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The Effects Of The Industrial Revolution On The Family Essay, Research Paper

In the last part of the eighteenth century, a new revolution was formed and gave birth to a new standard of living. It shaped the world into what people of “today” are familiar with. This major occurrence of the late eighteenth century is known as the industrial revolution. It first began in Great Britain, which was the biggest empire in Europe at the time. The industrial revolution brought many positive aspects to society but it also brought suffering, dissonance, and other social problems. In order for machine efficiency to be carried out, the machines needed to have people running, powering, and keeping them in tip top shape. As a result of this, working people faced many hard economic and societal times that became problems in their every day life. The family was forever changed as a result of the industrial revolution and because of this people’s lives were affected for the greater part of the nineteenth century. Life generally improved, but the industrial revolution also proved harmful to the essence of the family.

The Industrial revolution was a time of drastic change and transformation from hand tools, and hand made items to machine manufactured and mass-produced goods. This change generally helped life, but also hindered it as well. Pollution, such as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rose, working conditions declined, and the number of women and children joining the ever-growing workforce increased. The government, literature, music, architecture, and man’s way of looking at life all changed during this period. Prior to the industrial revolution people worked at home, on farms, or with trade guilds while children, once they were old enough, would help their family out with the chores that needed to be done. In fact, it was not uncommon for people to be born, grow up and died in roughly the same geographical areas. With the construction of the railway, people were able to move from their small towns to the more urbanized areas of the country. When they arrived they found out that life was much different from what they were normally use to. The cities continued to grow in size at a rapid pace. Unable to keep up with the growing population as a result of urbanization, people found a lack for housing, good sanitation, or recreational facilities available. This added more misery to the working classes that did not have all that much to begin with. Living in the city was very different from what people from countryside were use to. Homes took the shape of small unsanitary places that were squashed between many other houses with similar characteristics. Most of these homes had only one room for a whole family to live in. Living conditions were indeed terrible but working conditions were much worse.

The Industrial Revolution changed manufacturing by changing the way people worked. For one thing, it brought work out of the home and centralized it in the factory facilities of places like London. Trades men were no longer needed because the introduction of machinery took these jobs away from the common working class person. Instead, the working class had to make a living by fueling, cleaning or operating the machines which became a grueling job. This change didn’t just affect men but the entire household. Since materials were cheaper to produce that meant that they were sold for a lower price, which in turn made the wage of the working class much smaller. In order to compensate for the loss of earnings everyone in the household once old enough were also sent to work at the major textile mills and refineries in order to make an income that they could contribute to the family. Eventually, the entire family consisting of man, woman, and child plodded off to work to do the same jobs. Children were especially liked because their hands were small enough to fit into the machines, which got stuck or needed cleaning on a regular basis. Unfortunately, some children suffered the loss of arms or fingers due to the machinery and there was nothing parents could really do about it.

Factory work during the industrial revolution also affected the family’s personal time, as people would be forced to work their entire day everyday in order to put food on the table. The average worker usually started at six in the morning and went late into the evening with only: a half hour for breakfast and tea, and an hour for dinner. This proved detrimental as each member of the family would be placed in different locations in the factory and would not see each other for the duration of the day. Unlike today, where people interact with their families on a fairly regular basis, if not daily, the definition of the family in the latter 19th century was changing. This would of course be a somewhat of a culture shock for county folk who were used to the isolation of family farms or small businesses and were now faced with the over shadowing of industrialized industry.

Before industrialization, the family was the basic social unit. Most families were rural, large, and self-sustaining; they produced and processed almost everything that was needed for their own support and for trading in the marketplace. Basically, families were self-sufficient. In these pre-industrial families women had a lot to do and their time was almost entirely absorbed by household tasks. Under industrialization the household was no longer the focus of production as the production for the marketplace as well as sustenance had been removed. New industrialized families became smaller after the move from rural centers of employment to urban ones. The number of social functions they performed was reduced until almost all that remained was consumption, and the socialization of small children. As the family’s functions diminished, families became secondary to work and the social bonds that had held them together before the revolution were loosened. In these post-industrial families women had very little to do, and the tasks with which they filled their time lost the significance that they once possessed. In fact, the woman’s role became equal to a man’s but only because both parents needed to work the same bone grinding labor in order to provide for the family.

Child labor became another substantial issue of the revolution. Children were now working alongside their parents and heavy-duty machinery while carrying out the same duties. Due to the lack of money that the family could generate, children had no choice but to work at the factories for as many hours as their parents. This was only carried out in aid of the family’s well being. There were no other alternatives for teenagers to provide income as the only other viable options included prostitution and poor relief. It was thought that children would adapt more quickly to using the machines in the factories than adults would. Unfortunately this meant that children were deprived of proper schooling, if any at all, and what was probably the most important, their health. As a result of this type of labor the English government created child labor laws. It was eventually passed in London’s house of commons stating that; no child working in a factory would be aloud to work more than eight hours a day in any factory. Not everyone one abided by this law since families needed money in order to survive and factory owners wanted more productivity. Uneducated adults were the result of children working in factories doing the same job everyday without any schooling. Adam Smith agrees by saying:

The man whose whole life spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects too are, perhaps, always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding, or to exercise invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become.

This is a good example of why children should have been educated instead of being sent to work as soon as it was possible for them to do so. In short, factory work would give rise to a mind numbing intelligence among workers. Workers became bogged down in the mindless operations of their work place, an aspect that hurt family life greatly.

The common worker also faced compromise from the British government as the Ten Hour Bill was also passed. This bill stated that no one worker could exceed a ten hour shift. These limitations were put in place in order to regulate the major factories and their owners, but it also may have had some other effects. These laws were also very beneficial to the family unit. More time was given to the family and the decrease in hours that they had to work, at first sounded promising. But, family income greatly outweighed family time during the revolution and many families disregarded the laws in order to gain more financially. Factory Inspectors were also added to the fight against poor working conditions but they did little to keep the laws in place. Most turned their heads in order to please factory owners and obviously their presence could not be visible all of the time. The laws passed by the British government were not as effective as they could have been and again the family as a whole suffered the consequences.

In addition to making it hard on the working class, the industrial revolution also allowed a new type of working class to be born. The industrial revolution gave birth to a class that did not have any power or authority and were not associated with nobility. They were regular people that were able to get factories started at the birth of the revolution. By creating these factories these people were able to remove themselves from the common day working class. This new working class did not have to do the hard pain staking work that the lower class did but were able to produce money in order to “walk” among the upper classes. This class was soon referred to as the middle class and this rise became a major factor during the industrial revolution. The middle classes were the people who controlled the workers and their duties inside the factories. They were able to capitalize on the exploitation of the lower working class and made it hard for the aristocracy to keep on making profit off of the lower working class.

By accusing the aristocracy (landowners) of idle consumption and dissipation of national wealth, which the middle class (businessmen) had obtained, allowed the middle class to protect themselves from aristocracy who had control over land and money in their society. The middle class was now competing with the upper classes and winning. They had more control over the working class and were able to justify exploiting them, while at the same time hurting the aristocracy credibility. This has proven to be a very valuable commodity in itself, as the rise of the middle class allowed more people to control their own destiny, a concept that was non-existent to the common worker. This also had a great effect on the start of the 20th century as it gave room for new inventions and other products to be developed at the start of it

The Industrial revolution changed life for many families and classes. People had trouble trying to survive in a time where working like a dog for low wages did not amount to much. Plus, the fact that workers were exploited by any means necessary just so the bigger guy could make the money was also harmful to the lower classes. There were those few people who fought for the workingman in order to accomplish the greater good, namely Adam Smith, but most of the time their efforts were futile. The Industrial Revolution has had far more impact on the world than the political revolutions of the era, because the Industrial Revolution affects on society and the family were longer lasting. The Industrial Revolution was a harsh period in time and these people endured so much pain and hardship, yet throughout it all, they managed to pull through and never give up. The family was greatly affected, but without the hard times that families of the industrial revolution went through, present society might not be in the same league as it is today. Modern society possibly owes a lot to those who lived through the industrial revolution not only in Great Britain but throughout the rest of Europe as well.

1) Kriedte, Peter. Industrialization before Industrialization. Cambridge, UK: University of Cambridge Press, 1977.

2) Muller, Jerry. Adam Smith In His Time And Ours. New York: The Free press (Division of Macmillan), 1993.

3) Perry, Marvin Peden, Joseph R. Von Laue, Theodore H. Sources of Western Tradition: From the Renaissance to the Present v.2. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996.

4) Evans, Eric J. The Forging of The Modern State: Early industrial Britain 1783-1870. New York: Longman Group Limited, 1983.

5) Aron, Raymond. 18 Lectures on Industrial Society. Letchworth, Hertfordshire: The Garden City Press Limited, 1967.

6) Sylla, Richard Toniolo, Gianni. Patterns of European Industrialization: The nineteenth century. New York: Routledge, 1991.

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