Effects of the Industrial Revolution Bianca Pontrelli B3

The Industrial Revolution was the most revolutionary. It not only gave us new technologies, but it also changed the class structure, family dynamics/gender roles, and urbanization.

Class Structure

Before the Industrial Revolution, people were either merchants, farmers, cottage workers, or artisans. They were working in the putting-out system, where the merchants gave cottage workers material and the cottage workers gave it back to them as a new product. When cottage workers and famers lost their jobs, they were forced to work in factories. With factory laborers being the most popular occupation, a new class structure was born. There was the industrial capitalists, who were the owners of the factories, the urban middle-class, which ranged from factory workers to high-profession jobs, and then the poor.

Family dynamics and Gender Roles


Robert Owen (1771-1858), a successful textile manufacturer, argued that employing children under ten years old as factory workers was, "injurious to the children, and not beneficial to the proprietors." Quoted in E. R. Pike, "Hard Times": Human Documents of the Industrial Revolution (New York: Praeger, 1966)

Before the industrial revolution, most family worked together on farms. When the switched occupations, a lot of families would apply for jobs together. The employers would actually take advantage of this by only paying the head of the family for the family unit's work. The transition was difficult. The factories were very disciplinary; if a rule was broken, there'd be a punishment. For adults, it was a deduction in that week's paycheck, but for children, it was beatings. Factories believed it was easier to control children so they were their best employees. They could be controlled by beatings and were able to reach small compartments of the machines and go into the smaller tunnels of mines. As technology kept developing, families grew apart while working. Children were still treated brutally and their parents began protesting on there behalf. Even enlightened employers and social reformers agreed and the Factory Act of 1833 was established where children under nine could not be employed and children could only work for a limited amount of hours. Once this act was put into place gender division occurred in the factories. We start to see the expectation of men making the money and women taking care of the household. There are several reasons for why this happened. Since children were no longer working with them in the factories, they couldn't take care of them during work. In the coal mines men and women would take their shirts off due to heat, but now the men saw this as a sexual distraction. They also saw the mines as a dangerous place for women to work, so the Mines Act of 1842 was enacted. This banned women, girls, and boys under the age of ten to work in the mines. Lastly, there were the middle-class women who agreed that they shouldn't work anywhere but home.

Urbanization and City Life

"Given extremely high rates of infant mortality, average life expectancy was around only twenty-five to twenty-seven years, some fifteen years less than the national average." Mokyr, The Enlightened Economy

Most people were living in rural areas until they accepted new jobs in the factories. They had to move to the cities in order to be close to the factories. Many families moved to the city, causing the cities to become enormously overpopulated. There was competition for living spaces and most families shared a single apartment with multiple families. This left cities with high rates of homeless and poverty. With the unsanitary living spaces came low life expectancy and epidemics. Sanitary movements were being put into place. There were two strands of the movement: the public strand, which was the middle class who wanted to take care of the water supply and sewage system, and the Ladies Sanitary Association, which wanted to improve living habits. Together they made some progress. Edwin Chadwick, a leading British sanitary movement figure, discovered that the disease could spread through a whole town, to the wealthy. With this the Public Health Act was enacted, where they improved water supplies, built sewers and drains, regulated refuse disposal, and controlled industrial pollution. This was still not enough. The 1866 Sanitary Act was put into place after Britain experienced the "great stinks" and a cholera epidemic. Other countries were experiencing these things as well. With the discovery of the science behind the diseases, the sanitary movements were starting to work.


The Industrial Revolution was similar to the neolithic revolution in about 10,000 BC. Like the cottage workers becoming factory laborers, hunter-gatherers became farmers. They are also similar in the sense that new tools were being created for work and homes. In both cases, civilizations/ nations grew and improved.

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