of machine power—industrialization—became a key part of Western economies. The importance of trade and commerce skyrocketed, and a growing number of people moved from rural areas to the city. The economic system known as capitalism was born. Taken together, these phenomena are part of what is commonly known as the Industrial Revolution.
Much of the capital needed to set the Industrial Revolution in motion arrived from lucrative investments in overseas plantations. Britain, the epicenter of industrialization, had become wealthy through the shipment of African slaves to the West Indies, and the import of sugar from those islands. The slave trade and the use of slave labor, although occurring thousands of miles away, was integral to Britain’s development.
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· Describe the Industrial Revolution and the new forms of economic activity it created, including mass production, and mass consumption. How was this connected to slavery?
· Walvin, J. (1996). Forging the Link: Europe, Africa and the Americas and But Why Slavery? In Questioning Slavery (pp. 1–18, 19–28) New York: Routledge.
· More, C. (2000). Understanding the Industrial Revolution (pp 1-5 of Introduction). New York: Routledge.