Sociology Timeline

The Sociology Timeline

Here is a timeline on sociology on its different revolutions throughout the years.  This will give you a good idea of how these historical events affect our society today.  Take a look at our other resources on different aspects of sociology as you continue your research and studies.

Hunter-gatherer societies predominated before the domestication revolution.  These societies subsisted without agriculture.  Only a handful remain.  A number of them, such as the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest, developed complex religious and political systems simultaneously.


Pastoral societies and horticultural societies arose during the Neolithic Period in the 11th through 8th millennia BC.  Agricultural practices independently arose in the Fertile Crescent, West Africa, East Africa, Mesoamerica, and Southeast Asia.

Abdel Rahman Ibn-Khaldun (1332-1406)


Giambattista Vico (1668-1744)

Agrarian societies predominate during this period in Europe and the Americas.  This leads to a large food surplus, which in turns leads to division of labor and strong inequalities between the rich and the poor.


Industrial societies begin to take hold, especially in Germany, England, and the American Northeast.  Inequality becomes even greater.  At this point, organization of capital begins in earnest, with the first tycoons emerging.  This is the stage in history that Karl Marx identified as the beginning of the capitalist era.

1760-70– Textile production shifts to mills in England.  This leads to massive population shifts into new urban centers such as London, Manchester, and Liverpool, and the world’s first industrial working class emerges.

1765– James Watt develops a highly efficient steam engine, enabling heavy industrialization.  This leads to rapid expansion of coal mining in Europe.

1793– Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin, thus increasing cotton production in the American South.  Increased cotton production paved the way for the rapid and massive expansion of slavery.

  • Auguste Comte (1798-1857)

1811-13– Major years of the Luddite troubles in England, reflecting an early discontent among the working classes.  The Luddite movement was largely composed of former cottage textile workers who lost their jobs during the early years of the Industrial Revolution.

  • Karl Marx (1818-83)

1819– The British Factory Act is passed, placing restrictions on child labor.

  • Friedrich Engels (1820-95)
  • Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)

1830s-40s– The British railway system expands rapidly, becoming a major commercial force and facilitating the movement of people, products, and capital.

1845– Engels publishes the Condition of the Working Class in England, detailing the squalor of Manchester in the early industrial era, the new forms of urban poverty, and providing the first description of the modern industrial city.

1848– Marx and Engels publish The Communist Manifesto, a text that pairs the theoretical research of the two writers with a declaration seeking Communist revolution.

  • Ferdinand Toennies (1855-1936)
  • Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929)
  • Émile Durkheim (1858-1917)
  • Georg Simmel (1858-1918)

1859– Darwin publishes The Origin of Species, radically questioning the creationist orthodoxies of his time and altering a vast swath of natural and social science.  Social Darwinism emerged as a right wing sociological doctrine not long after.  In modern sociology, Darwin has been most influential in sectors of social thought that see social structures as having an evolutionary or memetic basis.

  • George Herbert Mead (1863-1931)
  • Max Weber (1864-1920)
  • Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929)

1867– Isaac Newton publishes Principia Naturalis and Principia Mathematica, thus birthing modern mathematics.

  • W.E.B. DuBois (1868-1963)

1871– The Trade Union Act makes unions legal in Britain.  The large-scale social reforms in Britain over the next 100 years came about as a direct result of this acceptance of organized labor as a political, social, and economic force.

1882– Standard Oil controls 95% of US oil refinery.  Under the control of John D. Rockfeller, Standard Oil came to represent the monopoly in American industrial society, along with Alexander Carnegie’s U.S. Steel.

  • Karl Mannheim (1893-1947)

1893– New Zealand grants women the right to vote, becoming the first nation in the world to do so.  New Zealand was followed by Germany in 1919, the US in 1920, the UK in 1928, France in 1944, and Japan in 1945.

  • Norbert Elias (1897-1990)

1900-10– Heavy unionization occurs in the UK, around the same time the Labour Party is formed to represent the interests of working people.

1901– Marconi sends a wireless message across the Atlantic, furthering the revolution in telecommunications that had been progressing since the birth of telegraphy.

  • Talcott Parsons (1902-79)
  • Theodor Adorno (1903-69)

1903– The Wright Brothers fly at Kitty Hawk.

1905– The Aliens Act in Britain is passed to control immigration.

  • Robert K. Merton (1910-2003)

1911– The British National Insurance Act establishes social welfare in the UK.  After this, Britain would quickly rise to become one of the world’s strongest social democracies.

1913– The first assembly line was introduced in the Ford automobile plant, thus birthing a revolution in both industrial production and management.  Fordist managerial theory would quickly become the standard in both capitalist and Marxist-Leninist states.

  • C. Wright Mills (1916-62)

1917– The Russian Revolution begins, inaugurating the world’s first Communist government.

  • Erving Goffman (1922-82)

1924– The U.S. passes the National Origins Act, limiting immigration, signaling the beginning of the end of the nearly 100 year immigration boom in the U.S.

  • Peter L. Berger (1929-Present)
  • Jürgen Habermas (1929-Present)
  • Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002)
  • Immanuel Wallerstein (1930-Present)
  • Anthony Giddens (1938-Present)

1945– Hiroshima and Nagasaki are bombed, inaugurating the nuclear age.  This marked the largest scale short-period destruction in world history.


1954– Brown vs. Board of Education begins the desegregation process in the United States.  Within 15 years, de jure segregation will be a thing of the past throughout the U.S., while de facto segregation will continue to plague the country.

1957– The USSR launches Sputnik.  The Space Race thus begins.

1970s-Present– Postindustrial societies develop in America, Western Europe, and Japan.  1972 is often considered the beginning of an era variously called “postmodern,” “postindustrial,” “late capitalist,” and “flexible capitalist,” with numerous social theorists pointing to the demolition of St. Louis’ notorious Pruitt-Igoe housing projects as the end of modernism.

1985-90– Communist governments collapse the world over, with remaining Communist nations (China, Vietnam, etc.) mostly converting to capitalist economies.

1991– The CERN research center announces the launch of the World Wide Web, furthering the evolution of the Internet as we know it.