Written by the editors at Bamfacts - Jan 30th, 2017
The Industrial Revolution was the period of industrialization in central Europe and the US.
It started through the effort of companies to produce/sell more products at a price as cheap as possible, in order to adjust sales to the high demand of the rapidly growing English population.
The Industrial Revolution started in the 1760s in England, a time when malnutrition was widespread among the average English (and entire European) population, and there were very few things that people owned and could afford.
How the Industrial Revolution started
The Industrial Revolution was triggered by a massive population growth (explained below in facts labeled with numbers 1 - 7).
1. In early 18th century England, the majority of the English population lived in rural areas away from cities.
2. Most of these people were families who owned farms. Farms were a great way to make enough money to financially support a family, as they were the primary source of food in England.
3. However, growing/harvesting crops was never an easy task, requiring a lot of time and hard work. Therefore, food that came from farms was never cheap, nor in great enough quantities to feed an entire country.
4. Parents needed to be able to heir their possessions and, most importantly, their land to their kids, but as diseases and malnutrition often guaranteed the early death of children, families had multiple children (e.x 6), to ensure that there would be someone to inherit their land.
5. But with rapid improvements in agricultural techniques around the early 18th century, food production started to become more efficient, leading to food prices falling. This meant that people could be fed better, and malnutrition started to decrease.
6. This led to more children surviving their early years, and as the time came to inherit the land of their parents, the following problem emerged:
if two children survived out of (for example) six (most commonly one or two survived), then the inherited land was split in two, but if five or six survived long enough, the inherited land was divided into fifths or sixths, and while a half might've been enough land to earn enough money for a family, a sixth would have been way too small.
7. This led to the younger siblings having no choice but to sell their inherited land to their older siblings, and with no work on the land, they moved into the city to seek jobs, and as a result, cities quickly became occupied with younger people.
Since a bigger population meant a bigger market to sell products to, businessmen found it logical to invest in factories and production techniques. Machines started to assist or replace human labor in factories, and the prices of products fell drastically.
The falling of product prices led to a bigger availability of the products themselves. This resulted in improvements in the standard of life of the average person.
EXAMPLE: The price of spoons marginally decreased, which led to more spoons being bought and produced, hence, bringing enough spoons on the market for everyone to buy at a cheap enough price (now everyone can have a spoon! Hooray!).
Subsequently, a rising population allowed for factories and businesses to thrive, which in terms led to more factories being opened, creating more jobs for a population looking for work in the first place.
The success that business owners and companies experienced formed capitalist thinking, and the logic of investing. If a factory owner invests in more efficient machines, the production price of the given product will lower, and they could make more money selling their product.
Or, if a factory owner pays their employees less, then they would lose less money on worker expenses, allowing them to collect the money made from savings for themselves or for the company.
Working and living standards of the working class
The working class is the branch of people performing manual labor as work (for example, factory workers during the Industrial Revolution).
As the domination of machines in factories was a new approach to manufacturing, there were no established regulations regarding the safety of workers and what could be and couldn't be considered humane working conditions.
This allowed factory owners to force workers to take extra long shifts, surrounded by dangerous machines and chemicals, all without any legal consequences. Simply put, factory owners invested in machines, but not in the people they employed.
Shifts took 12 to 14 hours (Sometimes even 16 hours), usually six to seven days a week (the two day weekend was implemented in the 1800s). Work on the farm also took around 12 hours, but farmers were used to developing their own working schedule.
Workers were forced to repetitively complete the same, sometimes dangerous task under the loud noise that machines made (steam powered machines were particularly hot and noisy), while strictly supervised. In later years, when light bulbs and electricity became an accessible resource (1880s), shifts became even longer, as workers didn't rely on natural lighting to see.
It was uncommon for workers to ask their employers for higher pay, with the reason being that the jobs of factory workers consisted only of manual labor, which in most cases required little to no skill. This meant that someone requesting higher pay could easily be replaced by someone willing to work for a lower wage.
For the same reason, employees had to work at maximum efficiency and minimal wage, or be replaced, ultimately leading to workers working for unjustifiable pay.
Whereas businessmen made tons of money through their factories/companies, the working class, often lived in slums or shanty towns.
The living quarters of factory workers were often built next to the factories they worked for, by the factory owners themselves. The factory owners were often aiming to squeeze every penny out of their business, and while a few built decent housing for their workers, in most cases, these living quarters were of horrible condition, built as cheap as possible.
People had to live close together, and lack of basic hygiene allowed for disease to infect large areas.
Slums were built next to factories, meaning that workers were constantly exposed to the polluted air (coming from the factories they were next to).
Women were paid significantly less (this varied by factory) for doing the same job that men did. This did vary by job. For some jobs, like lifting heavy weights, men were better suited, however, other jobs were done just as well by men as women, still paid less for women, as gender equality was a thing of the future.
Children were often employed in factories, as they could fit between machinery to perform tasks, which adults were physically unable to do.
Children were also cheaper to employ. They didn't complain or resist, but listened and obeyed orders. They could also be paid less than an adult.
Sometimes, children were forced to go to work by their parents, who didn't earn enough money.
It was common for children as young as six to be working in factories (This changed with the implementation of the Factory Act of 1833. See below).
Orphans were also commonly hired by factory owners in return for food and shelter. The shelter was the factory,
and if children wanted to stay, they would have to work.
Disciplanery action was ordinary. Children who misbehaved were often harshly beaten.
This is why children obeyed and never rebelled or protested. They simply couldn't defend themselves like an adult.
Factory Act of 1833
In the early 1830s, the British Parliament started to worry that if children spent the majority of their time in a factory, and not in school,
then they would grow up uneducated, and a future generation of adults would end up being illiterate.
This is why it started passing acts restricting the working times of children. However, there was nobody to inspect factories to see if they were violating any parts of these acts. This is why these acts were largely ineffective.
However, this changed with the factory act of 1833, which unlike previous acts, assigned four inspectors to check on factories.
The Factory Act of 1833 stated that:
-children between 13 to 18 years old could work no longer than 12 hours a day
-children between 9 to 13 years old could work no longer than 8 hours a day, with a maximum working time of 48 hours a week
-children under 9 years couldn't work at all
-children had to attend school for at least two hours a day
-children couldn't work at night at all
The Factory Act of 1833 was a major milestone in eradicating child labor, however, four people had a hard time inspecting 4,000 production establishments. Thus, many factory owners got away with breaking the law.
Nevertheless, more acts and restrictions followed the Factory Act of 1833. Most importantly, the act paved the way for more inspectors to enforce the laws among factories, a thing which was crucial to the eventual eradication of child labor in England.