Industrial revolution brought changes into different spheres of life. At the end of 18th century economy in European countries was mainly agricultural. Farmers used to pay for their land with manufactured goods. Technologies were poorly developed. Although some kinds of machines were already invented, they weren’t widely spread yet. People still had to use natural resources, like water and wind. In this way it seems to be even more significant that in several decades economy in Europe radically changed for the best. Modern scientists distinguish three main upheavals in the productive forces and the structure of society itself. The revolution of 18-19th century was a turning point from agricultural society to the industrial one.
A lot of people were involved in coal production. With the coming of industrialization, more coal was needed as a fuel. New factories and mines needed more workers. Work in mines was extremely dangerous, especially due to the fact that they gradually became deeper. Coal was mainly used as fuel and at that time it was extremely expensive.
People had to work in the most hazardous conditions ever known. They had to put up with all those dangers. In order to clear mines of poisonous gas, people involved children into the process (Winstanley, 2006). Brian Levack gives and illustration of child labor in the mines in order to show dreadful conditions in which miners had to work. In the course of time the situation improved to some extent, nevertheless mining industry still remained dangerous. Miners could either suffocate by gas, fall down or be killed by some heavy tools. According to statistics nearly 400 people died in coal mines every year, including children and teenagers. Life of children was extremely hard. Child labor was very cheap: not more than several pennies a day. Girls were forced to bare heavy baskets with coal. They later complained that they had to push baskets weighing two hundred kilos. Moreover in case they moved too slowly or fell, they would be viciously whipped. But the most striking thing for me was that even pregnant women had to work in mines, mainly because they wanted to earn some money to survive. Some women said they had to return to work the same day they gave birth to child. Government didn’t provide any social security for women and children in particular.
Speaking about industrial revolution I can’t help saying about the position of women in society at those times (Levack, 2000). Women were employed at equal terms with men. During the revolution a lot of women were involved in the production even though work was extremely hard for them. The conditions of the working class were hard to endure especially for women. Families were ruined and children grew up in isolation. In order to make ends meet husbands and wives had to work day after day. But they had no chance to bring up children properly (Engels, 1892). Besides during the 19th century British women were deprived of many human rights. Few of them actually managed to take a well-paid job. Instead they mostly worked in the same conditions with men.
Adam Smith emphasized the importance of free trade as a way to prosperity (Smith, 1789). At the same time Smith criticized corporations, especially in Glasgow, as trade was restricted here. Besides he admits that unfair regulation of wages among classes is a kind of oppression. Laborers received poor salary for extremely hard work, while well-paid professions often didn’t need so much efforts. Revolution also influenced the way people worked. In order to make it more efficient there was introduced the division of labor (Levack, page 648). Its main principle was to engage a number people into the manufacture of the same goods. A well-known example of pin manufactures shows positive sides of this method which continues to be used in present days. Smith gave an example of a small factory with only ten people working. They divided responsibilities and in such a way the same thing was made and improved by several people. Division of labor greatly improved the productivity.
“Rebels against the future” by Kirkpatrick Sale tells about Luddities. These people followed well-known Ned Ludd who was beaten by his supervisor whenever he broke or destroyed something. The matter is that Ned loathed his work very much. In the course of time, people of different occupations stood up against progress following the example of Ludd. Actually I think that this book symbolizes the whole class of people who had to work for low pay. Coming Industrial Revolution brought radical changes to their lives. Most of them now worked at new factories which replaced manual production. People are always afraid of future changes. Probably for this reason Luddities arranged rebels at factories. They understood that time has passed and previous life won’t ever return. Workers were dissatisfied with conditions at factories and struggled to improve the situation. Long working hours, contaminated water and air and child exploitation were emphasized as negative affects of the revolution. The author helped to understand psychology of people and their attitude to revolution at its very turn. It also can be applied to modern world when people are not always sure whether innovations will bring happiness and security to their lives. The author himself admits that even now we can see Luddism in many countries of the world, mostly Asia.
Industrial revolution improved British economy with the development of international trade. It greatly contributed into the marketing economy of the country (Musson, 1976). A lot of manufactured goods and machinery were sold abroad. Economical profit from industrial productions was very significant. An article “Industrial Motive Power in the United Kingdom” by Musson emphasizes the invention of new methods of power and how it contributed into the economy of Britain. In the 19th century power of wind and water were not in usage any more. Instead people learned to use steam power. Although it still wasn’t widely spread, steam played more and more visible role in the economy of the country. In such a way people moved further in development. Speaking about economic changes I can’t help saying that economic power now belonged to the middle class instead of aristocracy as it used to be in the past. Industrial revolution was the most far-reaching upheaval ever known before. In the first place it reveals in technological development (Furtado, 2005). Although in previous years Europe possessed much knowledge in this sphere, it was applied to life only during the Revolution. Later it led to further economic and social changes.
People begin to understand harmful impact of the revolution. Changes in environment, for example, are quite visible. People faced pollution of natural surroundings with the coming of new life. Deforestation, contaminated water, air and soil, new diseases were among the most destructive consequences of technological progress. Environment pollution which was illustrated by Levack in his book “The West: Encounters and Transformations” (p. 647). This problem actually took place during all the technological revolutions. At first environmental pollution caused by new plants and factories was not so obvious, as people noticed practical side of those innovations. Life became easier with the invention of new fuel and means of transport. But seas and oceans began to be used as a dump. Even nowadays Britain alone dumps nearly 250,000 tons of industrial waste straight into the North Sea. In the 19th century government didn’t care much about hygiene in the cities. As a result a lot of people suffered from cholera and typhoid. People drank poisoned water which was inevitably contaminated in the industrial cities. Diseases spread among poor people in particular as they couldn’t afford clean food and water. Factories pour great amounts of waste into rivers. It makes water unfit for fish to live in it and people to drink it. Development of industry undoubtedly made people’s life more comfortable, but caused harm to natural surroundings. “Coalbrookdale by Night” by Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg illustrates iron foundry factories built close to houses (Levack, page 647). Actually it combines the depiction of hard conditions of workers and harmful influence of progress. It is depicted in dark colors which makes people think over environmental pollution. The illustration shows that industrial development had not only positive sides.
Finally I’d like to draw attention to the significant contribution of Arnold Toynbee. His lectures on the topic of Industrial Revolution in England see the problem from economic point of view. He made a serious research on economic changes which took place during the revolution. He pointed out the causes of poverty and prosperity of people. His lectures deal with progress in financial and commercial spheres. I’ve chosen his writings to be the secondary source of my research, because I think the author managed to observe the problem deeper than any other stated above, especially from economic point of view. Besides I think that his lectures may help people to follow the Revolution from its very beginning. Without proper foundation one may not understand the subject itself. That’s why I think that Arnold Toynbee will help to view it in different light.
In conclusion I’d like to say that in spite of mentioned drawbacks and negative sides, the Industrial revolution was a significant turn in history. In this research I briefly investigated its influence on people’s life.
Engels, Friedrich, The Condition of the Working Class in
England in 1844. London: S. Sonnenshein, 1892.
Furtado, Peter. A Post-Industrial Museum. Round and About.
Kirkpatrick, Sale. Rebels against the future. Addison Wesley,
Levack, Brian. The West: Encounters and Transformations. The
Industrial Revolution. Pearson Education Press, 2000.
Musson, A. Industrial Motive Power in the United Kingdom.
Economic History Review, 1976.
Musson, A. and Robinson, Eric. Science and technology in the
Industrial Revolution. Manchester: University of
Manchester Press, 1969.
Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the
Wealth of Nations, 5th Edition, 1789.
Toynbee, Arnold. Lectures on Industrial Revolution in England.
Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.
Winstanley, Ian. Children in the Industrial Revolution.
Historical articles, 2006. http://www.mdx.ac.uk/WWW/STUDY/ssh1840s.htm
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