Term Paper: Consequences of the Industrial Revolution

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[. . .] A wider range of employment opportunities existed than ever before, as well as opportunity for advancement. The factories offered a wide range of duties and functions, where an ambitious worker could move upward. The new middle class were conspicuous consumers, and their wealth created jobs in the building trades, as servants and as employees in shops. There were chances to learn a trade outside of the old, rather insular guild system.

Educational opportunities were also on the rise. In 1840, only 20% of English children had any formal schooling; by 1860, that number had increased to 50%. Manufacturing made cheap newspapers and books available to the public, and the necessity in many jobs for the worker to be somewhat literate, led to a general increase in learning.

The workers were exposed to a much wider variety of technology that ever before, and many of the inventions and innovations of the time came from the workers who saw a practical way to improve a machine or a process. Wages, although low, were higher than at any previous time; also, the price of manufactured goods fell as the factories pumped out more and more, and entered into heavy competition among themselves. These factors brought about an improvement in the standard of living by the end of the First Generation, with a better diet made possible not only from domestic products but also from imported goods. The average weekly diet of 1850: five ounces of butter, thirty ounces of meat, fifty-six ounces of potatoes, and sixteen ounces of fruit and vegetables, is not unusual for a present-day person (Hartwell, 1971).

Because of the proliferation of factories, the industrial tax base of the cities increased, and the services required by industry (water, sewer, transport) benefited the general population as well. Cities such as London which had changed little since the Middle Ages underwent substantial growth and modernization. Housing increased, with a range of options for different levels of affluence.

The most valuable benefits of the Industrial Revolution were to be reaped by the Second Generation and by those who followed, up to the present day. Some of the worst abuses spurred social and economic reform, especially child labor but certainly also working conditions in general. The factories were dependent on the labor force and it was in their interest to improve the working conditions. New factories that were being built began to reflect a need for improved ventilation and safer machinery. Unemployment was virtually non-existent, so wages had to be stable or increase, as the availability of unemployed workers tends to force wages down. As compared with agriculture, there was virtually no seasonality to the labor; employment was year-around and steady.

The wide-spread entry of women and youth into the labor force, while profoundly disrupting the earlier model of the family, paved the way to independence and opportunity for all, rather than for adult males only, in a manner similar to the experience of World War Two, with the widespread employment of women in non-traditional roles in the United States.

Cultural opportunities increased, partly as a reaction to the drunkenness and depravity of the early working class. Music halls, theaters, and sporting events became accessible to many, and more affordable public transportation made travel and vacationing a possibility. From the drudgery of the workload of the early Industrial Revolution, in fact, was eventually to arise the concept of leisure, not only for the aristocracy but for every-one according to his or her means.

In summary, while the Industrial Revolution produced great suffering and social problems initially, positive effects gradually began to accrue, and eventually outweighed the negative ones.

Works Cited

Chadwick, Edwin. "Report from the Poor Law Commissioners on an Inquiry into the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population of Great Britain." London, 1842, pp. 369-372.

Gaskell, P. The Manufacturing Population of England. London, 1833

Hartwell, R.M. "History and Ideology," Modern Age, Vol. 18, No. 4, Fall, 1974.

Hartwell, R.M. The Industrial Revolution and Economic Growth. London: Methuen and Company, 1971.

Majewski, John. "The Industrial Revolution: Working Class Poverty or Prosperity." Reprinted from The Freeman, a publication of the Foundation for Economic Education, Inc., July 1986, Vol. 36, No. 7

Parliamentary Papers, 1842, vols. XV-XVII, Appendix I, "Testimony Gathered By Ashley's Mines Commission

Reed, Lawrence W. "Child Labor and the British Industrial Revolution." Reprinted from The Freeman, a publication for the Foundation for Economic… [END OF PREVIEW]

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