1.The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain during the 18th century, in which new technology was being discovered at an alarming rate. 2.The Industrial Revolution had brought numbers of young children into mines and factories where they worked long hours in dangerous and filthy conditions. 3.The Industrial Revolution perpetuated the class system in Great Britain by forcing the lower classes to work for minimum wages while supporting the upper classes that benefited from the Industrial Revolution.
Between 1760 and 1860, industrial development and education transformed England into the workshop of the world. The Industrial Revolution, as the transformation came to be identified as, caused a continuous rise in income per person in England and, as its effects spread, the rest of the Western world. It is apparent that the Industrial Revolution negatively affected the lives of poor British children. However, it was utterly beneficial to the development of the modern world; sacrifices were made and therefore allowed industrialised progressions during the Industrial Revolution, which in turn, created a definite improvement of life.
It would seem that, by definition, the Industrial Revolution led to a rise in the standard of living, because a rise in real income was exactly what made England’s transformation “revolutionary”. According to the estimates of economist N. F. R. Crafts, British income per person (in 1970 U.S. dollars) increased from $333 in 1700 to $399 in 1760, to $427 in 1800, to $498 in 1830, and then jumped to $804 in 1860 (David R. Henderson, 2002).
Many new discoveries, inventions and technology were a direct result of the Industrial Revolution. The most frequent description for the cause of the Industrial Revolution was that certain machineries (the steam engine and textile technologies in particular) created a basic change in the way work was done.
The traditional, and probably most popular, view of the cause of the Industrial Revolution was that these changes took place because of one fundamental invention that many historians attribute as the leading cause of the Industrial Revolution, the steam engine developed by James Watt. The steam engine allowed the transformation of fuel into automatic work. In a steam engine, fuel (usually wood or coal at this time) is burned; the heat that this fuel produces is used to turn water into steam; this steam is used to drive wheels in the engine. Steam engines were first used in coal mines to pump water out of them.
After James Watt improved the design of the steam engine, this type of engine was quickly applied to other industries – to power railroad locomotives, ships, and later the first automobiles. Consequently, there was a high demand for labour. Families quickly migrated from the rural farm areas to the newly industrialised cities to find work. Once they got there, things did not look as bright as they would think. To endure in even the lowest level of poverty, families had to have every available member of the family to go to work; this led to the high rise in child labour in factories.
“The smallest children in the factories were scavengers…they go under the machine, while it is going. It is very dangerous when they first come, but they become used to it” (History Learning Site, 2008, para. 2). Children were not treated well, overworked, underpaid and this negatively affected the British children for a long time before anyone tried to change things for them.
Factory labour was often more disciplined, tedious, and dangerous than work in agriculture or domestic industry. It exploited women and, until the introduction of child labour laws in most countries by the early 20th century, children. “We went to the mill at five in the morning. We worked until dinner time and then to nine or ten at night; on Saturday it could be till eleven and often till twelve at night. We were sent to clean the machinery on the Sunday” (History Learning Site 2008, para.
7). England suffered a 60% population growth rate in just forty years, while Manchester increased its population between 1771 and 1831 by six times (teacherweb.com, 2006). The exploitation of children was one of the scandals of the 19th century. The writer Charles Dickens was among those who helped to stimulate public opinion against it. Children had worked hard long before that time; however, prior to the revolution, children worked in shops for their parents. T
he first laws regulating child labour were approved in Great Britain in 1802. These were not effective because no provisions were made to implement them. The Factory Act of 1833 eliminated some of the worst abuses; it was to improve conditions for children working in factories. Young children were working very long hours in workplaces where conditions were often terrible; therefore, this negatively affected the British children by increasing disease and death rates.
The Industrial Revolution forced most children of the lower socio-economic class system in Great Britain to work for minimum wages. Evidence on earnings suggests clear progressions by age and physical ability. Even young children could earn 10-20% of men’s and even more of women’s wages (Thoma 2008, para. 12). This meant that there was little or no opportunity for them to receive an education to better themselves and to escape their position in society, thus increasing their life expectancy.
Life in the 19th century city, for the working classes, was unpleasant. The environment was frequently polluted with filth and smoke, and shelter conditions were crowded and unhygienic and affected their growth. Basic amenities such as water supply and sewage disposal were lacking, and as a result illness and death rates were high. So common were these conditions that critics sometimes claimed all industrial cities were the same, whatever the country. Conversely, children of families who benefited from the Industrial Revolution such as those who owned factories or mines were able to improve their position in life by gaining an education.
Technology and industry has dominated our world, improving it to a point that would have been beyond belief one hundred years ago, and with the help of the people, the sacrificing and the hardships, development continues. During the Industrial Revolution children of lower socio-economic groups were expected to work long and hard to improve the conditions and living standards for the country. It could be said that the conditions we live under today are proof that the hardships these children suffered are testament to the level of technology and industry we have in today’s world. After the Revolution the general level of education rose.
By 1900, most European countries required children to attend school and in most of Europe, literacy had become rather common. With the Industrial Revolution also came a change in social structure. In Britain, large landowners were at the top of society prior to the Industrial Revolution, controlling most wealth and power.
The distribution of wealth and power changed once industrialisation had taken hold of most of Europe. Successful businessmen, bankers and industrialists gained power and were soon at the top of the upper class not because of noble birth, but of their own hard work. Today’s western society has much less of a class system than it did in the 1800’s to 1900’s and this may be attributed to the sacrifices made by the children of that era.