What factors stimulated industrial and agricultural growth in the late 19th century? Who were the entrepreneurs leading this growth?

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I would say that to understand the Second Industrial Revolution, you need to understand the first. Industrialization tends to be self perpetuating, and it represents a dramatic increase in economic and military power. When the Industrial Revolution transformed Britain, it makes sense that the technology and techniques would escape from...

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Britain and spread across Europe and into the Americas, and from there that it would further expand and accelerate over time. As technology and scientific progress continued to advance, this enabled the Industrial Age to take shape across so much of the Western World.

I would note one of the primary motivations of industrial societies is profit. This actually drove much of the innovation from the first Industrial Revolution, and it most certainly applied to the Industrial Age as well. Larger corporations have a competitive advantage over smaller ones, can produce more at a lower cost, and it's a general trend that in industrialization operations tend to grow larger. It should not be surprising that the gulf in experience which separates the upper class from the working class would increase over time. From the agrarian pre-industrial age (where industry was largely restricted to the localities) into the age of the Textile Mill, and beyond that to the Age of Big Business, at each level the scale of operations increases dramatically.

You could talk about the various tactics of business--pooling, where several companies collaborate for the purpose of shutting down competition or consumer choice, mergers, Trust Agreements, incorporation in general. There are many different methods, but they all tend to have the same ends in mind. You can also look at major figures of the Industrial Age: Carnegie and Steel, Rockefeller and Standard Oil, or, from a European perspective, you could look at the Krupps. In any case, we see operations growing larger, and the rise of a capitalist super-elite making vast quantities of money and dominating the economic marketplace.

Lastly, as to impact there are a lot of things to consider. For one thing, keep in mind that the world today has labor unions and labor laws, and consider that these kinds of protections and organizations came into being because there was a very real need for them. The Industrial Age was rife with exploitation. A lot of the safeguards society (both via organization and legislation) has enacted were responses to very real problems that were present in that time.

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