The period between 1830’s and 1840’s was characterized by increased reforms and changes in the increase in social legislation European countries and specifically in Britain. Most of these reforms were as a result of the industrial revolution and the French Revolution. This is because the World’s first Industrial revolution was experienced in Europe and by Britain in particular. This revolution which happened in the period between the 1930’s and 1940’s was characterised by several problems that sparked the need for reforms in the legislation.
There were struggles over industrialisation and the factory system, struggle for democracy, problems of poor public health and pollution, the poor law, struggle for Better conditions in prisons, struggle for better status and more powers of women and the children. We are going to discuss hoe these problems acted as forces for change and their results. The industrial revolution involved the adoption of machine use in most industries and factories. Even though this revolution resulted to higher living standards of the British citizens, this growth was not even.
Only the commercial and middle classes benefited. The working class continued to live in poverty. Industrialisation also had a very negative impact on the traditional industries that existed before (Hudson 1996). Workers in these traditional industries lost the jobs they depended on for their livelihood. It not only affected individuals but also the communities as a whole. The trade existed before was interrupted. A good example of an industry that suffered as a result of industrialisation is the textile industry.
The traditional weavers who used the loom as well as the people who used to make and sell the looms to these weavers lost their jobs. As a result of losing a source of livelihood they had depended on for a long time, the affected people united and strongly protested against this system they considered inhuman and a threat to their existence. Because of the introduction of ‘Free Trade’, the products from these new industries were of low quality. This is because the rise of capitalism came along with a ‘free competition’ situation.
The numbers of people in the commercial and industrial class were not as many as the number of the traditional loom weavers. They faced no competition hence compromised on the quality of their products. The working conditions in most of these factories were also harsh to the workers. Industrialisation also led to rapid increase of the towns and cities in Britain. They became overcrowded, dirty and there was no organised public health. There also was increase in the level of poverty in the rural areas.
Children and women who worked in the factories were exploited as they had no skills. Those who benefited from this industrial evolution did not include the working classes, a wealthy class emerged as the commercial and ruling class benefited at the expense of these poor working class group. There was hence need for reforms to be made in the legislation to address the political and economic rights of the working class. The workers protested as they wanted the legislation to preserve ancient customs and the Queen’s statute.
The workers had no proper mechanism in which they could present their grievances. Trade unions did not exist at the time as the legislations that existed was very oppressive and repressive to them. Most of the protesters were imprisoned and subjected to hard labour. These threats however did not wok out for the ruling class who discovered these methods were not effective and would not be conducive for a society that was on the verge of industrialisation. Legislations were later formed to allow the workers to form legal and formal trade unions.