Effects of Industrial Revolution in England
Industrial Revolution led to the expansion of trade, the production of more food, emergence of factory workers as a new class. The rise and growth of cities resulting in rapid urbanisation and organised working- class movements, seeking voting rights and regulation of their service conditions, brought about a new dynamics in politics.
The use of chemicals and fossil fuels that replaced wind, water and firewood resulted in increased air and water pollution. The Industrial Revolution marked a major turning point in earth’s ecology and humans’ relationship with the environment.
The Industrial Revolution helped create opportunities for employment for all members of the family. However, the life for the labouring class was miserable. Children were employed in textile mills because they worked for lower wages. In 1842, the British Parliament published a report about the state of coal mining – the Mines Report – and the report informed the public that children under five years of age worked underground as trappers for 12 hours a day and for a daily wage of 2 pennies; older girls carried baskets of coal which caused deformities.
Safety was very poor in early industrial factories and mines. The injuries from machinery would vary from mild burns, arm and leg injuries, to whole fingers to be cut off, or amputation of limbs and even death.
The housing was tiny, dirty, and sickly for the labouring class. Workers had no time to clean or change their own atmosphere even if they wished to, leading to the outbreak of typhoid, cholera, and smallpox.
With no legislation to monitor the service conditions workers had few rights. Working conditions were harsh with no weekly holidays or leave for sickness. With low wages the entire family had to work in factories.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, England became the workshop of the world. There was however a general decline in agriculture. This resulted in the flow of population from villages to industrial towns. Population growth, migration and urbanisation were the major social changes taking place during this period. In pre- industrial society, over 80% of people lived in rural areas. As the migration from the countryside began to intensify, small towns became large cities. The city of London grew from a population of two million in 1840 to five million in forty years.
Manchester’s cool climate was ideal for textile production. Further it was situated close to the port of Liverpool and the coalfields of Lancashire. Manchester became the textile capital of the world, drawing huge numbers of migrants to the city. In 1771, Manchester was a sleepy town of 22,000 people. Over the next fifty years, its population exploded and reached 180,000.
While the peasants were pauperized and the working class suffered, the middle class became wealthy by investing capital in trade and industry. The governments of the day were influenced by them. All legislations safeguarded their interests. Labourers were not permitted to form trade unions. It was under these circumstances that Socialism as a new ideology was born in Europe. Karl Marx advocated scientific socialism for the protection of the working class from the exploitative policies of the capitalist class. By the latter half of the nineteenth century there were strong working class movements all over western Europe which demanded economic as well as political rights.
Combination Laws of 1799 prohibited the formation of associations of workers. In the early decades of the nineteenth century there were Luddites. Fearing the loss of jobs due to the introduction of machines, Luddites protested by wrecking machines. The Combination Laws were repealed in 1824. Yet the workers could not form a national union. The Reform Bill of 1832 granted voting rights only to the propertied middle class. Frustrated by this, the working class in a large gathering prepared a charter of demands and obtained signatures from millions of fellow workers. The charter was presented to the House of Commons (the English Lower house in the Parliament, England). Known as Chartism, this working class movement was active between 1836 and 1848. The Chartists called for voting rights to every man over twenty-one years of age, secret ballot (voting), abolition of property qualification for members of the parliament, annual parliamentary elections and equal representation.