Pre-industrial society

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"Tartar Agriculturalist": A Chinese farmer using an ox to pull a scratch plow

Pre-industrial society refers to social attributes and forms of political and cultural organization that were prevalent before the advent of the Industrial Revolution, which occurred from 1750 to 1850. Pre-industrial refers to a time before there were machines and tools to help perform tasks en masse. Pre-industrial civilization dates back to centuries ago, but the main era known as the pre-industrial society occurred right before the industrial society. Pre-Industrial societies vary from region to region depending on the culture of a given area or history of social and political life. Europe was known for its feudal system and the Italian Renaissance.

The term "pre-industrial" is also used as a benchmark for environmental conditions before the development of industrial society: for example, the Paris Agreement, adopted in Paris on 12 December, 2015 and in force from 4 November, 2016, "aims to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels."[1] The date for the end of the "pre-industrial era" is not defined.[2]

Common attributes[edit]

  • Limited production
  • Extreme agricultural economy
  • Limited division of labor. In pre-industrial societies, production was relatively simple and the number of specialized crafts was limited.
  • Limited variation of social classes
  • ParochialismCommunications were limited between communities in pre-industrial societies. Few had the opportunity to see or hear beyond their own village. Industrial societies grew with the help of faster means of communication, having more information at hand about the world, allowing knowledge transfer and cultural diffusion between them.
  • Populations grew at substantial rates [3]
  • Social classes: peasants and lords[4]
  • Subsistence level of living[4]
  • Population dependent on peasants for food[4]
  • People were located in villages rather than in cities

Economic systems[edit]

Labor conditions[edit]

Harsh working conditions had been prevalent long before the Industrial Revolution took place. Pre-industrial society was very static, and child labour, dirty living conditions, and long working hours were not as equally prevalent before the Industrial Revolution.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ UNFCCC, The Paris Agreement, accessed 30 December 2020
  2. ^ Hawkins, E. (2017), Defining 'pre-industrial', published 25 January 2017, accessed 30 December 2020
  3. ^ Cipolla, Carlo M. Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy, 1000–1700. New York: Norton, 1976
  4. ^ a b c d Persson, Karl Gunnar. Pre-industrial Economic Growth: Social Organization, and Technological Progress in Europe. Oxford: Blackwell, 1988.
  5. ^ R.M. Hartwell, The Industrial Revolution and Economic Growth, Methuen and Co., 1971, pp. 339–41 ISBN 0-416-19500-8