The Industrial Revolution in Victorian England was a period of time in history when new inventions and technology changed the way people lived and worked. It impacted how they communicated, the way products were manufactured, and created new forms of cheaper and faster transportation. Innovations resulted in changes that were previously unheard of. The invention of the steam engine revolutionized the way people and things were transported. Manufacturers were able to ship their goods more quickly by rail and reduce their expenses.
Railroads allowed people to travel faster and farther than in the past.
The Industrial Revolution created new sources of employment, with mills and factories attracting labor from farms to cities (Victorian Web). Manufacturing created new jobs but also contributed to the pollution and overcrowding in cities where factories were located. The development of Morse Code by Samuel Morse in 1837, allowed soldiers to send messages more quickly, and revise their battle plans based on this communication. The invention of the typewriter changed how people were educated.
Textbooks became available to more students, and professors were now able to produce their own written materials.
The steam engine led to new factories being built with improved manufacturing processes. Pasteurization killed bacteria and made food safer. Inventions played a major role in the development of Victorian England’s way of life by influencing where people lived and worked how people and products were transported, availability of education, and their quality of life. Queen Victorian ruled England from 1837-1901, and this time was known as the Victorian era. During her rule she was responsible for England becoming a more prosperous nation.
She was the driving force that led England into a new era of technology and manufacturing. What exactly was the Industrial Revolution? “The Industrial Revolution marks the most fundamental transformation of human life in the history of the world recorded in written document” (Sakolsky 4). Before the Industrial Revolution, manufacturers found it hard to produce large quantities of goods quickly or cheaply. New technology, such as the steam engine, allowed factories to use machines, which could take the place of workers. The machines produced goods faster and cheaper than the workers they replaced.
This translated into higher profits for the factory owners. The growth in factories also led to a shift in the labor force as people left farms and moved to cities looking for manufacturing jobs and higher wages. In Victorian England, the population was growing rapidly which led to increases in the production of goods and services to meet their needs. “Between 1680 and 1820, the ‘long’ eighteenth century England’s Population grew by 133 percent”(Brown 34). Also, “during the eighteenth century life expectancy rose from 32 years to 39 years, an increase of a little over 20 percent” (Brown 36).
The growth in population required innovations that would provide for a new generation of people. One reason that the population spiked so sharply was because of the Great Potato Famine in Ireland. During this time, the main food that the Irish relied on, potatoes, became diseased and many people starved to death. Because of this, many Irish settlers immigrated to England. New “manufactories” (Outman 7) were needed to produce manufactured goods. “Manufactories were an early form of the word factories. The word manufacturing meaning literally ‘to make by hand,’ even though machines had come to be involved”(Outman 7).
As new mills and factories were built, they needed to hire workers. People moved to find jobs and needed to locate housing near their employer once they were hired. Large cities started to develop around factories. With the growth in population and increasing number of workers in factories, new concepts for housing were needed. Thus the development of row houses was born. Row homes were tall, narrow buildings where the walls of one house touched the next. Row homes were squeezed in between factories, tended to be small and dark and usually did not have running water or electricity (Wroble 6).
Another type of housing built near factories were tenement homes, which consisted of multiple row houses stacked on top of each other (Wroble 6). People lived in row houses and tenements because they were cheap and close to work. When the next day at the mill came, a whistle woke the workers at five AM for a 12 hour work day (Wroble 21). “Inventions just made up one thread of life in Victorian times, but they were a distinctly colorful one” (Van Dulken 2). With the growth of factories and population, new inventions started to spring up all over
England and the United States. Regardless of their country of origin, inventions had an impact on the whole world. People were looking for ways to improve the quality of their lives, and for tools to make work more efficient and productive. When the number of new inventions started to skyrocket, the patent system was created to protect people’s ideas from being copied or stolen. A patent was a document that could be acquired, which would grant protection from other people trying to steal the preserved ideas and intellectual property and claim them as ones own.
When a patent was acquired it gave the person to whom it was granted the rights to manufacture products that used the invention. No other people could make a similar product and try to call it their own. If a person was found to violate a person’s patent, they were arrested or the main creator would sue them in a court of law. One exception to this would be if a person got permission from the inventor to use his ideas, but he would normally have to agree to give a percentage of his profit to them. A typical patent lasted for seven months but was later extended to 12 months in 1902 (Van Dulken 3).
Due to expense, wealthy citizens were the only people who had the financial resources to obtain a patent. The poor and lower class citizens could not afford patents. Therefore, some of the inventions around today were not credited to the real inventors “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” (Van Dulken 2). This quote comes from one of the most prominent inventors of the time, Thomas Edison. Thomas Edison was born in the small town of Milan, Ohio. Although he was born in the United States, his inventions played a large role in Victorian England. During Thomas Edison’s lifetime he came up with 1093 different inventions.
Although not all of them had practical uses, no other inventor in his time could match the number of Edison’s ideas. Most of Edison’s ideas came from reading and expanding on the patents of other people. He was responsible for a stream of inventions that covered telegraphy, telephones, electric lights, batteries, phonographs, cement, mining, and many more ideas that shaped the world (Van Dulken 7). Most people believed that Thomas Edison was responsible for the invention of the electric light bulb, but he was not. Joseph Wilson Swan actually invented the electric light bulb on December 18th , 1878.
However, Swan failed to file a patent in Great Britain and Edison tried to patent his light bulb (already patented in the US) in England. Swan filed for suit against Edison and they eventually agreed to join forces and form the Edison and Swan United Electric Company. Through this partnership, they were able to create an improved light bulb that was better than both of their previous models. In order to meet the new demand to produce light bulbs, glass blowers were brought in from Germany. These glass blowers would create bulbs to house the different parts of the light bulb.
New factories to blow glass and to manufacture light bulbs were opened all around England. This created neighborhoods with a heavy influence of German immigrants, who brought their culture and traditions with them. With the invention of the light bulb, people had the option of lighting their homes from a source other than candles, windows and fireplaces. The growing demand for electricity to power light bulbs required power lines to be built throughout England. Building power lines created new jobs for the migrating citizens. During the reign of Queen Victoria, there were different “Castes”(Outman 71) or social classes. Different social classes can be (and were by the classes themselves) distinguished by inequalities in such areas as power, authority, wealth, working and living conditions, life-styles, life-span, education, religion, and culture”(Victorian Web). The upper-class in England consisted of nobles and wealthy business owners. They usually did not work and had many servants who worked for them. They lived in large houses and controlled much of the country including the government. “The Industrial Revolution produced incredible wealth for those who owned mines and factories that the new technology made more productive.
Those who worked in them, however had to toil incredible long hours at low wages”(Sakolsky 59). The middle class consisted of families that were lawyers, doctors or prosperous traders. They usually had servants and lived in comfortable houses. From here on there was a large gap between what was considered the middle class and the poor. The poor of England, the lower end of the economy, were the factory workers and farmers, who were paid very low wages. They tended to live in small, overcrowded houses or on the streets. In a poor family, everyone in the household had at least one job so they could try to make a living.
If a family was poor and could not pay their debts, they were sent to debtor’s prison until their family paid off all that was owed. For the poor in England, it was a hard life (Victorian Web). With the growing need for factory workers and the need for more income to buy the new products that were rolling out, families took more jobs and more people in their families started to work. With everyone working, and no laws in place to limit or dictate who could work what jobs or how long they work, things started to get out of hand. People were working long hours doing strenuous work and still were getting paid low wages.
It was difficult for many to make a decent living. The factories sought an accelerated amount of work form their operatives and it was considered harassing by the workers (Outman 15). During this time, the practice of child labor started to thrive. Children would work in mills and factories working just as long as older factory workers, but did more dangerous jobs and were paid significantly less than the adult workers. One job that children were usually hired to do would be to crawl in the machinery when it got jammed and clear whatever obstruction was causing it to not work.
There were numerous small parts and the children’s small size made them perfect candidates for this job. Air quality inside of the factories and buildings was hazardous. These jobs were dangerous and they often seriously harmed children and other workers. Children lost limbs, got sick and even died, but change was on the horizon. “In 1833, the Factory Act was put into place and banned children from working in textile factories under the age of nine. From the ages of nine to thirteen they were limited to nine hours a day and forty-eight hours a week” (“The National Archives Learning Curve”).
Even with this change in Britain’s legislation it was hard to enforce the Factory Act. In 1836, to fix this problem, England and Wales decided to institute ‘“The registration of births, deaths and marriages’, this enabled factory inspectors to check the age of children working in factories” (“The National Archives Learning Curve”). Victorian workers faced another dangerous job working in coal mines. Mines were not that dangerous at first because farmers would dig small, shallow mines close to the ground. As this method started to yield less and less coal, they would have to dig deeper. In 1781, a huge advancement was made in mining technology. A rotary engine was now avalible to lower the miners up and down a mine shaft and was also able to pump water in and out of the mine” (‘The National Archives Learning Curve”). The deepening of mines created safety hazards when pockets of gas formed in the mines. This gas was very toxic and fatal if exposed to it for long periods of time. The gas was so dangerous because it was highly flammable and easily ignited. Explosions in the mines killed workers and also at times caused mines to cave in.
In 1794, James Bundle created an exhaust system that could pump stale air and toxic gas out of the mine. “In 1815 Sir Humphrey Davy invented the miner safety lamp” (“The National Archives Learning Curve”). Before these lamps were invented, miners relied on candles to give them light. With dangerous gases present, candles were very dangerous. Safety lamps were a huge advancement in mine safety. During this time, many young boys working in the mines were getting hurt and killed at higher rates than the adults. The would work as “porters, workers responsible for loading coal”(Outman 129).
Conditions were hazardous and the machinery that they were supposed to operate was extremely dangerous. This would all change for the children in 1842. The Mines Act was passed, which banned mines from employing boys under the age of ten, and girls and women from working underground. It also prohibited boys under the age of fifteen from operating machinery. Now that England was able to produce goods and materials, and had colonies that produced raw materials, they needed a new way to ship the goods and a new market to sell them. Economic Progress was hindered, or even totally obstructed, when people, food, raw materials and manufactured goods could not be moved around easily”(Smith 28). One way that they were able to sell their goods overseas and in their colonies was through trading posts. Manufacturers would trade in return for different exotic goods from all around the world. But now they faced one problem, how do the goods get transported to the trading posts efficiently? The answer was to build new, faster ships that were able to ship goods more efficiently. These ships were called clippers. They could transport goods long distances quickly.
With the new factories and mines using coal and oil to fuel the equipment and factories, the air became very polluted in the cities. Most of the major cities surrounded factories and became extremely polluted. A rising concern was the huge population increase. Another concern with the city life in Victorian England was the problem with the sewer systems. One example of this was that in 1858 the River Thames became so polluted that Parliament had to stop meeting because it smelled so bad (“The National Archives Learning Curve”). Combining these problems of air quality, overpopulation, and sewage, life turned out to be really difficult or many residents in England. With these conditions, disease and death ran rapid throughout Great Britain. From 1831 to 1866, 55,000 people died in four different cholera outbreaks. (“The National Archives Learning Curve”). The government responded by passing three different Heath Acts. The first Public Health Act was put into effect in 1848, and it set up a general Board of Health in London, which created local boards of health. The next act passed in 1872, resulting in sanitary authorities being established along with the appointment of a Medical Officer of Health.
The last Public Heath Act that was passed in 1875, set up local boards of health and forced the appointment of health and sanitary inspectors. With these acts the public health slowly started to improve but other advancements would also be needed. Even with the tough work environment and the poor quality of city life that was present in Britain in the Victorian era, the overall population was happy during their family life. With many new inventions being developed and new places being discovered and modernized, it gave families the opportunity to do something that would bond their families and get their minds off of their work.
There were many things that residents could do in their spare time. Whether it is going on a rail excursion with Thomas Cook or going to a football game, there was now much more to do in England than ever before. Thomas Cook wondered “What if People were to take trains places instead of walking everywhere? ” He came up with the idea that people might pay to take an excursion to a faraway place or another country. The average person might have thought that only wealthy people would be able to afford these excursions, but Cook offered them for as little as one shilling per mile per person (Church History and Timeline).
With the new system of railroads, the trains were able to travel to places such as France, Germany and as far away as Egypt. A large reason that this was possible was because of the building of King Cross Station in London. This offered a way that families could take time to enjoy themselves on Sunday when they had the day off. They also had the ability to do much, much more. New games were developed that gave children more things to do and to lighten up their lives from their work environment. One new game that was created at this time was the hoop and stick. This was a cheap game that most poor children played.
It used a hoop that a child would run next to and the goal was to try to keep it rolling along with a stick. Another activity that children participated in was the first modern jump rope or the skipper. Lastly, a major activity that children passed the time with was marbles. Almost every child had his own set of marbles, and he played many different kinds of fun games with them. Religion played a major role in people’s lives during the Victorian era. There were many different types of religion in England and this caused much friction and fighting between religious groups.
The two major groups were Christian and Protestant. They differed in many beliefs and caused tension. To add to all the problems and disagreements that Christians and Protestants had, new people were publishing works detailing how they were proving that the world could be explained scientifically and that there was no God. The primary theory was called Darwinism. It was published in a book by Charles Darwin called “The Origin of Species and the Descent of Man”(Victorian Web). Another belief that sprung up at this time was Social Darwinism.
This was the belief that the wealthy people were able to support themselves because they had obeyed God and the poor could not because they were being punished by God for their bad deeds. During this time many great works of literature were written. In England many influential writers blossomed while writing stories about characters that represented themselves when they grew up as poor, lower class citizens. One of the most well known writers was Charles Dickens. His stories were very relatable to the lower class citizens and the factory workers at that time, and that is why he sold so many copies.
Some stories that he fabricated were “A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations”(Victorian Web). The literature that authors wrote in the Victorian Period was filled with people’s new ideas on science, economics and religion. These new books had an effect on the people of the Victorian Age and now allowed people who wanted to learn about new things to do it easier because books were more readily available than ever before. The revolution that swept through England from the early 1800s and lasted until the early 1900s was full of wonders and creations that would shape the future of the world.
It was called the Victorian era because it was the time when Queen Victoria reigned and brought a fresh start to her country. The changes gave people new ways to learn, work and socialize. It also gave them harder work and a more difficult work environment. The new inventions and changes would shape how people worked, how they lived and what their social classes were. As the population grew in England, and production grew; new types factories and industry were introduced in Victorian England. With this, new laws were passed that set requirements and rules.
With this people shifted in population to get jobs to produce the new developments of the time. People were sorted out into classes; lower class, middle class and upper class. The different classes of society would be associated with the times because everyone in the poor families worked in the factories; the middle class worked as the doctors, lawyers and traders: the upper class citizens were in charge and were nobles, owned the factories and also government positions. People had stressful factory lives, but they tried to be happier and have a positive attitude when they were in their family lives.
With all the information that is available it is safe to say that this time is a large part in how today’s world was shaped. Just as Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said “Change is inevitable. In a progressive country change is constant”(Smith 72). This quote reflects truly what happened in England. It says that England was bound to become a greater nation and that nothing could stop it. This time period was truly interesting and was one of the most defining periods in the history of the world. With the rule of Queen Victoria, England became one of the leading economic nations of that time period and was a force not to be taken lightly.
Works Cited Brown, Richard. Society and Economy in Modern Britain: 1700-1850. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. “Modern Tourism Begun by Baptist Thomas Cook – Church History and Timeline – Christianity. com. ” Christianity – Faith in God and Jesus Christ – Christianity. com. Web. 13 Mar. 2011. . “The National Archives Learning Curve | Victorian Britain | Main Menu. ” The National Archives. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. . Outman, James L. , Elisabeth M. Outman, and Matthew May. Industrial Revolution. Detroit: UXL, 2003. Print. Sakolsky, Josh. Critical Perspectives on the Industrial Revolution.
New York: Rosen Pub. Group, 2005. Print. Smith, Nigel. The Industrial Revolution. Austin: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 2003. Print. Van, Dulken Stephen. Inventing the 19th Century: 100 Inventions That Shaped the Victorian Age from Aspirin to the Zeppelin. New York: New York UP, 2001. Print. The Victorian Web: An Overview. Web. 22 Feb. 2011. . Weightman, Gavin. The Industrial Revolutionaries: the Making of the Modern World, 1776-1914. New York: Grove, 2007. Print. Wroble, Lisa A. Kids during the Industrial Revolution. New York: PowerKids, 1999. Print.
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