Essay by 3rd Form pupil, Elena Kelsall
The Industrial Revolution was hugely beneficial for the British people 1750 – 1900. Do You agree?
The Industrial Revolution was a period of mass industrialisation from 1750 to 1900. There were massive shifts in the main industry in the UK. Before the Industrial Revolution 80% of people lived in the countryside as farmers and 20% of people lived in the city’s, during the Industrial Revolution those figures swapped due to the substantial increase of jobs in the cities. There were many positives and negatives to the Industrial Revolution. Whether the positives, for the people of that time, outweighed the negatives is an ongoing debate. There were many changes made during the Industrial Revolution and not all were for the best.
A major new feature in the city’s skyscapes were factories and mines. They dominated the skyline and played a key part in the Industrialisation of Great Britain. The new factories could mass produce goods such as cloth and car parts at a much faster rate and for a lot less money. Because these items costed less to make, they costed less to buy. This in turn meant that more people on Britain could afford to have items they couldn’t have beforehand. There was a lot more economic freedom in the UK which sparked the Revolution, this freedom inspired entrepreneurs to experiment and invent. For lots of the entrepreneurs, this was how they made their name. The Industrial Revolution meant that factory owners got richer, as did the entrepreneurs. Due to the invention of cars, canals and steamboats, good and materials were getting around the country at far quicker than they had done before. Some factory owners were genuinely nice to their employees, such as Robert Owen. He gave is workers payed holidays, homes, and schooling before it was law, even to adults. He worked with his employees to combat alcoholism and abuse. The large majority of factories provided food for their employees who would not otherwise be able to feed themselves. The fact that they did not have to buy food meant that they could save up and spent their money on things like holidays, clothes and homes. The mines provided the fuel to the Industrial Revolution both metaphorically and literally. Coal was essential to powering machinery and was a resource that was plentiful in the UK. The growing demand for coal provided jobs for more people as the mines got bigger. The mine owners also got extraordinarily rich for coal was so important, it was known as black gold. It was these rich factory and mine owners that boosted the economy and made Britain a world power.
There were, however, several negatives too. Factory owners like Robert Owen were a rarity and the majority of owners cared little for their employees who where little more then slaves. Workers had very few breaks and no protective equipment. The owners could be as beastly as they wanted to their workers and there were countless reports of cruelty towards men, women, and children. Lots of the workers developed lung problems as a result of the pollution and smoke in the air. Young children had no hope of being able to get a job anywhere else because of the fact that they had no education. There were no laws around the way employees were treated until the factory acts of 1833 and 1847. In some ways, the conditions were even worse for the miners. They had to go down onto pitch black holes and because of the rise in demand for coal, the mine shafts were getting deeper and deeper. There were multiple safety hazards and collapsing mine tunnels and poisonous gas build ups were a common occurrence. Children as young as 6 were sent into mines. There was no policing in the mines until the mine act of 1842.
There was a dramatic change in the public health during the industrial revolution. Doctors were sent to monitor health under a scheme run by a man called Chadwick. There was a rise in awareness of killer diseases such as Cholera. Later on in the industrial revolution a man called Dr Snow discovered the cause of Cholera and how minor changes could slow the spread around a town thus saving thousands of lives. There was a raised awareness of general hygiene which had, until this point, has been unbelievably bad. A new sewer system was put in place which stopped water from becoming contaminated and full of bacteria. This led to fewer cases of typhoid and other horrible diseases. Cholera was declared officially eradicated in 1866 and there was the beginning of a cure and vaccine for smallpox which was eradicated just after the end of the Revolution. The air became cleaner and more nurses were being employed. This created both jobs and a healthier and more able population.
Before all of the major positive health changes were made, public health was dreadful. The average age of death was just 30 and 142 out of 1000 (14.2%) children died before they became adults. There were more child deaths then adult deaths in the early parts of the Revolution. There were reports of coffin makers being overloaded with orders, there were so many that they couldn’t make them fast enough there was a large amount of wate on the streets however, the initially poor public health did improve drastically.
In conclusion, I believe that although working conditions in factories and mines were bad and public health was bad to begin with, when you consider the positives, it changed the lives of the people in Great Britain for the better. The massive advances in medicine, the boost to the economy and the fact that it made Britain a world power positively effected the lives of the majority of the population. Ordinary peoples lives got better due to higher wages and longer life expectancy.