Throughout history lifestyles have changed dramatically according to their time period. One example of this is the changes between the Renaissance period and Industrial Revolution. Each era had their own social classes: the higher class of the royalty and nobles, middle class of the merchants and bourgeoisie, and lower class of peasants and servants. As one would guess, life in the Industrial Revolution was very disparate from that of the Feudal Age. Some areas such as living and working, especially for those of the lower class, were extremely unalike. However, some aspects of life during the two time periods differed very little.
How and where people worked had its effects on the people of both time periods. For peasants, during the feudal times, the only available job was to work in the fields as field hands for their lord’s land or house. Ordinary lower class-men took on jobs like carpentry, sewing, baking, weaving, baking, and farming. However, a day’s work was still long and exhausting, regardless of what occupation they chose. During the Industrial Revolution, agricultural jobs like these were still common.
Although these jobs were made easier because of technological evolution, people still worked in fields and in homes. However, more and more people began to move from the fields to cities as time progressed. More job opportunities emerged as industry arose. Instead of working on the fields, they worked on assembly lines in crowded factories. The lower classed population worked as clothing maker, textile workers, and manufacturers in factories. These jobs were employed by women and children as well as men. During the Feudal Age, women mostly worked in the landlord’s home as cooks, maids, or sitters.
Children would have worked in fields and along side the women in the dark, damp iron and coal mines. Iron and coal mining positions continued into the Industrial times. Women’s occupations had developed as well. They became governesses, seamstresses and factory workers. Only the poorest of women were hustlers. Poor and orphaned children were forced to work in the factories. During both periods, work was difficult to find and maintain.
These small jobs were abundant but not very rewarding for both time periods. The amount of job opportunities was canceled out by the bitter working conditions most workers had to face. In the feudal times, field labor was extensive and tiring. Lords and landowners forced labor during the wartime to provide knights with enough food and rations. During the peak of harvest seasons, field hands also had to work extra days. They had to work at least two to three full days of labor a week. Fortunately, they were not forced to work on Sundays or other holidays.
However, many peasants would work more often in order to pay the many taxes. Farmers still had to pay a tithe to church and tax collectors, as well as a tax on ground grain and baked bread. Peasants were bound to their lord for marital consent as well. Country workers in the industrial time also had to work long hours; from dawn until dusk. Although farming tools had improved from Feudal times, they still had to provide industrial cities with raw materials and food.
City workers in the Industrial Age had long hours as well. They usually worked fourteen hours a day, six days a week. Regardless of the long working hours, all lower class workers received the same low pay, farmers and city dwellers alike. As job opportunities soared in the cities, farmers were driven from their land in the country in order to build industrial towns in their place.
Another element that was shared between both time periods was the dangers in jobs. Useful medicine or first aid did nod exist during the feudal times, so injuries caused from working often never healed. Dangers were also common in the industrial cities, especially in factories. Long working hours led to exhaustion and dehydration. Worn-out workers grew enervated and slow, making the workplace very dangerous. The machines in factories made working even more dangerous. Cuts, bruises, and even detached limbs were very real possibilities.
Death rates increased greatly as the number of factories increased. Coal mines were another dangerous place of employment during both the feudal and industrial eras. Unfortunately, the innovations that increased productivity elsewhere during the industrial period had not reached the coal mines.
Lack of air circulation caused respiratory problems for the working women and children. They carried coal in heavy baskets or in wagons. Both ways led to extreme exhaustion. Miners suffocated from the smoke of intense fire, or drowned when the tunnels flooded. Life in the mines was consisted of damp, dark solitude. Life was dingy in the mines.
In both Industrial and Feudal times, work was very harsh, especially for children. Women and children were employed to work in the mines because they could go through small spaces. Children as young as six years old worked in mines and factories for as long as fourteen to sixteen hours a day. They were provided with a pile of straw as their bed that was located next to the machine that they worked.
Children may have been employed because their youth made their wages lower than that of a grown man. Child labor was exhausting, unhealthy, and dangerous work. Orphaned child workers were treated more horribly. Their hours were much longer and were fed improperly. As for women, they often faced sexual harassment in the workplace.
The people feudal and industrial times also shared their similarities and differences in not only their working conditions, but also their living conditions. The types of homes they lived in were quite different. In the feudal age, people lived in one or two room huts.
These huts were only one story high and came in bunches in villages. While huts like these still existed in industrial times, in the city there were multistory apartment buildings and row houses, both of which were built back-to-back, conveniently close to factories where people worked. There were two to four rooms provided in each apartment. The poorest of families lived in one-room cellars of these buildings.
Huts were made of fragile materials, mostly of wattle and daub. Roofs were thatched so they were easily destroyed. Feudal age huts had to be repaired or rebuilt almost every generation. The lord provided housing for peasants. Apartments and row houses were built clumsily and cheaply out of weak steel and lumber to provide quick housing for employees. So many people were moving to the city that homes had to be made quickly in order to provide housing for them.
Although their locations were different, homes of both periods had their share of horrific living conditions. An entire family would sleep in one bed often in the same room in huts while several families might share one apartment building. Beds were made of straw and were infested by insects and rats. Peasants often let their animals live in the huts to provide warmth, since it was too dangerous to light a fire. Their floor was dirt. Fortunately for those who lived in high-rise apartments, they had hard wood floors.
However, they too had to share rooms and beds. Both types of housing in both eras had poor ventilation. Windows were very small or non-existent, so rooms were smoky and the air was dank. Rooms were cold, damp and dark. In both worlds, rooms were freezing during the winter and sweltering in the summer. The pure atmosphere of a hut, apartment, or cellar was sickening.
In the Feudal period, manors, in which huts presided in, were very self-sufficient because of the food available from farming. However, food was still expensive, especially meat. This often led to starvation and peasants had to resort to eating seeds, acorns, tree bark and grass. This of course, was not always healthy. Nutrition was not always as good in the Industrial period either. Orphaned child workers were fed improperly. Some advantages were that people had to purchase their food rather than grow it.
Fewer went hungry and nutrition was slowly growing better. Although nutrition may have improved, it still did not help with the constant threat of disease in the cities. Walls surrounded cities, making plagues hang in the atmosphere.
The most common disease was cholera and typhoid. It did not help much that cities had a very poor sewage system. Factories dumped their waste into rivers and streams, which led to a city’s drinking water supply. Feudal times were just as worse. Famine and plagues were wide spread. Injuries caused by working in the fields were often mistreated and got worse.
Diseases spread even more since villages in the feudal age were permanent, close communities. Everyone and everything lived their entire lives on the manor.
The community in the industrial age was completely different. People began to move from the country to the cities in search of a better life. Instead they find that thieves, drunkards, and prostitutes roamed the dark streets at night. Streets were especially dangerous at night since street lamps did not exist. Homes were small and the streets were very cramped. The atmosphere was very dark and dreary.
In conclusion, although the industrial age had its differences from the feudal age, there were many things they shared in common. How people lived related with how people worked, and vice versa. This was very true for the social lower classes of each time period. The assumption that life was improved during the Industrial Revolution may have been true, but many of the disadvantages of working and living conditions had changed at all.
- Kreis, Steven. "Lecture 17: The Origins of the Industrial Revolution in England." Lecture 17: The Origins of the Industrial Revolution in England. The History Guide, n.d. "Life in Industrial Towns." Life in Industrial Towns. N.p., n.d.
- Peacock, Doug. "Industrial Revolution - Housing." Industrial Revolution - Housing. N.p., n.d. "Revolution and the Growth of Industrial Society, 1789-1914." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.