Industrial revolution

The industrial revolution was the transition from agriculture system and small-scale manufacturing

The industrial revolution was the transition from agriculture system and small-scale manufacturing (pre-industrialisation) to the new manufacturing process. Before the industrial revolution, there were two main classes; noble class and peasants. Two classes evolved during the industrialisation; middle class and working class. The industrial revolution started from 1760 and it brought social changes, changes in family structure and economic changes in working class people’s life. However, this report would concentrate on the 1800 to 1850 period. This report will present social consequences, development of key industries and legislation that were formed to counteract the worst effect of industrialisation.


The class system was very much enforced and there is proper rule of life during the industrial revolution. During this time, Britain was going through massive technological, economic and social changes. Urbanisation increased due to improvement in the manufacturing of raw material. The social Class division has been occurred based on power. Upper class people were born in nobility; they inherited wealth, political power, luxurious life style, right to vote and had longer life expectancy. The male members of upper class had nannies and tutor went to a public school such as Harrow or Eaton, would likely to finish their education from Cambridge or Oxford, and they were provided with all the necessary experience and education that was vital to take a leading role in a society. The eldest son of father’s inherited estates and hereditary title, other sons went into Church or army where they would pay a sum of money and gain an officer rank. They had servants who would run their home and raise their children, they slept in attics. Females of the upper class were educated at home by governess, they were taught about literature, music, musical instruments, languages, and arts. A devoted wife and typical role model women was idealised in Victorian era; therefore, aristocrat women were prepared to support their husbands. Dancing and Grand parties were commonplace in the lives of upper class women, where it offered them a chance to show off their fineries and socialise with the similar background women. They afforded travelling, expensive jewellery and clothing. Aristocracy influenced government and expected that rich would gain a role in local or national politics. As income was not a defining factor of the class, the source was. The middle class included everybody with non- manual job, a business man with no title and noble background, industrialist, banker and a clerk were middleclass. The people with the highest social standing of the middle class aspire to join upper class, they made efforts to socialise with aristocrats, some would perform a great act of charity and this meant they were able to join the upper class. Male went to boarding schools or grammar schools where they were taught set curriculum of Latin, Greek and History along with sports and games. Girls were increasingly going to schools, they supported their husbands running small businesses and shops and a very few women work. With the passage of time, women were able to seek an education at Newnham College. The middle-class men were self-made, so they valued hard work and had a shared set of values: charity, modesty, cleanliness, patriotism, religion and self-improvement, the children would call their father ‘sir’, and the mother’s job was to run house with the help of servants and raise children in appropriate and respectable manner. Many middle class would take interest in politics and became town councillors and Poo Law guardians and got involved in local societies for the suppression of vice. By the end of the 19th century, middle class could afford an annual holiday.

Working class was quite diverse; a station master would regard himself higher than the porters. Working class people aspired to work so they or their children could become middle class. Three out of four people did manual labour. They just earn enough to stay alive. Few of the poor people received an education. Children started working as young as six, they worked in dangerous conditions for long hours with very little wage. Regardless of poverty and hard life, they did find the time to relax through leisure activities which included watching or playing football, reading newspaper and trashy serialised novels and participating in bicycle club. The Bank Holiday Act 1871 made paid bank holidays compulsory and people travelled to seaside by train.

The living conditions for working class were terrible, they lived in the filthy slums, and entire family would live in one crowded room. The life expectancy was quite low. In 1842 the poor law commission issued a report on the sanitary condition of the labouring population and in the report, the average age of death in Manchester is stated: the average age of death of professional person and their families is 38 years old and the average age of the death of tradesmen and their families is 20 years old, whereas, the average age of death of mechanics, labourers and their families is 17 years old which evidently suggest that the working class were receiving poor health care and lived in harsh conditions (May,1996:144). Working class experienced squalor and poor health due to poor ventilation and light at work and Poor diet and overload of work. However, in 1844, the Rochdale Society of equitable Pioneers was formed; this was the first consumer cooperative which aimed to provide decent quality groceries at fair price. In the second half of the century, food improved for working class and several types of food was imported around the world such as Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. The Housing of Working Classes Act 1890 was introduced which set new standard for houses. Factory Act 1832 was passed and according to that act employers must have an age certificate for child workers and under nine years old were not allowed to work, another Act ‘Mines Act Ashley 1842’ also protected workers against hazards by setting the provision that boys under 10 and women not to work underground and an inspector appointed at mine. The Ten Hours Act 1847 limited working hours up to 58 maximum hours for women and young people.

Trade Union was subjected to sever repression until 1824. However, as century went by trade unions were formed with the purpose of improvement in working conditions, negotiation of wages and workplace safety and policy. The skilled workers set up New Model Unions after 1850, such as Amalgamated Society of Engineers. After a series of Strikes including Girls Match Strike of 1888 and the Dockers Strike of 1889, the trade unions were set up for unskilled workers. Some harsh attitudes still remained in place for example, the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 sent people to workhouse where conditions were harsh. Working class got right to vote in the second half of the century and in 1893, Independent Labour Party was formed by Kier Hardie. By 1900, work of writers such as Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree had created an impact which changed attitude towards poverty; the liberal reforms were series of acts and legislations passed including National Insurance 1911 and Old Age pensions 1908.

Working conditions in factories and textile were harsh, workers had to experienced squalor and poor health due to poor ventilation and light at work and Poor diet and overload of work. Workers including children worked in harsh environmental condition using heavy machinery for 14 to 16 hours, six days a week, for a very low wage and it were not enough to support a household. Men were paid more than women, children and old people, factory owners were willing to hire them, and it put male workers out of work. Early male dominated unions fought to remove children and women from work, but this strategy was abandoned, however, women eventually got the right of equal pay for equal work. The main inventions in the textile industry were power loom, flying shuttle, spinning mule and water frame.

Coal was demanded in the vast quantity for running machines such as steam engine. As a result, coal mines got deeper and deeper and coal mining became more and more dangerous. Miners were forced to go in the underground tunnels to find new coal and the tunnels were sometime propped up with wood and collapsed. The miners came into contact with poisonous and dangerous gases such as methane also called damp-fire which were naturally existed underground, and a candle fire would sometimes cause the gas to explode resulting in the deaths of many miners and many mine explosion incidents occurred.

New technological innovations changed the way good were produced, introduced new energy resources to power the new machinery such as water, steam, electricity and oil. It improved mass of production and promoted research and the sciences which increased overall industrial growth. In the first half of the century, after the enclosure movement, new farming techniques and production of food by fewer farmers led to Agricultural Revolution. However, this also meant farm workers needed new jobs, inventions that improved agriculture were selective breeding, seed drill and crop rotation.

Industrial revolution had quite a lot of inventions such as steam engine which was more efficient and implanted in coal mines, textile mills and various other heavy industries, by 1800, around 2000 steam engines were generated across Britain. Clerks were employed by factories, they wrote official letters and written communication systematically was introduced through Royal Mail. Transport industry was used enormously, improvement in transport network upgraded delivery service and enable industries to work more efficiently. Industrial speculators begin to invest in the networks of canal, canal schemes were authorised by the Acts of parliament, the period between 1770-1830 is often referred as the Golden Age of British canals, major new canals such as the Caledonian Canal and the Manchester Ship canal were also build during that period. By 1815, over 2000 miles of canals were operated, carrying manufactured goods and raw material by horse drawn barge. Road were poorly constructed and journey in stagecoach was laborious and long, London in particular suffered badly, it was difficult to deliver goods to market in those poor conditions. However, local authorities applied for Turnpike Acts that allowed new roads to be constructed and payments were made out of tolls, placed on passing traffic. The improvement made by 18th century constructors led to the great boom road of the 1780s. By 1830, the stagecoach journey from London to Edinburgh just took 2 days whereas; it nearly took 2 weeks just half a century before. Rail Road transportation first opened in 1830, the Liverpool a Manchester railway, was authorised by Act of Parliament in 1826. The Railway proved to be much quicker and more efficient mean of transport. The railroads had a significant impact on industries, materials would transport faster, and it helped factories to produce variety of goods. Coal became easier to move and more quickly, where previously, it was all transported by hands. Between 1826 and 836, 378 miles of track had opened. At first, passengers were scared that it would be impossible to breath or it can cause eye damage. Richard Trevithick used high pressure steam to which caused steam engine to drive itself.

In order to alleviate poor working condition in Britain, many laws and reforms were made. The Speenhamland system was authorised on the local level by the Poor Relief Act 1795, this law gave responsibility to each parish to support poor through allowance in support of the wage, provide public employment on specific (minimal) wage and was supplemented by the parish. People who were unable to work were given some money to help them to survive. It was practiced until 1815; employer kept the wages low knowing people would be supported by public funds and workers made little effort to work, knowing they would always be supported. This resulted in rising cost of system, the upper and middle classes complained that money went to people who did not wanted to work and caused resentment as money was raised by taxes. According to critics like Karl Polanyi, "it effectively prevented the establishment of a competitive labour market’. The Poor Relief Act 1795 was outlawed due to Strong criticism in Poor Law Reforms of 1834.

Until then the state of Poor Law remained same as the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601. This Law consolidated all the previous legislation and regulated relief of poverty by the law. Considerable responsibilities for public were placed on the overseers, the responsibilities included settling poor on work, collecting the relief rates from property owners, relieve the poor by provision of money or food and overseeing the parish poor house. This Act continued with further adoptions until the Poor Law Amendment Act was set up.

Manufacturing and commercial interests gained power through Electoral Reforms and parliament appointed a Royal poor Law commission to investigate recommendation, practice and administration of the Poor Laws, commissioners sent out questionnaire and visited over 3000 parishes collecting information. Commissioners reported their suggestion in 1834 and received huge support from parliament. Commissioner divided working class in two distinct categories, the one who received relief were lazy and dependant and those who did wok and did not accept any assistance was independent and hard worker. After Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 was passed, parliament reduced the costs of looking after the poor. It stopped money going to poor except in exceptional circumstances and poor had to go to workhouse if they wanted any support, the poor were given food and clothes in exchange for several hours manual labour. Assistance poor received was restrained with some regulations such as wearing a uniform, bad diet, strict rules. Families were split and people who needed desperate help would go there. Outdoor assistance was available to elderly and sick people but to the most extant only given within the workhouse where condition was harsh and cruel. Many people supported the act such as landowners including Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington and Poor Law commissioner James Kay- Shuttleworth. One of the leading commissioners, Edwin Chadwick was already convinced that system needs to be changed. In Andover, people were reported to be starved to death in workhouses, in north England riots began and they attacked workhouses. Anti-Poor law committees were set, and many local officials thought the old system worked better. Richard Ostler wrote pamphlets and letters to newspapers describing the Act as cruel and unchristian. However, a new Pioneering Act has been introduced where the government’s role in the care of the poor and remained in force throughout the Victorian era, but the harsh treatment was ignored. By 1880, the opinion in parliament began to change regarding poor and his economic condition.

To conclude, this report has presented the changes in social structure, working conditions, and discussed the laws including poor law that were reformed during industrial revolution. During industrial revolution a revolutionary change in agriculture, industry, transport and communication occurred which led to economic, political, occupational change. The Industrial revolution was a period of slow development of working class. The Britain economy has been improved and the working system has been upgraded which benefited working class. Despite the dark side of the industrial revolution: the dirty, crowded tenements and the dangerous factories, it was the period of enormous social progress.

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