The best Industrial Revolution books

5 authors have picked their favorite books about the Industrial Revolution and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter this list by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Book cover of The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West 1500-1800

The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West 1500-1800

By Geoffrey Parker,

Why this book?

In the year 1500 European civilization was fractured, deficient in natural resources, and unremarkable in its military technology. By 1800 it had gained control over one-third of the globe. How? This seminal work by Geoffrey Parker tackles that question with a sweeping assessment of global developments during the period, revealing the suite of innovations that allowed the West to expand so dramatically. Sparking a debate that continues to this day, it is a must-read on the subject of early modern technology, imperialism, and warfare.

From the list:

The best books on early modern European warfare

Book cover of Cold Magic

Cold Magic

By Kate Elliott,

Why this book?

Nowhere have I seen Cold Magic categorized as a romance, but as a reader, my experience of the book (and the rest of the trilogy) was definitely centered around the epic love story. But that's what places this book in the "off the beaten path" category for me – it could sit on several different sections in a bookstore or library: science fiction, fantasy, Steampunk, mystery, action/adventure, romance, or all of the above! Books like this are a gourmet feast for the imagination, particularly when they're handled by a masterful writer and builder of worlds like Kate Elliott. If you…

From the list:

The best romances off the beaten path

Book cover of Rape of the Rose

Rape of the Rose

By Glyn Hughes,

Why this book?

The Rape of the Rose is an unforgettable novel that details the horrors of the Industrial Revolution in nineteenth-century Britain. Hughes, also a poet of note, portrays the enslavement of children in those “dark Satanic mills” with disturbing precision, offering his youngest characters shreds of dignity, which life has deprived them of so roundly. He also shows men and women maimed and worked to death by owners intent on extracting every last ounce of their labor. A major figure in the novel is a father who flees a mill and joins the Luddite Revolution. I read this book thirty-five years…

From the list:

The best literary novels if you love to read thrillers—and want to take a breather or dig deeper

Book cover of The Technological Indian

The Technological Indian

By Ross Bassett,

Why this book?

Indian engineers and technologists are among the most sought-after globally, particularly from the elite Indian Institutes of Technology that were originally modeled after MIT. The book traces India’s engagement with MIT from the 1880s to 2000 through the story of Indians who went to MIT to study and their contributions to engineering and industry back in India. It is a fascinating account of a few elite engineers but woven into it is a social, political, economic, and cultural history of modern India. 

From the list:

The best books on the history of modern India

Book cover of Dickens


By Peter Ackroyd,

Why this book?

This is one of the great literary biographies: impeccably researched, stylishly narrated, refreshingly indifferent to academic convention, and authentically Dickensian in its pungency of atmosphere and solidity of characterisation.
From the list:

The best books about writers’ lives

Book cover of Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times

Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times

By Elizabeth Wayland Barber,

Why this book?

Women’s Work is considered a seminal text in the study of fashion - whether that’s costume history, the culture of fashion, the history of textiles, or even the intersection of labor and feminism. If you’re interested in the study of garments, in learning why thread and cloth and sewing were so important in the past as well as why it continues to be important today, there is no better place to get started. This book has been popular for decades for a reason. Women’s Work helps to restructure and reorient your thinking around what we wear, a necessary component to…

From the list:

The best books about the history of fashion

Book cover of To Prove I’m Not Forgot: Living And Dying In A Victorian City

To Prove I’m Not Forgot: Living And Dying In A Victorian City

By Sylvia M. Barnard,

Why this book?

This tells the story, not just of Beckett Street Cemetery, supposedly the oldest municipal cemetery in the UK, but more important of those buried there, both rich and poor (and there are plenty of both). It sits across the road from what was once Leeds Workhouse, and has its share of former inmates from there in unmarked graves. Poignantly, there’s are also many guinea graves, where several are buried on top of each other, names listed on a headstone, all for a guinea (just over a pound). In its tales, this becomes a 19th-century social history of Leeds – there’s…

From the list:

The best books on Leeds as it was

Book cover of A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy

A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy

By Joel Mokyr,

Why this book?

I’ve included this book to illustrate how the perspective of cultural evolution is spreading to disciplines and problems far beyond its origins in biology and anthropology. In this case the discipline is economic history and the problem is explaining why the Enlightenment, which paved the way for the rapid technological and economic transformations brought about by the subsequent Industrial Revolution, occurred when it did (1500-1700) and where it did (Western Europe). Mokyr’s answer draws on cultural evolutionary concepts to argue that a culturally transmitted mindset of innovation and progress, as well as the intense competition of ideas within a politically…

From the list:

The best books on cultural evolution

Book cover of The Golden Thread

The Golden Thread

By Kassia St. Clair,

Why this book?

A very detailed and beautifully written history of the textile industry throughout time, this book really underlines how our industriousness has turned into a multibillion-dollar industry, disregarding many of the principles and values it stems from.

As a go-to a history of the textile industry, you can’t read much better than this, an unbroken thread of useful knowledge for whoever thinks fashion is frivolous.

From the list:

The best books for fashion revolutionaries

Or, view all 28 books about the Industrial Revolution

New book lists related to the Industrial Revolution

All book lists related to the Industrial Revolution

Bookshelves related to the Industrial Revolution