The Changing of European Society in the Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries was revolutionary since it changed European society significantly. The transition from agricultural and handicraft economies to the new urban industrial society produced persistent displacement and suffering. In the countryside, the erosion of traditional authority and social stability preceded large-scale industrialization . Many farmers migrated to industrial towns offering work.

Before the industrial revolution occurred, most people in Europe lived on small farms and produced most of their needs by hand. Then the revolutionary industry changed their lives. Many people moved to cities and most of their needs were produced by complex machines using steam power.

First, I want to explain about the industrial revolution in agrarian part. Agrarian revolution was a change in farming methods which allowed for greater production of food. This revolution was fulfilled by the use of new farming technology. The result of this revolution was the enclosure movement which was the consolidation of many small farms into one large farm owned by rich people. Then it left many people jobless and homeless.

These people would provide the workforce of the industrial revolution. When the revolution had not taken place, the cotton spinning was in its fancy, and before the machines for superseding the necessity of human labor—steam engines—came into use, there were a great number of what were then called little masters. They worked in their small land and spun the cotton. But none are thus employed after the industrial revolution, for all the cotton was broke up by a machine, turned by the steam machine . So that the spinners had no employment except they went to work in the factory all day.

As I explained before, people moved from countryside to industrial towns and cities to be closer to the factories offering jobs. The conditions during the early part of industrial revolution were very poor, as factory workers lived in over crowded building, with no sewage or sanitation services.

Populated and polluted environments created in the new industrial cities. The urban workers lived in dirty living condition. In The Making of the English Working Class by E. P. Thompson 1818, described backstreet sections and mill towns where people lived in crude shanties and shacks, some not being completely enclosed, some with dirt floors. These shantytowns had narrow walkways between irregularly shaped lots and dwellings. Sanitary facilities were nonexistent.

These slum areas had extremely high population densities. It was common for groups of unrelated mill workers to share rooms in very low quality housing where eight to ten people may occupy a single room, which often had no furniture, with the workers sleeping on a pile of straw or sawdust . This terrible circumstance resulted in widespread disease. Tuberculosis, spread in congested dwellings, lung diseases from the mines, cholera from polluted water and typhoid were common diseases among workers at that time.

Moreover, the working conditions in the factory were also miserable. Factory workers worked very long hours, for little pay, under harsh conditions . Workers included children as young as 8 years old, both male and female. Many people were injured or killed due to unsafe working conditions. Therefore, the society condition changed extensively during the industrial revolution.

When we talk about children workers in industrial revolution, childhood experience was profoundly influenced by industrialization. Industrial work took children away from their homes and often put them to work in factories for long hours with hardly any breaks. However many families needed their children’s wages to survive, so they continued sending their children to the very rough conditions of factories and mines.

Inside these factories and mines, the children were sent to work from sunrise to sundown and beat them severely just to wake them up. Fortunately, by the mid 19th century, the British Parliament began to pass laws regulating child labor and ultimately restricted or removed children from the industrial workforce. In the long term, industrial society was responsible for removing children from the labor process altogether, even at home.

After the children were taken out of the work force, governments established education requirements to train and educate them into highly skilled workers in the future. Another significant changing during industrial revolution was societal changes. New roles were defined for middle class men and women. Middle class men went to work in business, while middle class women worked from home and cared for the family.

The higher standard of living for the middle class meant that their children received some form of formal education. On the contrary, working class families faced many hardships due to poor living and working conditions, and most working class children never received an education. As industrialization continued to move forward, new social classes emerged. Captains of industry and business people became tremendously wealthy and powerful.

Besides the wealthy and powerful were also less powerful middle class, consisting of small business owners, factory managers, engineers, accountants, skilled employees of large corporations, and professionals such as teachers, physicians, and attorneys. Due to the generated wealth of industrial productions, the middle class received a heavy portion for their work. The middle class was the principal beneficiary of industrialization due to the amounts of wealth that flowed to them.

After the middle class there was the lower class, which consisted laborers who did most of the hard labor and factory work. In conclusion, the Industrial Revolution was a major turning point in European history as it resulted in a complete change in society on all levels. Effects of the industrial revolutions were long reaching, and influenced many other cultures both positively and negatively.