Activity: The Industrial Revolution in Britain and Southern Africa from 1860

Discussion topics

  • What combination of advantages allowed Britain to experience industrialization first?
  • What differences between the Western and non-Western worlds may have led to the industrial revolution emerging first in the former?
  • Explain the interrelationship between growing markets, inventors, and entrepreneurs
  • How did steam engines transform the way factories functioned?
  • Which group gained most from Britain's newfound prosperity? How did its social situation change?
  • What effect did the railroads have on the Industrial Revolution as well as on the landscape?
  • In industrializing Britain, what was life like for ordinary people? In the factories?
  • What types of organizations did workers organize throughout this period of industrialization?
  • What factors were responsible for the growth of towns and cities in Europe between 1780 and 1850?
  • What social problems were emerging in these expanding cities and why was this so?

Source: McGraw Hill, (2001), “Factories, Cities and Families in the Industrial Age” from McGraw Hill [online] Available at [Accessed: 9 March 2015]

For the teachers: possible class activities


  • Start the lesson with the students coming up with their own inventions. Have them draw it and explain what problem it solves or how it makes life easier.
  • Have students create an advertisement for one of the inventions as it might have appeared in a print publication, web page, or television ad of the day.
  • As a class discussion and lesson, have each student hypothesize what would have happened without a certain inventor by “subtracting” from the classroom, describing of things we use today traced back to the Industrial Revolution


  • Tell learners to create a mind map after every lesson which will also help then to remember the work they did as well as to remember it.


  • Let learners perform a re- enactment of any aspect of the Industrial Revolution that interests them.
  • Or Role play/ conduct an interview with a fellow learner who represents someone from that time period


  • Have the form groups and create timelines of different inventions/ occurrences
  • Alternatively, have them make calendars of s specific time period during the Industrial Revolution. 


  • Ask learners to create a scale model of any invention made during the Industrial revolution
  • Also have them describe how this invention has changed sine its invention


  • Host a debate regarding the positive and negative effects of the Industrial Revolution


Create a word search puzzle or a crossword puzzle for:

  • The inventors/ inventions of the Industrial Revolution


  • Let learners create a poster where they depict how the domestic situation was changed after the Industrial revolution
  • Alternatively, have learners draw or create a scale model of how society used to look vs. How the society looks after the Industrial Revolution


  • Play a trivia game with learners where they can be rewarded with points
  • Who Wants To Be A Millionaire; Hangman, etc.


  • Create a comprehension from a documentary they have watched/ will watch


Source: Teachers First, (2004), “Ideas of the Industrial Revolution” from Teachers First [online] Available at [Accessed: 9 March 2015].

Handouts and activities


Word search

Crossword puzzle:

Resource links

Background of industrialization

Brief history of south african minerals

Last updated : 20-Mar-2015

This article was produced by South African History Online on 20-Mar-2015

Support South African History Online

Donate and Make African History Matter

South African History Online is a non profit organisation. We depend on public support to build our website into the most comprehensive educational resource and encyclopaedia on African history.

Your support will help us to build and maintain partnerships with educational institutions in order to strengthen teaching, research and free access to our content.