Life in Western Europe during the Nineteenth Century

?In the second half of the nineteenth century, there was a second Industrial Revolution in Western Europe that brought new industries, sources of energy, and goods. This changed the entire human environment and Europeans believed that this material progress was a sign of human progress; they thought that the new scientific and technological accomplishments would improve humanity and solve all of their human problems.

Western Europeans’ views began to change; there were new concepts and ideas that altered their society and they gained a new image of themselves, their country, and the world. Gender roles were shaped by the Domesticity and Private Spheres Ideology which said that women should devote themselves to their homes, their husbands, and their children while men were to go out and get jobs, take part in politics, and other aspects of the outside world. It was said that men and women had different functions to perform under God.

Society’s peace depended on these roles and if women began taking part in men’s activities there would be crisis. Young girls were to be under the supervision of their fathers, or brothers in some cases, until they were married and then they belonged to their husbands. Married women were considered legal incompetents because they did not have a sufficient brain to participate in legal affairs. For a while people did not have a problem with this arrangement because it portrayed women as noble and superior.

Around the 1850s church attendance became very low and many more women than men begin attending services. Women took over the church in a sense because while men had world affairs and politics, women did not have such commitments and so they adopted the church to have a place of their own in society. After the Second Industrial Revolution there were new job openings for women and they began to stray from their traditional roles. John Stuart Mill, a British philosopher, brought about the idea of feminism.

Mill argued that society could be improved with mass education; he believed that women had an essential role in society and if they were not able to access their creative potential, society would be at a stand-still. In 1869 Mill wrote a book called “The Subjection of Women” in which he criticizes the middle-class family for the discrimination of women; he says that the family was where girls were taught that all they could ever aspire to was being pawns in a man’s game of chess. He wrote: “from the dawn of human society every woman

was in a state of bondage to some man, because she was of value to him and she had less muscular strength than he did” (Mill 3). Mill’s book became popular very quickly and many people agreed with his point-of-view. Around 1870 men were no longer able to support their families with their income alone and many lower-middle class women slowly began taking jobs in white-collar positions, but they were paid less than men of the same job status because of the notion that the man was supposed to bring home the majority of the income and women were simply helping them by bringing in extra money.

By the mid-nineteenth century science had a greater impact than ever on European life. Although the advances of the Industrial Revolution relied very little on pure science, it triggered an interest in scientific research which led to many new scientific discoveries. Charles Darwin was a scientific amateur like many other great scientists of that time. Darwin’s studies led him to the ideas of natural selection and organic evolution, which he wrote about in his book “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection”, and he later began applying these concepts to humans.

In 1871 he published “The Decent of Man” which suggested that humans evolved from a hairy animal related to gorillas and chimpanzees. He wrote: “We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system—with all these exalted powers—Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin” (Darwin).

Many religious people who believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible were highly offended by this idea as they thought Darwin was suggesting that the current humans were not the final product. They believed that God had created them perfectly and that Darwin was contradicting God’s work, but they were most offended by Darwin’s idea that evolution was a series of random mutations because it suggested that it was not planned by God. Darwin himself was a believer in God, but he did not follow the literal interpretation of the Bible and did not allow his faith to come in the way of his scientific advances.

Gradually, Darwin’s ideas became more accepted by scientists and intellectuals and some people began applying them to society, thus showing science’s ever-growing influence. This new scientific growth caused more problems for the Christian churches however; they saw Darwin’s theory as a threat and they moved to ban his writings and prevent evolution from being taught. Educated people were turned off by this move and it caused more people to reject the established religions they had once believed in.

Biblical scholars began applying scientific principles to the Bible causing even more controversy. The second wave of industrialization also had a critical effect on churches; as people began moving away from the countryside and into the city for work, their lives no longer revolved around the church and they began neglecting their faith. A new religious movement known as Modernism emerged in attempt to connect the Christian ideals to the new scientific and industrial developments.

Modernists thought of the Bible as a book of moral ideas rather than something to live by in a literal sense, and they thought Christians should be encouraged to take part in the new social reforms and that churches should be providing a sense of community rather than condemning people for straying from their strict beliefs. Despite the fact that there was a higher standard of living toward the end of the nineteenth century, there was still a large difference in wealth.

Although the middle-class was growing, most Europeans were still in the lower-class. A new group emerged from the upper-class as the result of big businesses; the plutocrats were aristocrats whose income had declined and they began investing in railway shares, public utilities, government bonds, and businesses. The middle-class held a variety of different groups; under the upper middle-class were professionals such as lawyers, doctors, civil servants, and some industrialists and merchants.

The new industries of the nineteenth century added a few new groups such as engineers, architects, accountants, and chemists. In the lower middle-class were the shop-keepers, traders, manufacturers, and peasants who provided goods and services for the above classes. Between the lower middle-class and the lower-class there were new groups of white-collar workers as the result of the Second Industrial Revolution, they were traveling sales representatives, bookkeepers, bank tellers, telephone operators, department store workers, and secretaries.

These workers often did not own property and were not paid much more than skilled laborers, but they committed to the ideals of the middle-class and were ambitious and optimistic about raising their status. The middle-classes dominated the nineteenth century with their shared lifestyle and values. They were active in spreading their views to their children as well as to the other classes. They were regular church goers, believed in hard work, and were concerned with the conventional behaviors and morals.

The family was the most important when it comes to middle-class life; men were to provide their families income and women were to focus on the taking care of the children and the home. Many middle-class families hired low-wage servants giving the women more time to spend on other activities, and the sudden reduction in the number of children each family had allowed them to spend more time with each of their children. The sons were to go to school and learn to follow careers like their fathers, and sports were integrated into schools to teach the boys to be tough and manly.

Young girls did not share the same benefits as their brothers at this time however; they were expected to learn from their mothers how to run the home. Most Europeans at this time belonged to the lower classes, but many landowning peasants held the same values as those from the middle-class. The urban working class included groups such as skilled artisans in trades like cabinetmaking, printing, and jewelry making as well as semiskilled workers including brick-layers, carpenters, and factory workers; these semiskilled workers earned about two-thirds of what the highly skilled workers earned.

At the bottom of the lower-class was the largest group of workers, the unskilled laborers which included day laborers who made very low wages. Girls in the working-class had very different standards from those in the middle-class, they were expected to work until they were married and even then they often did work at home to help support their families. Children began working around the age of nine and they worked odd jobs for most of their young lives. It was not until the end of the nineteenth century that new higher-paying jobs allowed women and young children to cut back on their workloads.

Working-class families began limiting the amount of children they had as well and children were slowly shifted out of the workplace and into schools. At this time there was a great sense of nationalism brewing in people all over Europe and many people thought this was the main force in history dominating their lives. One problem for Europeans was establishing borders and creating their own countries because each nationality wanted their people to come together into a single state and get rid of foreigners.

Nationalists, in order to spread their sense of nationalism, had to go through three stages; the first stage utilized writers and poets to inspire the people and awaken them to their own ethnicity, next intellectuals took power to make the necessary political changes, and lastly everyone was to work together to get their country to progress on an economical level. The nationalists’ final goal was to create a nation that was territorially coherent, known as the nation-state. They wanted political independence and they saw the future of Europe as a group of peaceful nation-states.

This great sense of nationalism caused many urban revolutions in similar nations involving urban-dwellers, students, middle-class, journalists, and writers alike; it initiated in Italy but began to take shape more in France. It was almost unusual for a nationalist movement to occur in France because they already had stable borders and less dialect differences. In the late nineteenth century, many industrial workers wanted improved working and living conditions so they formed labor unions and political parties based on Karl Marx’s ideas.

Marx was one of the most influential socialists and he redefined socialism with his ideas; he was against the division of labor as he thought it exploited the workers, they were paid less to work more because their employers did not see them as human beings but as an extension of the machines they worked on. People were often trained and expected to perform one working task for their entire lives as it would make production quicker and more efficient, but Marx argued that this was a waste of people’s creative powers and it could cause damage to their mentality.

He believed that Capitalism was inevitable and therefore it was neither good nor bad, but it created more goods than society could consume; therefore Marx predicted that the system would collapse and the workers would eventually take over. These ideas were most popular among European socialists, and in 1889 socialist leaders came together to form the Second International, an organized association of national groups. They made

many organized moves to create better conditions for workplaces, and these movements became easier and more successful after labor unions won the right to strike in the 1870s. The movement for women’s suffrage helped get women more involved in the political scene and politics began shifting from the hands of the men into the hands of everyone, men and women alike. All of these new changes in industry, science, and perspective made for a very smooth transition from the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century.

These historical changes have important ties to today’s society and many of the concepts and discoveries from this time are still present today. Works Cited Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex: In Two Volumes. London: Murray, 1871. Print. Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty ; The Subjection of Women. New York: Holt, 1879. Print. Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western Civilization. 8th ed. Vol. 2. Boston: Wadsworth, 2012. Print. Since 1500.