Farms to Factories: The Industrial RevolutionThe beginning of the 19th century saw the economic and technological changes taking place in Western countries. The Enclosure movement and the British Agricultural Revolution created an abundant supply of food (which was labor intensive) both in the cities and rural areas.
The surplus decreased the overall demand for food, forcing rural populations to work in the cottage industry. Unskilled workers, who were not fit into weaving, entered the newly developed factories to work as laborers.
This increase in the number of laborers was the result of the marginal increase of capital; that is, as more and more colonies were managed by countries, for example, Great Britain, the amount of capital accumulated increased, thus increasing the demand for labor.This rural to urban migration of workers was essentially aided by new innovations that made the factory system more efficient.
In 1769, Samuel Compton invented the Spinning Mule (combination of the Spinning Jenny and the Water Frame), a device that rapidly manufactures textiles and other related products.
In 1780, the genius, James Watt presented an improved steam engine. This steam engine could be utilized in two ways: 1) as a transport engine for optimizing trade and travel, and 2) as replacement for coal (which was more expensive) in factories.The Industrial Revolution has not without grave consequences.
Craftsmen, or those people who specialized in crafts, began to lose their potential clients in the city. Suppliers of textile products preferred the factory system because of its relative efficiency (compared to that of the craftsmen). In 1764, an attempt of craftsmen to force the British parliament to limit the production of factories failed miserably. They were accused of deliberately destroying the economy.
One parliamentary delegate called them “relic of the past.” These skilled workers began to move into the cities to find new means of livelihood. They ended operating factory machineries, or at worse, as personal servants of the factory owners. Their skill as craftsmen deteriorated and traditional production became the symbol of the upper classes (who fed on the labor of the working class).
It is said that the Industrial Revolution abolished slavery. This is essentially true. The need for slave labor decreased significantly when machines were proven to be five or ten times more efficient than slaves. At the beginning of the 19th century, the British parliament, with its commitment to freedom abolished slavery from the British Empire.
The former slaves became the unskilled laborers of the factory system. They were poorly paid. Ventilation in the factories was at its worst. The amount of time spent for work was about 16 hours a day.
They lived in small, dirty dwellings beside their place of work. Sanitation was bad. In essence, the whole life of the former slave was never better than the life of a slave). Karl Marx, a German philosopher, called the factory system “the death coil of the common people.
”The ChangeIn the middle of the 19th century, factories employed a large number of young women from the New England district. These women were paid poorly and treated harshly by the factory managers. Most of these women worked in factories to increase their financial/ economic independence. In 1834, factory owners decided to reduce the wages of these workers in order to create capital surplus.
The women workers reacted quickly. They argued that the reduction in the wage was an attempt of the factory owners to make the women completely dependent on the factory system. Although the strike failed, this served as the primordial model of the other class of workers to forward their grievances both to the government and the factory owners. ReferenceHunter, Tera and David Montgomery.
2003. A History of Hope. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.
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