Having studied the book “The West: Encounters and Transformations”
by Brian Levack I’ve chosen the 20th chapter for my
research. It deals with the Industrial Revolution, which brought
a lot of significant changes into people’s life. Radical
changes began in 18th century. Nowadays people can hardly
imagine their lives without modern technologies. In our fast-moving
world people use “machines” every day, although
this word was not common before the Revolution. That’s
why I consider it important to investigate the origin and
impact of the Industrial Revolution, particularly in the United
Kingdom. People forgot those times when they had to do everything
with their hands. A lot has changed since agriculture was
replaced by manufacture and machine production. Scientists
put more and more theories into practical life. With the help
of new inventions people acquired taste to easy and comfortable
life. In my research paper I’m going to investigate
the influence of Industrial revolution on economical, social
and other spheres of human life with the help of different
I will also point out the difficulties which people faced
on the way to convenient life. Industrial revolution made
people work in horrible conditions in mines and factories.
In order to make a thorough description I’m going to
use illustrative materials from Levack’s book –
“Child Labor in the Mines” (p. 644). The Industrial
revolution evidently caused a lot environmental problems:
water, air and soil pollution. The picture “Philippe
Jacques de Loutherbourg, Coalbrookdale by Night (1801)”
(p. 647) would be useful to describe how numerous factories
polluted natural surroundings.
I will try to draw readers’ attention to the important
economical changes during the Revolution. For this I’d
like to use the document of Adam Smith, describing the division
of labor (p. 648). Another point I’d like to touch is
the problem of women working in hard conditions during the
Revolution. With the help of “The Employment of Women”
(p. 663) and several other sources I’m going to describe
changes in women’s life with the coming of Industrial
upheaval. Apart from this I will concentrate on public opinion
about such radical changes in their lives, because I think
it’s important to know whether people were glad or may
be terrified. I think people are always afraid of changes
even if they would bring happiness and easy life. I will use
works of A. Musson and P. Furtado to trace the development
of the revolution. I’ll use “Rebels against the
Future” by Kirkpatrick Sale to show attitude of common
people to progress. Finally I’m going to use summary
of lectures by Arnold Toynbee as a secondary source.
Industrial revolution brought changes into different spheres
of life. At the end of 18th century economy in European countries
was mainly agricultural. Farmers used to pay for their land
with manufactured goods. Technologies were poorly developed.
Although some kinds of machines were already invented, they
weren’t widely spread yet. People still had to use natural
resources, like water and wind. In this way it seems to be
even more significant that in several decades economy in Europe
radically changed for the best. Modern scientists distinguish
three main upheavals in the productive forces and the structure
of society itself. The revolution of 18-19th century was a
turning point from agricultural society to the industrial
A lot of people were involved in coal production. With the
coming of industrialization, more coal was needed as a fuel.
New factories and mines needed more workers. Work in mines
was extremely dangerous, especially due to the fact that they
gradually became deeper. Coal was mainly used as fuel and
at that time it was extremely expensive. People had to work
in the most hazardous conditions ever known. They had to put
up with all those dangers. In order to clear mines of poisonous
gas, people involved children into the process (Winstanley,
2006). Brian Levack gives and illustration of child labor
in the mines in order to show dreadful conditions in which
miners had to work. In the course of time the situation improved
to some extent, nevertheless mining industry still remained
dangerous. Miners could either suffocate by gas, fall down
or be killed by some heavy tools. According to statistics
nearly 400 people died in coal mines every year, including
children and teenagers. Life of children was extremely hard.
Child labor was very cheap: not more than several pennies
a day. Girls were forced to bare heavy baskets with coal.
They later complained that they had to push baskets weighing
two hundred kilos. Moreover in case they moved too slowly
or fell, they would be viciously whipped. But the most striking
thing for me was that even pregnant women had to work in mines,
mainly because they wanted to earn some money to survive.
Some women said they had to return to work the same day they
gave birth to child. Government didn’t provide any social
security for women and children in particular.
Speaking about industrial revolution I can’t help saying
about the position of women in society at those times (Levack,
2000). Women were employed at equal terms with men. During
the revolution a lot of women were involved in the production
even though work was extremely hard for them. The conditions
of the working class were hard to endure especially for women.
Families were ruined and children grew up in isolation. In
order to make ends meet husbands and wives had to work day
after day. But they had no chance to bring up children properly
(Engels, 1892). Besides during the 19th century British women
were deprived of many human rights. Few of them actually managed
to take a well-paid job. Instead they mostly worked in the
same conditions with men.
Adam Smith emphasized the importance of free trade as a way
to prosperity (Smith, 1789). At the same time Smith criticized
corporations, especially in Glasgow, as trade was restricted
here. Besides he admits that unfair regulation of wages among
classes is a kind of oppression. Laborers received poor salary
for extremely hard work, while well-paid professions often
didn’t need so much efforts. Revolution also influenced
the way people worked. In order to make it more efficient
there was introduced the division of labor (Levack, page 648).
Its main principle was to engage a number people into the
manufacture of the same goods. A well-known example of pin
manufactures shows positive sides of this method which continues
to be used in present days. Smith gave an example of a small
factory with only ten people working. They divided responsibilities
and in such a way the same thing was made and improved by
several people. Division of labor greatly improved the productivity.
“Rebels against the future” by Kirkpatrick Sale
tells about Luddities. These people followed well-known Ned
Ludd who was beaten by his supervisor whenever he broke or
destroyed something. The matter is that Ned loathed his work
very much. In the course of time, people of different occupations
stood up against progress following the example of Ludd. Actually
I think that this book symbolizes the whole class of people
who had to work for low pay. Coming Industrial Revolution
brought radical changes to their lives. Most of them now worked
at new factories which replaced manual production. People
are always afraid of future changes. Probably for this reason
Luddities arranged rebels at factories. They understood that
time has passed and previous life won’t ever return.
Workers were dissatisfied with conditions at factories and
struggled to improve the situation. Long working hours, contaminated
water and air and child exploitation were emphasized as negative
affects of the revolution. The author helped to understand
psychology of people and their attitude to revolution at its
very turn. It also can be applied to modern world when people
are not always sure whether innovations will bring happiness
and security to their lives. The author himself admits that
even now we can see Luddism in many countries of the world,
Industrial revolution improved British economy with the development
of international trade. It greatly contributed into the marketing
economy of the country (Musson, 1976). A lot of manufactured
goods and machinery were sold abroad. Economical profit from
industrial productions was very significant. An article “Industrial
Motive Power in the United Kingdom” by Musson emphasizes
the invention of new methods of power and how it contributed
into the economy of Britain. In the 19th century power of
wind and water were not in usage any more. Instead people
learned to use steam power. Although it still wasn’t
widely spread, steam played more and more visible role in
the economy of the country. In such a way people moved further
in development. Speaking about economic changes I can’t
help saying that economic power now belonged to the middle
class instead of aristocracy as it used to be in the past.
Industrial revolution was the most far-reaching upheaval ever
known before. In the first place it reveals in technological
development (Furtado, 2005). Although in previous years Europe
possessed much knowledge in this sphere, it was applied to
life only during the Revolution. Later it led to further economic
and social changes.
People begin to understand harmful impact of the revolution.
Changes in environment, for example, are quite visible. People
faced pollution of natural surroundings with the coming of
new life. Deforestation, contaminated water, air and soil,
new diseases were among the most destructive consequences
of technological progress. Environment pollution which was
illustrated by Levack in his book “The West: Encounters
and Transformations” (p. 647). This problem actually
took place during all the technological revolutions. At first
environmental pollution caused by new plants and factories
was not so obvious, as people noticed practical side of those
innovations. Life became easier with the invention of new
fuel and means of transport. But seas and oceans began to
be used as a dump. Even nowadays Britain alone dumps nearly
250,000 tons of industrial waste straight into the North Sea.
In the 19th century government didn’t care much about
hygiene in the cities. As a result a lot of people suffered
from cholera and typhoid. People drank poisoned water which
was inevitably contaminated in the industrial cities. Diseases
spread among poor people in particular as they couldn’t
afford clean food and water. Factories pour great amounts
of waste into rivers. It makes water unfit for fish to live
in it and people to drink it. Development of industry undoubtedly
made people’s life more comfortable, but caused harm
to natural surroundings. “Coalbrookdale by Night"
by Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg illustrates iron foundry
factories built close to houses (Levack, page 647). Actually
it combines the depiction of hard conditions of workers and
harmful influence of progress. It is depicted in dark colors
which makes people think over environmental pollution. The
illustration shows that industrial development had not only
Finally I’d like to draw attention to the significant
contribution of Arnold Toynbee. His lectures on the topic
of Industrial Revolution in England see the problem from economic
point of view. He made a serious research on economic changes
which took place during the revolution. He pointed out the
causes of poverty and prosperity of people. His lectures deal
with progress in financial and commercial spheres. I’ve
chosen his writings to be the secondary source of my research,
because I think the author managed to observe the problem
deeper than any other stated above, especially from economic
point of view. Besides I think that his lectures may help
people to follow the Revolution from its very beginning. Without
proper foundation one may not understand the subject itself.
That’s why I think that Arnold Toynbee will help to
view it in different light.
In conclusion I’d like to say that in spite of mentioned
drawbacks and negative sides, the Industrial revolution was
a significant turn in history. In this research I briefly
investigated its influence on people’s life.
Engels, Friedrich, The Condition of the Working Class in
England in 1844. London: S. Sonnenshein, 1892.
Furtado, Peter. A Post-Industrial Museum. Round and About.
Kirkpatrick, Sale. Rebels against the future. Addison Wesley,
Levack, Brian. The West: Encounters and Transformations. The
Industrial Revolution. Pearson Education Press, 2000.
Musson, A. Industrial Motive Power in the United Kingdom.
Economic History Review, 1976.
Musson, A. and Robinson, Eric. Science and technology in the
Industrial Revolution. Manchester: University of
Manchester Press, 1969.
Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the
Wealth of Nations, 5th Edition, 1789.
Toynbee, Arnold. Lectures on Industrial Revolution in England.
Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.
Winstanley, Ian. Children in the Industrial Revolution.
Historical articles, 2006. http://www.mdx.ac.uk/WWW/STUDY/ssh1840s.htm