Industrial revolution: for better or for worse?
The Industrial Revolution: a time period between 1760 to 1840 known to many as the greatest heydays in modern history. It was a time where Western civilization began to move from an agricultural dependent society to one where it finds new efficiencies in their lifestyle and improvements to their standard of living using methods of machinery, chemicals, minerals, and steam. This sounds great until you realize the costs involved in achieving these efficiencies, these improvements. Working conditions were deplorable with long working hours for low wages. So, one has to wonder did society as a whole benefit from this time period? Or more importantly, who did this time period benefit? Who were the winners and who were the losers?
Well, there were obvious benefits to the industrialization of society. Working conditions as a whole did improve. Work environment moved from outdoors to indoors making work available throughout the seasons. In addition, long distance transportation was made available. This allowed for people who normally would be trapped in rural areas to migrate in search for newfound opportunities. This led to signs of social mobility, where many of the poor gradually became the middle class, which ushered in an age of many social changes and reforms. But just as there were many who moved up the social status ladder, there were even more people who were left behind.
So who were these unlucky individuals? They were the many who found themselves exploited by working twelve to fourteen hours a day, five days a week, all year long for low paying wages (Fitzgerald, 2000). Regardless of gender or age, women and children alike were both expected to work these hours (Fitzgerald, 2000). They were the peasants who worked in the noble’s lands, those who lay trapped in the rural areas – places that were never very well industrialized, places that the trains did not reach. This led to unfathomable income inequality. While some were profiting from their newfound factories, buying up estates, amassing household slaves, many were left hungry and deprived of opportunities.
In the end, were there winners and losers? Well it depends on the time frame you’re looking at and who you were during the revolution. In the short run and if you were say, a peasant, chances are the Industrial Revolution made you worse off. However in the long run, despite the poor economical situations for many, civilization as a whole wouldn’t be as prosperous as it has become. We wouldn’t be here to discuss the haves and have-nots if it weren’t for the Industrial Revolution. So, we owe it to the peasants who endured and suffered to lay the foundation in which we walk. We owe it to the middle class who furthered social standards, the artisans who had technological breakthroughs that avoided the threat of famine. We owe it to the merchants who acquired charters from lords to establish towns (Fitzgerald, 2000). It is thanks to these people that society profited from its hardships and it is because of them can we have this discussion today.
Sorry to my blog readers that this post is rather vague. The topic I chose could have books written on, so it’s my fault for not choosing to tackle a simpler issue. Word limit was 500, so you get what you pay for, I guess.
A job is a job at the end of the day. I don’t know how the peasants/’unlucky’ individuals were made worse off. They are lucky to get something they didn’t have before. But whatever, it was added in for contrast sake as that’s a popular criticism of the Industrial Revolution.
C.W. “Did living standards improve during Industrial Revolution?”. The Economist: Blog. 2013. Web. 16 July 2014.
Fitzgerald, R. D. “The Social Impact of the Industrial Revolution.” Science and Its Times: Understanding the Social Significance of Scientific Discovery. Ed. Josh Lauer and Neil Schlager. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 2000. 376-381. Global Issues In Context. Web. 16 July 2014.