Industrial Revolution: How Did the Industrial Revolution Transform Society?

2. How did the Industrial Revolution transform society? During the 1700's, manufacturing companies in Britain began producing goods in a completely new way that would soon spread across Europe and then across the world. Inventors built remarkable machines. New forms of power, such as steam, replaced the strength of human and animals. The factory system of making goods also came into use. All of these advances affected patterns of living as well as working.

Because society was so transformed, this time of great change is known as the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution brought with it an increase in population and urbanization, as well as new social classes and an alternation in international balance of political and military power. The Industrial Revolution also helped ordinary people gain a higher standard of living as the widespread poverty of the pre-industrial world was gradually reduced.

Between 1760 and 1881 many cities in Britain exhibited spectacular growth (British Pop. Moves to the Cities). The Industrial Revolution created two new classes, the capitalist and the working classes. The capitalists were the masters of the industries, the managers of mills and of workshops, who collected great wealth, due to high profits made. The working class however was a mere tool in the factories to carry out the profits.

As a result, the gap between the rich and the poor just kept on widening. England grew very wealthy on the financial credits of industrialization. It became a leading country, in the field of industry, trade, commerce and finance. The working class, which included the men, women, and children laboring in the textile mills, pottery works, and mines, were the ones who should have been credited England's success.

Before the Industrial Revolution, the spinning of yarn and the weaving of cloth occurred primarily in the home, with most of the work done by people working alone or with family members. This lasted for centuries until the 18th-century. In Britain a series of new inventions reduced and replaced the human labor required to make cloth. The first important invention in textile production came from British inventor John Kay who created a device known as the flying shuttle, which increased the process of weaving (Doc 6).

By 1770, another British inventor and industrialist James Hargreaves had invented the spinning jenny, a machine that spun 8-10 threads at once, and was used in the homes(Doc. 6) and Richard Arkwright, an inventor and cotton manufacturer, had organized the first spinning machine driven by water in the factory (Doc. 6). These developments allowed a single spinner to make numerous strands of yarn at the same time and increase textile production.

As we know the Industrial Revolution brought new heights to inventions, but what it also brought was urbanization…it was a period of rapid growth in population, a time when factory owners demanded workers resulting in less farmers and basically it created misery for the many who lived in the cities and worked in factories. The industrialization produced many unpleasant social inventions. Production by machinery threw a large number of people into unemployment.

The factory system resulted in over-crowding and unhygienic conditions and also the development of slum areas. Many if not all factory owners who needed cheap, unskilled labor, profited greatly by using children and women to run the machines and because they were small and could fit in tunnels as well…not only that they were more suited for factory life because they could adopt more quickly and easily than men. The only thing that these capitalists cared about the profit they were making.

By the age of 6, many children were already working twelve hours a day in factories! Thomas Wilson, a doctor employed by the owners of cotton mills, in a testimony on Child Labor before the parliament said that a child should not have an hour for dinner or lunch out of the twelve hours they work (A Doctor's Testimony of Child Labor). These kids had no free time to do anything plus they earned low wages. Hardly any of the children went to school they had to work in factories to earn money.

Some got sick and died because of the toxic fumes in the factories. While others were severely injured because the machines didn't have safety guards so many children got killed by machinery when they fell asleep and got caught up in the machines. Many of the children who were orphans, hired by the employers would get beaten if they did not work quickly enough. The life of the working classes grew miserable and burdensome. Many factories or mills had no sanitation facilities. There were no supplies for those who got injured and sick.

The miserable conditions of the workers' life would soon lead to the growth of labor movements in the form of trade unions, which is regarded as the "child" of industrialization.

Because the differences in bargaining between employers and employees caused many abuses the workers in various industries organized trade unions, which demanded better terms of employment and enforced their demands no way than to strike. In addition, three types of regulations were created-protective legislation, labor relations legislation, and collective bargaining between unions and employers—to prevent the abuses and preserve industrial peace.