December 15, 2012 Industrial Revolution Essay
Fundamental to the Industrial Revolution was the development of new technologies, which changed many aspects of life, first in Britain and then throughout Europe. The Industrial Revolution was unlike most revolutions, neither sudden nor swift. Industrialization was a long, slow process in which complex machines replaced simple hand tools, and where human and animal power were replaced by new sources of power. This time period did not only affect the way goods were produced but also how people lived. The Industrial Revolution had a political, economic, and social impact on the world, however, this time period had the greatest impact socially. A social impact is the affect that an event has on a community of people. The Industrial Revolution underwent social changes, such as rapid urbanization, a new social structure regarding the introduction of a new social class, and lastly the shift away from the nuclear family. Urbanization is the movement of people to cities. During the Industrial Revolution masses of people migrated from farms to cities due to changes in farming, soaring population growth, and an escalating demand for workers. Almost overnight, cities emerged primarily in regions where coal and iron were abundant, and around growing factories. The industrial age brought poverty and harsh living conditions for millions of workers who crowded into cities to be employed in new factories. Factory workers made up the majority of the lower, or poor class during this time period. The movement from rural region to urban resulted in the settlement into slums. The underprivileged struggled to survive in foul- smelling slums, the overcrowding urban streets. Slums were compiled of tenements, multi-story buildings divided into crowded apartments. The tiny rooms of tenements became the claustrophobic, congested homes of the poor. Often times, whole families were crammed into a single room. In addition to the cramped living quarters, these buildings lacked the requirements of all housing codes in place today. Tenements lacked running water, instead they only had community pipes. Slums had no sewage or sanitation systems, therefore, garbage and wastes rotted in the streets which produced the overpowering foul smells which gave the slums their identity. As a result of poor sanitation measures, disease spread rapidly. Due to the rapid spreading of disease, some workers became unemployed which resulted in a loss of wages that could seriously harm a family. Heavy alcoholism, and a high rate of crime were also a continuous problem. The harsh, unhealthy living conditions of the slums were eventually confronted, and reformers pushed for laws to improve these awful conditions brought about by urbanization.
The Industrial Revolution introduced a new social structure, differing from the old social order in the western world. For centuries, society was organized into two main classes, nobles and peasants. However, a new, more complex social structure emerged due to the spread of industry. During the 1800’s, Western Europe organized into three distinct social classes, the new upper class, the growing middle class, and at the base of the social ladder, the workers and peasants. The upper class was compiled of the old nobility, and the wealthy industrial and business families. As the revolution progressed, the expanding middle class steadily began maneuvering their way up the social ladder. The middle class was composed of entrepreneurs who set the Industrial Revolution into motion, merchants who invested their growing profits into factories, and investors and skilled artisans who developed new technologies. Lastly, the peasants and workers made up the lowest class of Western European society. The social class that benefitted the most during the Industrial Revolution was the middle class. Members of the middle class rose from “rags to riches.” During