Role Played by the Immigrant Labour During the First Industrial Revolution Essay

Pages: 10 (3156 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Drama - World

Labor and the Industrial Revolution

Immigration During the Industrial Revolution

The Role Played by Immigrant and Migrant Labor during the First Industrial Revolution

Millions of people moved during the industrial revolution. Some simply moved from a village to a town in the hope of finding work while others moved from one country to another in search of a better way of life. The primary reason for relocating during this time was to find work. On one hand this involved migration from the countryside to the growing industrial cities, on the other it involved movement from one country, in this case Britain, to another. Poor working conditions, housing and sanitation led to many people opting to emigrate. At the time, the British controlled a massive empire including America, Canada, South Africa and Australia and many moved to these countries in search of a new life. Migration was not just people moving out of the country, it also involved many people moving into Britain. In the 1840's Ireland suffered a terrible famine. Faced with a massive cost of feeding the starving population many local landowners paid for laborers to emigrate because it was cheaper than paying them poor relief over a long period of time. About a million of these laborers migrated to Britain. This paper will examine the beginnings of the industrial revolution in England, and explore the impact immigrant and migrant labor played in contributing to the economic growth of the period.

Background

Immigrant and migrant workers were a significant factor in providing labor for the industrial revolution that took place in Great Briton between the mid eighteenth and mid nineteenth centuries. This mass migration was rooted in a variety of reasons, but was all attracted by the promise of the economic opportunities that the growing British economy offered. The influx of people added to a growing urban population and impacted the character of the cities in which they settled.

According to Judge and Langdon (2009) two factors were prominent in Britain's emergence as the first industrial nation in Europe. First, they led in the transformation of agriculture, which enabled them to produce enough food to feed a growing urban labor force. Second they established themselves as pioneers in the Scientific Revolution, which enabled them to lessen the unit cost of production through improved technology.

Before the Industrial Revolution crops were grown in open fields with limited results. The advent of enclosed fields enabled farmers to produce two yearly crops while one-third, instead of the traditional one-half of the field lay fallow. Innovations such as the intensive use of fertilizer, rotation between root crops and seed crops, the use of hybrid seed, and improvement in land drainage techniques increased crop yields allowing farmers to provide sufficient food for the growing urban labor force needed to support the changes in manufacturing which occurred during this period.

Pre-Industrial revolution manufacturing was chiefly accomplished via the "putting-out" system. An entrepreneur would secure raw material, find parties who would work with it and collect the finished product for sale elsewhere. Workers received a piecework wage. The factory system called for an entrepreneur or company to gather together individual workers under one roof and one managerial eye. The workers were paid on a prefixed pay scale and labored under tight discipline on a single, repetitive part of the production process.

Britain was in position to take the initial lead in the industrial production of goods and services for several reasons. In the early eighteenth century the British were the Western world's most experienced traders and entrepreneurs. English colonies were spread around the world. The North American colonies were the biggest markets for goods outside of Europe. The English national bank had existed as a credit and finance institution since 1603, rates of interest were lower than anywhere else, and the English stock markets were the world's largest and most flexible for raising capital.

The British pioneered the inventions that made steam engines the standard form of mechanical energy for the industrial production of goods. They controlled the raw materials of the early industrial revolution, coal and cotton. Their coal fields were large and easy to access, providing fuel to run their steam engines. Cotton came from India and North America; both had strong political ties to England. The cotton was transported across the ocean on English ships, woven in English factories, and exported to the rest of Europe without any competition for a century. Finally, the geography and topography of England made the country ideal for moving goods to market. There were few natural obstacles to travel and transport. The river system was connected by canals during the eighteenth century and made transportation cheaper and safer than elsewhere.

Early Years

The Industrial Revolution caused great changes in the way of life in Britain. The first changes appeared locally, however, by the early 1800's, most British people knew they were in the midst of a nationwide economic and social revolution. Educational and political privileges, which once had belonged largely to the upper class, spread to the growing middle class. Some workers were displaced by machines, but others found new jobs working with machinery. Both workers and employers had to adjust to a new cold and impersonal work environment and most workers lived and worked under harsh conditions in the expanding industrial cities.

Under the domestic system, many employers had a close relationship with their workers and felt some responsibility for them. But such relationships became impossible in the large factories of the Industrial Revolution. Industrialists employed many workers and could not deal with them personally. The working day probably was no longer under industrialism than under the domestic system-about 12 to 14 hours a day for six days a week. But in the factories, the machines forced workers to work faster and without rest. Jobs became more specialized, and the work became monotonous.

Factory wages were low. Women and children worked as unskilled laborers and made only a small fraction of men's low wages. Children, many of them less than 10 years old, worked from 10 to 14 hours a day. Most factory workers, like other types of workers, were desperately poor and could not read or write. Housing in the growing industrial cities could not keep up with the migration of workers from rural areas. Severe overcrowding resulted, and many people lived in extremely unsanitary conditions that led to outbreaks of disease. During the 1830's the life expectancy for men in Birmingham, England, was only slightly more than 40 years.

Until the early 1800's, British employers usually held the advantage in relations with their employees. Workers were not permitted to vote and could do little legally to improve their condition. British law forbade trade unions, and workers who joined a union could be imprisoned. However, some workers did form trade unions. Many workers also went on strike or rioted. In the riots, unemployed workers destroyed machinery in an attempt to gain revenge against the employers they blamed for depriving them of jobs. Even employed workers took part in the riots and wrecked the machines as a protest against their low wages and terrible working conditions. In 1769, Parliament passed a law making the destruction of some kinds of machinery punishable by death.

Social and Economic Ramifications

The social and economic ramifications of the Industrial Revolution were many. Under the factory system the individual workers no longer functioned as partners of their employer, had say about the conditions and pay they received, about how their skills would be employed, about the nature of what they were making, or about where and to whom it would be sold. As the production of food became more efficient, fewer workers were needed on farms. These displaced persons faced the greatest change as they could only escape poverty by moving to urban areas and becoming wage earners.

During the 1800's the British aristocrats passed several reform proposals to aid the working classes. The Factory Acts of 1819 and 1833 limited the employment of young children and provided that they should be given at least a little education at their place of work. Boys as young as seven years old were employed regularly in twelve and thirteen hour shifts until the passage of the 1833 Act. Women and boys under the age of ten were not permitted to work in the mines after 1842.

The Industrial Revolution facilitated the emergence of the middle class of industrialists and businessmen over the nobility. Social classes in the eighteenth century were quite distinct. The nobility dominated politics and set the cultural tone. The urban upper-middle class, which included less wealthy merchants, landlords, tradesman and professionals, were well educated and upwardly mobile, many of them resented the pretensions of the nobles. The lower middle-classes were made up of clerks, skilled workers, and independent shopkeepers. Many of these were afraid of falling back into the class from which they had surfaced, workers who had labored in semiskilled or unskilled jobs for an employer.

As the Industrial… [END OF PREVIEW]

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