The Industrial Revolution | Teen Ink

The Industrial Revolution

January 13, 2008
By Anonymous

The time period of the 1700's to the 1800's held the distinction of being known as the Industrial Revolution. By some accounts it was a time of great suffering for those who toiled in the factories, and by other sources, it was just like any other occupation at the time. Based on the overwhelming amount of negative evidence, it is obvious that these insinuations of cruelty inflicted upon these unfortunate souls was real, and that the time of so called progress was just a front for a greater cruelty going on behind the doors of these factories.

Firstly, remarks from former Prime Minister Disraeli in Document 1 provides a view of factory life to be not entirely impossible, but brings to attention the crushing isolation and solitude to which children as young as four or five were subjected to daily. He does not mention any notions of beating the workers, but seems to believe that isolation is the worst torture of all. As a former Prince Minister, Disraeli was to know the plight of the people he was elected by, but the fact remains that as a member of Parliament, he was probably not working in a factory, and therefore, would not know the full extent of the conditions the working class was forced to endure, and as such, would only be able to go on what he heard. In the same medium ground set of mind was Fredrich Engels of Document 5, though his thoughts centered on women in the workforce. His beliefs were that women were better off at home with the children, instead of working. While some of his points, especially the ones centered on the newborn child and its working mother were grounded in fact and truth, the basic point of the matter is that he was a man, and he did not work in a factory, so he would not know about the conditions either. It must also be established that Engels came from a family who owned a factory, and this writing could be nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to get back at them by attacking their means of business.

Voicing the darker side of factory life, there is a piece of evidence pertaining to what went on behind the scenes in a testimony to the Sadler Committee in Document 2. The transcript from a child laborer speaks of how he had to work sixteen hours from the age of six, only had a lunch break of forty minutes on the best of days, and had to fear beatings if he was too slow in his work. Since the young boy testifying actually worked in a factory, lived in these conditions and worked those long hours, it is safe to say that he was not making this up, and the state of the factory truly was as terrible as it sounded. A factory worker at this young age would have no real agenda to bring down the company, so the words he spoke were the truth. Joining this field of realizing the squalid conditions is again, a Mr. Fredrich Engels in 1844 within the confines of Document 7. Now he is focusing on the factories themselves and on their conditions for workers. He stated that the situation is actually worse than what has been described, calling it a hell upon earth, and that it is all because of the Industrial Revolution. Again, his anger and resentment of his family may have caused him to write this, but this time it is possible he is speaking out of the most honest truth about the horrible conditions existing in these work spaces. His credibility, however, is still somewhat limited because he did not work in one of these facilities, so he would now know the full effects on the worker to work in a place as bad as this. What he has said, however, clearly illustrates that working conditions were not nearly up to par with what they should have been and therefore, at least had some truth in his writing.

Following up with showing the dark half of the Industrial Revolution is a letter written by Robert Southey as part of Document 8. In his letter, Southey states that children as young as seven or eight are sent to work without rest for long hours. His disgust with this practice even leads to a comparison to Dante and his idea of the underworld, a bit dramatic but true to the point he was trying to get at. In stating how really bad it was for the worker in this letter, he shows the depths of inconsideration for child laborers; they were only given an hour of schooling after working long hours to supposedly help them in the future, and that was it. While he may have reported what he said and heard, as well as showing a darker side to society, in all truth, he was not the one working the factory and therefore, can only go by his observations. These views, however, seem to show that conditions were awful for the workers, especially for young children, and all because of the factory system established by the Industrial Revolution. Along with Southey's letter to state the condition of workers, a report in document 9 shows the most common causes of death in a coal mine. Most deaths for children under thirteen were from gas explosions and injuries in the coal pits, while the older workers contended with being run over by tram wagons and drowning. In all, there were over 300 deaths total during the period of time in which the report was written. From this alone, it shows that it was dangerous for workers anywhere, but especially in these mines. The fact they even had to create a table on the most common causes of death leads one to assume that there were even more deaths before this, and that someone finally noticed it. From that alone, it shows that it was pretty bad to work in the mines, which probably caused stress and sickness on the workers. Finally, judging by the number of people who died, either the owners had nothing they could do or just simply did not care, basically stating that the suffering went unfixed and continued on for quite a while.

Besides those who thought that the Industrial Revolution brought only trouble for those who worked in them, there were a few people who actually believed that these factories and other areas of work were actually good for the workers. A report for the Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Good Comfort of the Poor in Document 6 has nothing but praise for factory owner Mr. Dale and his factory's condition. From what was stated, especially of special regulations passed to make it safer for workers, it actually looks like people cared about these employees. It may be that the owner was one of the few who actually cared a wit about his workers, or maybe because of how it early was since this dates back to 1797, the time and person may have been different then and this was a special case. Of course, it could be possible that the factory was cleaned up and people were acting, but from reading it, it almost seems like it was a good place to live and work in, so in at least this area, it was not the worst thing in the world for the British working class to be employed at. Going along with a nice boss and good conditions is a statement from Leon Faucher in Document 4. From what he has seen in the town of Hyde, it seems like working for the Ashton bothers was actually beneficial to people. It was clean and orderly, and there were even houses built for the workers at which they could rent at a low price for the time, it seems like a pretty great place to work. Now, it could be that again, this was just a face value, but it is possible that the Ashton brothers were actually concerned for the people who put in hours for them and actually tried to make their lives ok. Stranger things have happened, so the nice condition of the factory village may be one of the few rare cases of kindness and equality to the workers in the normally bleak time of employee mistreatment during the Industrial Revolution.

There were more documents that cast the time period in a positive light, but they seemed tinged with the idea of an agenda to deal with, and may have been written for more personal reasons. The most obvious case of this was in document 10, where a factory worker reports on a slight reduction of hours in work at his factory around 1845. He is happy that the decrease from twelve hours to eleven still produces the same amount of yarn and cloth as the original hour did, and is considering putting it down to ten and a half hours. Besides the basic fact he is the owner and probably wouldn't say something along the lines of his factory being a rotting cesspool of torment and misery, he considers giving them one less hour of work to be some great charitable sacrifice. Maybe if he put it down to eight hours from twelve it would be more of a sacrifice to him for the good of the workers, but from twelve to eleven there is not much difference. The source comes from the basic problem of the factory, the uncaring owner, so why should he be trusted to tell the truth about the condition for his workers, he would not want to make his factory look bad, so he would lie, as he obviously did. This was basically a way to try and make him seem more humane, while in fact he kept them in a little less and made them work just as hard. The last source goes along with this, an article from the Philosophy of Manufactures in Document 3. Mr. Andrew Ure, the writer, states that in visiting many factories, he only saw good things to say about the factory conditions ,especially for children, and even goes on to say that it would be better if all children were employed in modern factories rather than left at home in damp apartments. Firstly, he was writing about philosophy, meaning the statement and not the actual work. He just observed and wrote what he thought was the spirit of manufacturing, and plus, when he came the children could have been told to act like that as to not rouse suspicion. The most alarming thing though, is the very fact he states that all children would be better off in factories, when it was well known that the time that those were horrible places for anyone to work, much less young people. Mr. Ure has no idea what he is talking about because of the fact he was just observing, and did not work in a factory, and therefore, he did not know the true conditions, and just saw a bit, so his credibility on the suffering of the workers is very little.

The Industrial Revolution was a time of great progress and change in England. While for some it was a prosperous time, for most of the country, the working class in particular, it was a time of great suffering and misery. While some people stated that some places were good to work in, and some were in the middle ground, the main thought of the time was that these places were horrible buildings in which to work in, whether one was an adult now used to how it was in factories, or a young child just stepping into one to work for the first time. Truly, based on these documents and the overwhelming thought at the time, it can be assumed that truly, the time from 1700-1800 was built on suffering and misery, and that the so-called Industrial Revolution was nothing more than legal human torture.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.