Was the Impact on Public Health the Worst Effect of the Industrial Revolution in 1750-1900?

In 1750 our country, Great Britain, began its industrial revolution. The country was changed forever. Before 1750, most people had lived in the countryside and worked in a family business but in 1750 people flocked into towns to get jobs. New machinery had been invented and the richer classes used this as a way to make lots of money by setting up factories filled with these machines.

It was out with the old and in with the new. New machinery, new materials and new discoveries. Although there were many positives to the industrial revolution such as the improved transport system around the country, the quicker manufacturing, the new inventions and the new discoveries, there were also many negatives. These included the living conditions of most of the people living in towns, the working conditions of the poorer classes, child labour and the deterioration of public health.

But, was the impact on public health the worst effect of the industrial revolution? Firstly, although public health deteriorated during the industrial revolution so did many other things including living conditions of poorer families. Many country people rapidly began to move to the towns to avoid unemployment. Due to the speed the people were moving, there were not enough houses for everybody. Factory owners had to build houses near to their factories where their employees could live.

These houses were built very hastily and they were in a bad condition. The factory workers were very cramped and you could find up to eight people living in one room of a house. This meant that workers had to share beds and some had to go without. The toilets were placed at the ends of the streets and they were shared by everybody on that street. The toilets were very dirty as like the houses they had been built hastily so did not flush properly and were never cleaned.

Therefore, the toilets were unhygienic which meant disease spread faster and easier. In addition, the cities had sewage problems so, many cities including London, had raw sewage in their water systems and on the streets. This was very unhygienic and people were drinking water which had been contaminated by this sewage because there was no other option. All sewage and water was flowing into the rivers in the cities, such as the River Thames, and drinking water was being pumped out of these same rivers.

Unfortunately, dirty water can cause diseases such as cholera. Symptoms of cholera are: dehydration, vomiting, unusual tiredness, dry skin, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and dry skin. This disease could affect anybody who drank contaminated water. It could affect the young and elderly though it mainly affected the poorer regions. However, many richer people also caught this disease because they were also drinking this water. During the industrial revolution, there were several cholera epidemics due to the contaminated water and food.

This disease, which killed thousands of people, has been eliminated today because we drink clean water and eat clean food. Other diseases included typhoid which is also caused by dirty water and food, typhus, smallpox and tuberculosis (TB) which people caught from living in damp and dirty houses and being malnourished. In addition, the houses were near to factories which meant all the fumes released the factory were breathed in by the workers. Also, because the living conditions were so cramped, the diseases spread much quicker.

The living conditions of people during the industrial revolution was a pre dispensing factor of the dreadful public health as the living conditions caused diseases and epidemics. As well as living conditions, working conditions were also appalling during the industrial revolution. Factories were a new thing in the industrial revolution so there were no health and safety acts or child protection laws. The conditions in factories were awful; the workers had to work up to twelve hours starting very early in the morning.

The work included managing dangerous machinery which was very repetitive and tiring and had to be done stood up. Some workers had to carry very heavy loads to fill or empty the machines. Many employees were injured or died in factories due to the hazardous machinery. Clothing could easily get caught up in the machinery and this could be fatal. The factory owners were responsible for feeding their workers. However, the food they gave them contained no nutrition in it and the workers were given miniscule amounts.

This brought about diseases such as TB which was caused by under nourishment and little food. The fumes inside factories were also dangerous; in cotton factories the air around the workers was filled with little bits of cotton which were breathed in by the workers. These clogged up the trachea, bronchioles and the lungs and caused asthma and chest infections which could be fatal due to the lack of medical knowledge. The death rates in factories were very high but it was not as bad as the public health during this era.

It contributed towards the dreadful public health as the factory owners paid the worker low wages which meant low nutritional food, expected them to work non-stop and did not care about the safety of the workers. This all built up and diseases were caused and spread. Child labour during the industrial revolution was also a despicable thing. In 1750, there were no laws against child labour so when factories began to appear the factory owners expected children as young as six to be working over twelve hours a day in harsh and dangerous conditions with little food, rest or protection.

Their parents allowed this because they had to earn money for the family. In factories, children were given the worst and most dangerous jobs. They were small so they could squeeze between dangerous machines which meant one wrong move could be fatal, they could scramble under machinery to retrieve bits and pieces or clean areas. Regularly, children were deformed or killed in the factory but the owners did not care. Instead, they just replaced the child with another child.

However, child labour was not the worst impact of the industrial revolution because throughout the revolution many laws were passed which did protected children and forced health and safety upon factory owners. Therefore, child labour was improved and stopped whereas public health did not improve at this rate. Although, many scientists found cures to diseases that erupted during the industrial revolution, including Edward Jenner, who found a cure to smallpox, people did not believe in them so nothing was ever done to expand these.

Medical knowledge practically non-existent and people believed that diseases were caused by bad smells. During the cholera epidemics health associations were set up but as soon as the epidemic has finished they were closed down until the disease returned at the next epidemic. Very little was done to improve public health until near the end of the revolution approaching the 20th Century.

In some towns during the revolution the average life expectancy was seventeen which is extremely young. Most “lucky” people who grew slightly older did not live to see thirty. These statistics shows how bad the public health actually was. In conclusion, in my opinion public health was the worst effect of the industrial revolution because health had never been so bad than in this era. Diseases were everywhere killing people.

Life expectancy was the lowest it has ever been at seventeen in some areas. Nothing was done to improve public health because very little was known about what caused and cured diseases. This meant that the situation rapidly deteriorated. Fortunately, the situation did begin to improve but it still remains that it was the worst effect due to cramped and dirty living conditions, contaminated water and food, unfair wages and malnourishment. All of this built up to make the worst era of public health ever seen by Great Britain.