The Industrial Revolution brought about many changes to European countries in the 18th century. Advancements in science, technology, and engineering improved living conditions across a widespread area, inducing a population increase of millions.
From 1750-1800, the English population grew from 6 to 9 million, and the French population grew from 19 to 26 million. Stricter sanitation decreased the amount of disease drastically. Food became cheaper due to increased purchases. Items once considered luxuries became necessities. Sugar, chocolate, coffee, tea, and furs became household items instead of extravagances only the very wealthy could afford. Even the poor were able to afford new vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, and cotton and linen clothing.
The increase in population also brought about a demand for an increase in goods. In order to meet the needs of the countries, vendors, store owners, and merchants were forced into large-scale production of their merchandise. The creation of factories came about as retailers struggled to meet the requirements of the masses surrounding them. The formation of power-driven machinery was launched in order to compete with others. The machinery turned out products by the thousands or even millions depending on the needs of the country. The first factories were relatively small in scale, but there were also large employers who had a few thousand.
The factory system destroyed the great majority of old hand trades because the desire for handcrafted materials decreased due to the expense and slow creation process. Some farmers abandoned their farming and began working at factories for low wages. The Industrial Revolution brought about a new way of distributing goods, making production quicker, more efficient, and cost-effective.
All people thought that the advancements created a better environment around them, but workers in factories were frequently plagued by ailments received while working in dangerous conditions that came with the job. People may say that the Industrial Revolution was a great time in history where living conditions were better for all, but in actuality, many became unhealthy because of unpleasant working conditions. In effect, the Revolution did more harm than it did help. School children were taught that they were to keep busy in their work because of the consequences facing them in the lines of a simple school hymn which says, In works of labour or of skill, I would be busy too; For Satan finds some mischief for idle hands to do” (Isaac Watts, Divine and Moral Songs for Children, 1869). This document is very reliable not only because an author and date are provided but also because it is probably widely known throughout England since it is a hymn taught to the children of the middle class. Workers during the Industrial Revolution often felt overworked because of the long, stressful hours placed upon them by their employers.
A Manchester spinner explains that they are locked up in factories eight stories high. The workers have no relaxation until the ponderous engine stops, and then they go home to get refreshed for the next day. They have no time for sweet association with their families; they are all fatigued and exhausted. (Black Dwarf, 1818) This document highlights good points surrounding the overworking of the workers. However, since there is no name, the reliability of the document is greatly decreased. There was a great deal of back-breaking work that workers were forced to do during continuous and strenuous hours. This did not happen during the whole period of industrialization but began with the introduction of machines such as the steam engine, as explained by the spinner. They say that when steam engines were incorporated, workmen lost their power over their labor, implying that they needed to keep up with the machine’s pace instead of their own.
Not only did factory workers feel overworked, but many other occupations also felt the strain of unending hours. A miner in Germany explained, My forehead burns like fire…when it becomes unbearable, I stop my slow, energyless working.” This document is highly unreliable because it lacks a citation of its source.
It also lacks a specific date. We were given the timing of this excerpt as early in the twentieth century. Both documents display objection to the long hours put in by workers, but they may have a reason to distort information.