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The Industrial Revolution increased the material wealth of the European world. It also ended the dominance of agriculture and initiated significant social change. The everyday work environment also changed drastically in society, and the West became an urban civilization. Cities grew and the two new social classes – the industrial middle class and the industrial working class – emerged The Industrial Revolution increased and accelerated the growth of the middle class. It helped to create the modern world view that through the proper use of science and technology, a more fruitful quality of life could be achieved.
The population of England increased, with little growth. Then, between 1750 and 1850, it more than doubled due to the growth was a decline in death rates, wars. The Industrial Revolution was preceded by an agricultural revolution that increased the food supply while decreasing the amount of labor needed. Traditionally, the primary goal of agriculture was to produce enough food to prevent famine. This overwhelming fear of starvation made most farmers very conservative and highly sceptical of change.
Poor harvests would lower the supply of food, which would result in increased prices. The basic effect of supply and demand was at the centre of most of the class conflict in this pre-industrial world. Both bad harvests and increased population affected the price of food. Unaffordable prices increased the wealth of the aristocratic class and led to death and starvation among the peasants; therefore, the primary reason behind most peasant uprisings was the high price of food.
As the population grew, the industrial revolution worked to make the population move. Technological and scientific developments meant industry went to different places and so the population of England gathered together in increasingly large urban centres, to work in factories and other mass places of work. The population of London doubled in the fifty years from 1801 to 1851, and towns and cities across the nation were growing too. The conditions in these areas were frequently bad as the expansion happened so quickly and people were crammed together, with tiny living spaces, dirt and disease, but not bad enough
The Industrial Revolution also accelerated the growth of the urban population. One of the more important consequences of urbanization was a rapid increase in crime. This was the result of three factors that dominated the urban landscape. The first two were poverty and unemployment. There was no job security or social security and no minimum wage, for the factory worker. If someone was injured on the job or laid off, he had little chance to replace his lost income.
The middle class was composed of businessmen and other professionals. The larger the Industrial Revolution grew, the more powerful these individuals became. Individuals and groups formed new libraries, schools, and universities because there was a sudden need for education (possibly due to the increase in population). The middle and upper classes had better food and housing, which led to fewer diseases and longer living among these groups. Since these classes were treated so well, their population grew and thus had minimal difficulty living during the Industrial Revolution.
In contrast with the middle and upper classes, the “working” class and the bourgeoisie was the merchants, artisans, lawyers. In the working class, many were replaced in factories by machines. But, many also gained new jobs in factories working with machinery. The average adult worker worked quite often: five to seven days of the week, for more than half the day per shift. Children as young as fifteen worked for minimal wages. Some of the children became deformed or crippled due to their work, which was often. Women and children made the two-thirds of the cotton industry’s workforce. Most workers worked for relatively low wages due to their incapability to produce goods. The women and children were not paid as much as the men were. The housing was not desirable either – for example there was frequent overcrowding.
The housing had unsanitary features which led to diseases. Workers who were desperate lived near a factory. What also made life difficult during the Industrial Revolution was that there were limited privileges such as few people voted, nor were they allowed to do anything to improve their working condition that was legal. The amount of carbon dioxide increased two-fold as people moved closer to factories hoping to obtain employment. Resources started diminishing, and the use of pesticides and hazardous chemicals began to increase. Child labour also changed because of the Industrial Revolution. Children were expected to help the family in the traditional economy, but usually they had been assigned tasks that were commensurate with their age. Women status changed substantially because of the Industrial Revolution.
Socialism was an alternative theory, based upon the premise that true economic equality could only be attained if the workers controlled the means of production as well as the distribution of goods. This was a reaction against both the hardships of the working class and the economic inequality of capitalism Early socialism was largely the idea of intellectuals. The success of the Industrial Revolution in expanding both productivity and jobs eventually changed the economic pessimism of the early nineteenth century.
The dismal view of the future of the working class would eventually be replaced by utilitarianism and socialism. Economic, social, and political equality would then be achieved. The power of industrialization would be used to create a socialist utopia based upon the practice of the equal and rational distribution of goods.
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