Industrialization -
Capitalism and Changes

Questions to ask yourself:

How did economic growth accelerate the growth of Canada?

Did the lives of people in the 19th Century get better or worse?

What you will be able to do:

Indicate facts about pre-industrial society and industrial development.

Explain the characteristics of capitalism and how it contributed to industrialization.

Indicate factors that contributed to industrialization. (i.e. the causes)

Identify and describe the differences (i.e. the changes) that occurred during and after the industrial revolution.


The Industrial Revolution began in England and France in the late 18th century and reached Canada in the 1840s. It profoundly transformed the methods, pace and location of the production of goods, the type of labour used, and the working conditions of labourers.

Video overview: Montreal 1850-1896: The Industrial City

"Around 1850, Montreal has a little over 50 000 people. In a mere half-century its population increases six times, surpassing the 300 000 marks. Growth in manufacturing industries is the main cause. Starting in the mid-19th century, factories spring up all over the city, and especially along the Lachine Canal. Their products are sold on the Canadian market, which is growing by leaps and bounds. Industrialization leads to growth in transportation, trade and the service industries."
Source: Montreal 1850-1896: The Industrial City. Paul-André Linteau, Université du Québec à Montréal

Craftsmen systems before the industrial revolution

"The guild system was characterized by the creation among craftsmen of a hierarchy comprising apprentices, journeymen and masters. The masters headed the guilds and elected juries responsible for drawing up and implementing regulations. Among these regulations were those governing apprenticeship and access to mastership: a long training period and an often rigorous entry procedure were imposed on apprentices; journeymen wishing to become masters had to pay a large fee and produce an original work of superior quality, ie, a masterpiece.

Craftsmen generally worked in small workshops (often attached to their homes) and owned all their tools. Work was usually done to order and division of labour was almost nonexistent. The major sources of energy were still muscle power and water; raw materials were processed mainly by hand tools. [...]

The apprentice must obey the master, work on his behalf and strive to learn his trade. In return, the master agreed to reveal all the secrets of his craft and provide accommodation, food, clothing and a small annual salary, paid either in cash or in kind. The apprentice worked 6 days a week [...] from 12-14 hours a day.”

Source: Hardy, J.,, & Ruddel, D., Apprenticeship in Early Canada (2015). In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from
Source: Braunschweig Digital Library. Berlin, 1880. Licence: use permitted in an educational and non-commercial context.

Activity: Craft vs. Industrial Production

Explore key documents and the provided tables in this activity document to "describe craft and industrial production" according to working methods, pace of work, sites of production, type of labour force, working conditions, and types and use of energy.

Of energy and steam

Prior to industrialization, wind, water and wood were primary sources of energy. Windmills and water wheels were used to process and move goods (ex. grind rains). Manufactured goods were also mostly produced by hand, making quantities related to skill and number of workers involved.

One of the main causes of Industrialization was the change in technologies, and especially those involved in manufacturing. A key example was the steam engine, like this one by James Watt. The steam engine and other new machines and techniques help to transform industries like textiles, iron making and others. Products that were once slowly crafted could be repeatedly created in large quantities by machines and in much larger.

Watt improved upon the earliest steam engine designs by “adding a separate water condenser that made it far more efficient. Watt later collaborated with Matthew Boulton to invent a steam engine with a rotary motion, a key innovation that would allow steam power to spread across British industries, including flour, paper, and cotton mills, iron works, distilleries, waterworks and canals.”

The source of power for steam engines was coal, which was burnt to heat water to produce high pressure steam to turn the engines and the machinery attached to those engines. “Just as steam engines needed coal, steam power allowed miners to go deeper and extract more of this relatively cheap energy source. The demand for coal skyrocketed throughout the Industrial Revolution and beyond, as it would be needed to run not only the factories used to produce manufactured goods, but also the railroads and steamships used for transporting them.” Thus, this new energy source and the ways it was used powered a more efficient system that allowed not only larger amounts of goods to be produced but which also helped to extend markets for those goods to larger regions.

Texts by Paul Rombough and Matt Russell. With quotes and based on information from Industrial Revolution at and other references in main Google document of curated online sources here.
Watt's steam engine. picture was taken from La vapeur (Steam), by A. Guillemin, Paris, 1876
Image from: Chapter 1, DISABILITY AND WORK IN THE COAL ECONOMY Copyright © David M. Turner and Daniel Blackie 2018. Under CC license /by-nc-nd/4.0/ via

Video break: Coal, Steam & The Industrial Revolution on Crash Course

This comical take on the period might be a lot to take in, but try to grasp some other contexts as John Green "wraps up revolutions month with what is arguably the most revolutionary of modern revolutions, the Industrial Revolution."

Of migrations, cheap labour, and urbanization.

Remember that the demographic pressure on Lower Canada continued to occur throughout the late 1800s. Most French Canadians continued to live in the St. Lawrence Valley, between Montreal and Quebec City. Some had settled in the Eastern Townships and in Western Quebec but these areas were predominantly Anglophone. In general thought, the lack of farmland during these times required many people to look elsewhere for opportunities. (Read more)

Some migrants to Canada received land grants that allowed them to settle in farming communities near to their relatives. However, many Irish migrants also settled in the cities of Canada. So, as Quebec, Montreal and Toronto grew they all developed large Irish communities as well. These urban Irish became labourers in the burgeoning industrialized factories, as well as itinerant workers on canal construction projects. And this growing, English-speaking workforce was a boon for Anglo-Canadian capitalists, not simply because of the common language, but also since the Irish actively competed for work with French Canadians. (Read more)

In other words, the numbers of people moving to the cities and the competition between them for jobs meant that there was 1) an abundance of people willing to work in factories, and 2) the cost of their labour was very cheap. This allowed the factories, our economy, and unfortunately related social problems to expand. “The economics of industrialization are staggering insofar as they require the movement of capital, raw materials, personnel, and products across huge distances. Industry requires, too, the mobilization, training, housing, and discipline of a workforce with little to no prior exposure to industrial systems. [...] Workers were being recruited from industrializing Lancashire and Yorkshire, Wales, Lowland Scotland, and Germany. Industrial workers were also coming to Canada from rural and non-industrialized corners of Italy, Ireland, Hungary, and China. The intensification of mechanized, and then automated, work ensured that peasant populations whose home countries were still mostly feudal would be thrust directly onto the cutting edge of industrialization. It also meant that untrained Canadian labour — specifically children — would find themselves very literally at the coalface.” (Source)

Related to this influx of people, and to the disparities between the classes, was also an expansion of industries required to cater to them. And so, more and more stores of various kinds were opened, where businesses provided both the services and goods for the people who lived there. Transportation systems were built, with streetcars to take people to and from work, and as cities became more segregated, from one neighbourhood to another.

Urbanization then implied the growth of so-called working class neighbourhoods, where the people who worked in the factories or in the other types of industries lived. These areas were visibly less well-off, where the streets wouldn’t have been paved and sanitation was sadly lacking. “Overcrowding was widespread. Health conditions were often poor. Sewage systems were deplorable and only began to improve in the 1890s in most Canadian cities and towns. Water supplies were regularly tainted. Immigrant, Aboriginal, and African-Canadian neighbourhoods generally endured worse conditions than those occupied by Anglo- and Franco-Canadians. Housing in some industrial areas was more like dormitories than apartments because of the extensive occupancy of single men and single women.” (Source)

The growing economies and the abundance of various forms of employment also permitted the emergence of a middle class, and of middle class neighbourhoods in other areas of town. “A kind of no-man’s land between Catholic French-Canadian districts to the east and the Anglo-Protestant west, Mile End was a place of social and cultural mixing, on which the stamp of several generations is still visible." (Source) And of course, profiting even more from both the cheap labour in their factories and the larger populations and markets for the goods and services they provided, the industrial capitalists of the times built houses in very wealthy areas of the city. “The Anglophone elite continued its migration further west and higher up the mountain. This was the period of the Golden Square Mile, whose heyday was between 1890 and 1930. There lived the McTavishes, Molsons, Redpaths, Shaughnessys, and other families whose names are synonymous with turn of the century Canadian capitalism.” (Source)

Texts above by Matt Russell and Paul Rombough unless indicated inline with quotes and sources

The Montreal Shoe Trade.-No.1, Messrs. Fogarty's Factory. © McCord Museum under CC license by-nc-nd

St. James Street, Montreal, QC, about 1910, Anonymous. © McCord Museum under CC license by-nc-nd

Houses for Mr. Meredith, Montreal, QC, 1903

Wm. Notman & Son © McCord Museum under CC license by-nc-nd

Montreal from Street Railway Power House chimney, QC, 1896 Wm. Notman & Son 1896 © McCord Museum under CC license by-nc-nd Residences of some prominent citizens

Activity: How did industrialization transform Montreal?

Explore key documents and use the provided tables in this activity document to establish the links between the changing territory of Montreal with the following concepts: factories; transportation network; urbanization.

Note all texts by Matt Russell and Paul Rombough are © LEARN under CC license BY-NC-ND

More coming soon!

This section will be expanded much further soon, with more texts, curated images, and activities.

Tracing Project: Black Histories within Quebec History

Example document pages in our larger document collection above:

Note that teachers of Secondary 3 and 4 Quebec can access these and many other large document collections shared via the "Communauté Histoire du Québec et du Canada database" by visiting ➦.