Homework 1ShanitBENDAVID04/03/2011Commonly, the Industrial Revolution is known as “the vast social and economic changes thatresulted from the development of steam-powered machinery and mass-production methods,beginning in the late eighteenth century in Great Britain and extending through the nineteenthcentury elsewhere in the world.”(1) The term Revolution is a key word here and has to bequalified. Indeed, « a Revolution is a great change in conditions, ways of working, & beliefs thataffects a large number of people in a relatively short period of time » (2).However, it is importantto keep in mind that everything did not changed overnight. In fact, this evolution was the result ofa gradual process. Yet, all the changes that occured during this period were seen as somewhat« abrupt » for the British society. Indeed, major changes occured during the Industrial Revolution,and each changes had a deep effect on the British economy but also on people‟s lives.Nevertheless, most of people agreed to recognize this period as a major turning point in humanhistory. However, « major turning point » does not take into account the positive or negative viewthat people had on the subject. In fact, peoples views on the subject varied greatly and the mainopposition on the matter turned out to be between social classes. In fact, a factory owner did nothave the same opinion on the Industrial Revolution than an average factory worker. During thatperiod, some voices raised to denounce the consequences of the Industrial Revolution like theone of Arnold Toynbee who was « an English economic Historian well known for his socialcommitment and desire to improve the living conditions of the working classes. ».(3) In Lectureson the Industrial Revolution, Arnold Toynbee qualifies the Industrial Revolution as « a period asdisastrous and terrible as any through which a nation ever passed ». However, this vision of theIndustrial Revolution can seems surprising when we are aware of the changes and progressaccomplished during this period. Consequently, we may Wonder if the Industrial Revolution,although considered as a major turning point in British history, was that beneficial for Britain andits people. As a starting point, I shall examine Arnold Toynbee‟s view on the Industrial Revolutionthat is to say a Revolution that happened to be disastrous in many ways. And finally, in order tocounter Toynbee‟s view on the Industrial Revolution, I will devote the second part of my study to aperiod of great evolution that can not be denied and from which Britain & some of its people haveundeniably benefited from.The views on the Industrial Revolution have always been divided. In fact,the idea that people hadabout all these changes were clearly influenced by the social class they came from but also thework that they had at the time. Arnold Toynbee was an English economist Historian so as far ashe was concerned, he was an intellectual aware of the problems of his time and theconsequences of the changes that occured at that time in Britain. Indeed, his opinion on theIndustrial Revolution was clearly asserted in his book Lectures on the Industrial Revolution.According to him, the Industrial Revolution was « a period as disastrous and terrible as any
through which a nation ever passed ». This view, many people shared it notably the working classbut also the local farmers who lost their job as soon as the Revolution started.Indeed, the modernization of agriculture led to the fact that less workers were needed since theintroduction of new machineries and thus, many people lost their jobs as « farmhands ». Thetransition had been even more harder. In fact, Britian shifted from a manual labour basedeconomy to an economy based on machines and manufacturing, people moved from agricultureto industries. Suddenly, labor became specialized, farmers were subjected to rules, they werepaid in wages and their entire lifestyle changed overnight.Those same former farmers either lost their job, either they entered the « factory system » andthus became factory workers. As Toynbee says, « production on a vast scale, (…) led to a rapidalienation of the classes and to the to the degradation of a large body of producers. ». Indeed,even though all these innovations led to increased productivity, the puttingout system wasgradually replaced by the factory system and the capitalist system put an end to « the homemadesystem » and thus led to unemployment of local producers.Consequently, former « home producers » became inevitably « factory workers » and enterednecessarily the working class.When Toynbee talks about the « rapid alienation of the classes », he refers to the predictibleconsequence of the unemployment that followed the introduction of new machineries, that is tosay that home workers became part of the working class and the notion of social classes becamemore and more wide spread and invevitable. In fact, people‟s relationship to economy but alsopeople‟s lifestyle at the time was clearly defined by their social class. That is why Toynbeeunderlines in his book the fact that « with a great increase of wealth was seen an enormousincrease of pauperism ». Indeed, whereas some became much more richer thanks to theIndustrial Revolution and even though the wealth of the country increased undeniably, pauperismbecame an important social matter. Like Benjamin Disraeli says in « Sybil or the Two Nations »,Britain became divided into two nations : the rich and the poor, underlining the great inequalityamong Britain society due to the Industrial Revolution. First of all, it is important to keep in mindthat because of the industrial Revolution, many people lost their jobs and became unemployed.Unemployment and « de-skilling » led to an increase of pauperism in Britain. In fact, many peoplelost everything they had when the Industrial Revolution started and then became beggar.However, workers notably factory workers were also concerned by pauperism. In fact, TheIndustrial revolution also created misery.As a matter of fact, factory workers‟ wages also decreased by the improvement of machinery.Indeed, the money they received by items decreased whereas, thanks to higher productivity,factory owners became richer. Actually, numerous were the men who earned a better living whenthey used to work individually as farmers or skilled workers.The wages‟ decrease forced the workers to live in the city centers and the slums for the poorest,and as a result, « huge number of the working class died due to diseases spreading through thecramped living conditions. ». (4) People could hope to live only until 29 years old in the 1830‟sdue to the harsh health & living conditions.Moreover, pauperism came with hard working conditions for the factory workers. In fact, thosepeople who were used to be free and organized they labor time were now subjected to harshconditions, timing and new imposed workhabits.The Industrial Revolution also led to the creation of child labour. Because times were pretty harshfor the factory workers, children were encouraged by their parents to work in the workhouses inorder to bring a wage at home. However, the working conditions were hard and children wereunderpaid. This became a major social matter too in Britain.To a larger scale, people‟s mentalities also changed with the Industrial Revolution. Indeed,people like Robert Owen who had a factory in New Lanark but who campained for factoryreformed underlined that people became selfish and obessed with wealth and climbing the social
ladder. That is the competition between the manufactures that led to the reduction of the workingclass‟ wages but also the oppression of that class of people. Economic and material interestbecame a major matter in British society at that time.Arnold Toynbee‟s social commitment toward the working classes and his deep desire to improvetheir living conditions pushed him to condemn the Industrial Revolution and to underlined all itsnegative aspects. Yet, one must recognize that objectively, the Industrial Revolution was a periodof great evolution from which Britain and a part of its people clearly benefited from and which hasindeniably changed human history forever. In fact, no one can deny the fact that the Industrial Revolution was a period of great evolution forBritain. The term evolution happens to be more appropriate to the situation since everything didnot changed overnight. The changes were numerous and touched every part of the British societyand economy. However, at some point, Britain and its people clearly benefited from all thesechanges.Innovations happened to be numerous during this period. Indeed, the water power, the steampower, the flying shuttle, the water frame, the creation of railway,the cotton indutriesetc….allthese innovations permitted to Britain to become the first industrialized country and to stay at thehead of the world for the rest of the 19th century.As a matter of fact, all these innovations brought changes in people‟s lifestyle.Urbanization was one of the main changes that occured at that time. In fact, during the IndustrialRevolution, new urban centers developed all over Britain and many people started to left thecountryside in order to find work in the manufactories. « In 1851, 50% of the population lived incities. Fifty years later, 77% of the population lived in the cities, in London as well as other bigcities like Manchester». (5)Those cities turned out to be full due to the improvement in agriculture. In fact, thanks to theagregarian revolution, increased food production was made possible and people were better fed.Consequently, the number of people increased. In fact, « in 1695, the population of England andWales was 5,2 million. In 1861, the population increased significantly up to 20,1 million.» (6)Futhermore, one of the major apects of the Industrial Revolution is that it created national wealthand prosperity for the country. In fact, Britain became known as « the workshop of the world ».The creation of road connexions led to a « boom » in the industries which led to imperialexpension and so forth to an expansion of British domination over its colonies but also the world.Industries and trade became more and more important whereas agriculture decreasedsignificantly since it became less profitable to Britain.Consequently, the Industrial Revolution created a feeling of pride among the British population.Indeed, the Industrial Revolution was seen as a great sign of power since Britain has been thefirst country to be industrialized. All these changes and innovations were seen as signs of social& economic progress. This superiority was shown in exhibition like the Great Exhibition of theWorks of Industry of all Nations that took place in London in 1851. However, the IndustrialRevolution seen as a sign of economic but also social progress was specific to the elite‟s view.Obviously, the working class did not shared the same opinion on the subject.Moreover, the Industrial Revolution created a new class structure. Indeed, « by the end of theeighteenth century, some families had made huge private fortunes » (7) and a new class ofpeople appeared : the middle class. The economic but also political power of the aristocracybecame challanged by this new class of people. Indeed, the middle class could vote thanks to theGreat Reform Act. People from the middle class earned their living from profits. They lived onsuburbs, were factory owners, doctors or even lawyers. The main difference with the workingclass was that even though those people used to work, « they were engaged in intelectual work
rather than manual work like the factory workers» (8). The „labor aristocracy‟ was also « born »during the Industrial Revolution.Consequently, this new class of people created a new consumer culture in Britain. Indeed, at thattime, Brtiain became a nation of shopkeepers, recognized as the greatest place ever forshopping. New consumers emerged during this period : the middling sort. In fact, consumptionwas not restricted to the aristocracy only. The power of the landed aristocracy tended to decreasewhereas the power of trade and people who made their money through trade increased. The elitewas worried about this new consumption because it turned out to be more and more difficult tomake the difference between both, people coming from the aristocracy and the middle class. Whatever one might say or think about this period, it is important to keep in mind that theIndustrial Revolution stays a major turning point in British history but also in the human historysince Britain‟s Industrial Revolution influenced the rest of the world. It is clear that this period hasnot been advantagous for everyone and in every aspects especially for the working class whohas suffered greatly from the Industrial Revolution. Indeed, the changes that occured turned outto be pretty rude for this class of people. However, thanks to people like Arnold Toynbee but alsoRobert Owen who raised their voices against such injustice, the conditions of the working classhad been improved little by little notably through the establishment of Unions. Yet, one can notdeny that the Industrial Revolution brought a lot of beneficial changes and contributed to themodernity of our present world. Each important changes in our history has brought its lot of goodthings and bad things and the Industrial Revolution as a huge turning point in History brought itslot too. Goods things often happens with bad things especially with phenomena of this scale.When some win, some other have to lose, not everyone can benefit from the situation or thechanges that occur, it‟s the unfair nature‟s way.References : 1. Academic Press Dictionary of Science and Technology 2. Oxford English Dictionary, definition « revolution » 3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_Toynbee 4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution#Standards_of_living 5. Cours du 28/01/2011 « II/ Demography and Urbanization » 6. Source : B.R Mitchell and P Deanne, Abstract of British Historucal Statistics, Cambridge Univerisity Press, 1962, p6-7, 1867 London 7. « Industrial Revolution », An Illustarted History of Britain, David McDowann, p 121 Longman édition 8. Cours du 04/02/2011 « The Middle Class » + Usage de mes cours du premier semestre sur le 18eme siècle et son contexte.