A Look at the Cultural Changes of the Industrial Era

A Look at the Cultural Changes of the Industrial Era


This Q&A explores the cultural shifts that occurred during the industrial era in Europe, including changes in the role of women, the rise of alcohol and entertainment, and developments in literature and music.

Table of Contents:

  • Feminism and Women’s Rights
  • Alcohol and Temperance
  • Literature and Popular Fiction
  • Entertainment and Music
  • Emergence of Technology and New Media


Feminism and Women’s Rights

Question: How did the industrial era impact the role of women in society?

Answer: The industrial era brought changes to the division of labor which created physical demands on women’s bodies, limiting their opportunities in the workforce. Feminists at the time focused on property, education, and marital rights, and this movement paved the way for meaningful rights for all women. However, working-class women were more concerned with survival and hard work, and their daily challenges were not always addressed by the feminist movement.

Question: What was the view on divorce during this time?

Answer: Divorce was only available to the wealthy during this time period, creating an uneven playing field for all women in terms of marital rights. Wife sales were not uncommon in England where, presumably, the husband would sell his wife for the right price, not to mention the limited rights women had within a marriage.

Alcohol and Temperance

Question: What was the relationship between alcohol and industrialization?

Answer: Alcohol served as a lubricant of industrialization, with pubs and bars proliferating in urban areas and the lower classes flocking to them for relaxation. The authorities made attempts to curb the taste for alcoholic beverages, however, they were met with little success. This led to the temperance movement across Europe during the industrial era.

Question: Did any countries have stricter liquor regulations during this time?

Answer: Scandinavia had strict regulations on liquor sales, and as a result, alcohol consumption decreased. Clubs and societies provided alternatives to drinking, such as the rise of football clubs that helped create a sense of solidarity among new urban communities.

Literature and Popular Fiction

Question: What kind of literature was popular during the industrial era?

Answer: Cheap fiction was prevalent during the Victorian era, with sensational penny dreadfuls being a prime example, however, improving literature and popular biographies of heroic figures were also published. Melodramas were also popular and often used cheap fiction as the basis for performances.

Question: How did the rise of literacy rates impact literature during this time?

Answer: The rising literacy rates in Europe led to the establishment of public libraries and an increase in book reading. Cheap novels were produced as an alternative to the penny dreadfuls, allowing more people access to literature.

Entertainment and Music

Question: What kind of entertainment was popular during the industrial era?

Answer: Folk songs and dances were once commonplace, but were gradually replaced by more individualistic music and dances in urban environments. Officials sought to suppress village games and drinking holidays for the sake of public order and welfare. Music halls emerged as a form of entertainment in the 1850s, blending seamlessly into melodrama. French cafés chantants evolved into more elaborate venues like the Folies Bergère and the Moulin Rouge, both popular for their risqué performances.

Question: Were there any criticisms of popular forms of entertainment during this time?

Answer: The German Tingeltangel spread across northern and western Germany, despite being criticized for its immoral content. Literary and artistic cafés also faced censorship and police interference.

Emergence of Technology and New Media

Question: How did technology impact entertainment during the industrial era?

Answer: The phonograph was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877, creating a new form of entertainment and leaving a record of voices and sounds. Emile Berliner improved upon the technology by inventing a flat disc in 1887. However, gramophones and records were expensive due to the difficulty of controlling rotation speed and the time-consuming process of copying discs.

Question: Were there any advancements in media during this time?

Answer: The spread of literacy rates led to the establishment of a popular press in Russia, France, and Britain, with sensationalism becoming more widespread in newspapers. The growing population of working-class people also became avid readers of books and newspapers.


During the industrial era, significant cultural changes took place, including the rise of feminism and women’s rights, the proliferation of alcohol clubs and temperance organizations, the emergence of cheap fiction and popular entertainment, and the advancements in technology and new media. These cultural shifts reflected the evolving social and economic conditions of the time, and the resulting changes in society and culture continue to influence the world today.

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