The Industrial Revolution
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The Industrial Revolution  

Impact of the Industrial Revolution

Arts During the Industrial Revolution

There were many artistic movements during the period of Britain's industrialization, each of which was a reaction to the feelings of the time, as well as to the movement which had preceded it. By the time that the Industrial Revolution really took hold, some artists were at differences with the ideals which it espoused, such as those of discipline, temperance, structure, and views of the Enlightenment. These feelings translated into the Romantic movement, which encouraged individualism, freedom, and emotion.

Artistic Movement
Some of the Artists Involved

Neo-classicism – 1750 to 1820
"The imitation or use primarily of the style and aesthetic principles of ancient Greek and Roman classical art" (Classic, Classical, and Classicism).

John Nash, Jaques-Louis David, John Flaxman, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Antonio Canova, Bertel Thorvaldsen, Horatio Greenough, Hiram Powers.

Romanticism – 1800 to 1850
"Generally characterized by a highly imaginative and subjective approach, emotional intensity, and a dreamlike or visionary quality" (Romanticism).

Edmund Burque, William Blake, Lord Byron, Francisco de Goya, Theodore Gericault, Eugene Delacroix, Samuel Palmer, John Constable, J.M.W Turner, Claude Lorraine.

Realism – 1845 to 1900
An attempt to represent figures and objects exactly as they appear in life (Realism).

Gustave Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant, Anton Chekhov, George Eliot, Mark Twain, Henry James, Thomas Eakins, Jean Francois Millet.

Pre-Raphaelite – 1850 to 1900
A reaction against Victorian materialism and neo-classicism. Produced earnest, quasi religious works inspired by Mediaeval and early Renaissance painters up to the time of Raphael (Porter).

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt, Edward Coley Burne- Jones, William Morris, John Ruskin, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin.

Impressionism and Post Impressionism – Late Nineteenth Century
Instead of painting an ideal of beauty, the impressionists tried to depict what they saw at a given moment, capturing a fresh, original vision. They often painted out of doors so that they could observe nature more directly and set down its most fleeting aspects—especially the changing light of the sun (Porter).

Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissaro, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Paul Signac, Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Georges Seurat.

Romanticism was probably the most important artistic movement to flourish during the Industrial Revolution. It had the most widespread effects on the general population, and its artistic achievements are still admired today.

Fundamental Shifts in Social Structure

During the Industrial Revolution, the social structure of society changed dramatically. Before the Revolution most people lived in small villages, working either in agriculture or as skilled craftsmen. They lived and often worked as a family, doing everything by hand. In fact, three quarters of Britain's population lived in the countryside, and farming was the predominant occupation (Porter). With the advent of industrialization, however, everything changed. The new enclosure laws—which required that all grazing grounds be fenced in at the owner's expense—had left many poor farmers bankrupt and unemployed, and machines capable of huge outputs made small hand weavers redundant. As a result, there were many people who were forced to work at the new factories. This required them to move to towns and cities so that they could be close to their new jobs. It also meant that they made less money for working longer hours. Add to this the higher living expenses due to urbanization, and one can easily see that many families' resources would be extremely stretched.

As a result, women and children were sent out to work, making up 75% of early workers (Stearns). Families were forced to do this, since they desperately needed money, while factory owners were happy to employ women and children for a number of reasons. First of all, they could be paid very little, and children could be controlled more easily than adults, generally through violent beatings (Sadler). Children also had smaller hands, which were often needed to reach in among the parts of a machine. Furthermore, employers found that children were more malleable, and adapted to the new methods much better than adults did. Children were also sent to work in mines, being small enough to get more coal and ore from the deep and very often unsafe pits (Stearns). They could also be forced to work as long as eighteen hours each day (Sadler). For these reasons, children as young as eight years old were sent to factories—usually those which manufactured textiles—where they became part of a growing and profitable business.

This unprecedented growth and profit was another social change that occurred during the Industrial Revolution. The laissez-faire approach taken by the government—and advocated by philosopher-economist Adam Smith—allowed capitalism to flourish. There were little or no government regulations imposed upon factory policies, and this allowed the wealthy, middle-class owners to pursue whichever path was most profitable, regardless of the safety and well being of their workers. This relentless pursuit of money caused another important social change: the ultimate breakdown of the family unit.

Since workers, especially women and children, were labouring for up to eighteen hours each day, there was very little family contact, and the only time that one was at home was spent sleeping. People also had to share housing with other families, which further contributed to the breakdown of the family unit. As a result, children received very little education, had stunted growth, and were sickly. They also grew up quite maladjusted, having never been taught how to behave properly (Sadler). The living conditions were indeed horrible; working families often lived in slums with little sanitation, and infant mortality skyrocketed. During the early Industrial Revolution, 50% of infants died before the age of two (Stearns).

However, the social changes that took place were not all negative. Most classes eventually benefited in some way from the huge profits that were being made, and by 1820 most workers were making somewhat better wages. The "widespread poverty and constant threat of mass starvation…lessened, [and] overall health and material conditions of the populace clearly improved" (Porter). The government, however, did have to eventually intervene in order to put an end to child labour and other unacceptable practices.

Dissent in England

  • The Luddites

    It was in 1811 that the most outspoken and violent movement to protest the Industrial Revolution began. In the first few months of that year, manufacturers in the city of Nottingham began to receive threatening letters from the mysterious "General Ned Ludd and the Army of Redressers." Workers of the area, angry at employers who were reducing wages and even replacing experienced employees with unskilled (and therefore less expensive) laborers, began to revolt, breaking into factories and destroying hundreds of stocking frames in the space of a few weeks. The concept became known as Luddism, and over the next year the movement spread throughout the industrial centres of England. Damages inflicted were generally restricted to the destruction of factories and mills, but did occasionally extend to violence against people, including the killing of William Horsfall, the owner of a large mill in the area of Yorkshire (Luddites - the machine breakers).

    The government's reaction to Luddism was quick and crushing. A reward of £50 was offered to anyone who could provide information about the Luddites, and in February of 1812 a law was passed making the destruction of machines a capital offence. Twelve-thousand troops were sent to protect factories in Nottingham and other regions where Luddites were active; at least 23 people were executed for attacks on mills in the summer of 1812, and many others were deported to Australia. Although some violence continued, the Luddite movement in England had disintegrated by 1817 (The Luddites).

  • Peterloo

    Although English officials had managed to repress the violence of the Luddites, they could not stop the discontent that was growing across the country. Workers became interested in politics for the first time, demanding better working conditions, less corruption in the government, and universal sufferage. In 1819, a "reform meeting" was arranged to take place in Manchester on August 16th where two radicals, Henry Orator Hunt and Richard Carlile, were to speak (The Peterloo Masscare). The public assembly at St. Peter's Field drew a crowd estimated at 50 000 people, which worried the city magistrates and induced them to call in the military to quell a potential riot. The Manchester Yeomanry responded and, led by Captain Hugh Birley, charged into the docile crowd, killing eleven people and wounding 400. It was later said that many of the soldiers had been drunk at the time but the British parliament supported the troops, and several of the event's organizers were charged with unlawful assembly and sentenced to time in jail. The event became known as the Peterloo Massacre, in a reference to Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo (Peterloo Masscare).

    The Peterloo Massacre - Source

Reforms Implemented due to Social Conditions

Until the publication of the Sadler Report in 1833, the poor social conditions in Britain went largely ignored by the ruling classes. It was commissioned in 1832, and the Sadler committee undertook a great investigation into the various aspects of life for the working classes, hearing testimony from members of the working class. The Sadler Report eventually found evidence of human rights abuse and terrible working conditions, suggesting that reform had to be implemented to avoid general social unrest (Haberman).

Before the Report, governments were averse to the implementation of reforms based on their strict policy of laissez-faire, a large part of the liberalism that the government found sacred. After its publication, however, the British government was forced to act. Following is a list of the various reforms implemented due to the social and working conditions in Britain.

Act or Investigation


Health and Morals of Apprentices Act

  • Hours of work were limited to 12 per day, with no night work allowed.
  • Employers were to provide education, decent clothing and accommodation.
  • Inspectors were to enforce the Act and appoint visitors.
  • For all textile factories employing over 20 persons, proper ventilation was to be provided and mills were to be whitewashed twice a year.


Factory Act

  • No children under 9 were to work in factories (silk mills exempted).
  • Children under 13 years were to work no more than 9 hours per day and 48 hours per week.
  • Children under 18 were not to work nights.
  • 4 paid Inspectors were appointed.
  • Two 8-hour shifts per day of children were to be allowed.


Factory Act

  • Women and young persons (13-18) were to work no more than 12 hours per day.
  • Children under 13 were to work no more than 6 1/2 hours per day.
  • No child under 8 was to be employed.


Factory Act

  • Women and young persons were to work no more than 10 hours per day.


Factory Act

  • Women and young persons to work in factories only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. or 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.


Factory Act

  • Children were only to work during the same hours as women and young persons.


Bleach and Dye Works Act

  • This extended existing provisions to bleach and dye works.


Factory Acts Extension Act

  • Extended the previous acts to cover more industry types.


Factory Act

  • Extended the Factory Acts to all industries.
  • No child anywhere under the age of 10 was to be employed.
  • 10-14 year olds could only be employed for half days.
  • Women were to work no more than 56 hours per week (Factory Legislation 1802-1878).

Effects of the Industrial Revolution on Politics

Although Britain had become a constitutional monarchy a century earlier, the vast majority of the population remained disenfranchised from the electoral system. As industrial strength grew along with a more forcible middle class, electoral reform was a necessity to balance the new society's power structure.

  • Before 1832, only 6% of the male population could vote - represented by aristocrats who owned large plots of land in the countryside and other property (Haberman).
  • By 1832, the middle class factory owners wanted political power to match their new-found economic punch - this resulted in the Reform Bill of 1832 which enfranchised 20% of the male population to vote (Stearns).
  • The Reform Bill also redistributed electoral districts to better reflect the large populations of city centres. Before, most of the electoral power could be found in the countryside where aristocrats owned vast properties (Stearns).
  • The middle-class became more or less satisfied, but workers were still not represented by the British electoral system (Haberman).

  • Chartism

    The dissent and insubordination of the English workingmen reached its peak in the mid- nineteenth century with Chartism, an ideology that called for political reform in the country. Its name was based on the People's Charter, a document written in 1838 by William Lovett and other radicals of the London Working Men's Association, and adopted at a national convention of workingmen's organizations in August of that year. The Charter called for several changes to the Parliamentary system:

    Chartism rapidly gained support among the poorer classes and in Northen England, where economic depression was common and the people were upset about the new Poor Law Amendment. The public attention was largely thanks to Feargus O'Connor, a fervent radical with excellent oratory skills. However, the movement soon lost its momentum when its leaders became divided over how its demands were to be enforced. A petition to Parliament was rejected in July of 1839, and most of the movement's leaders were arrested by the end of the year after the November clash between Chartists and the military at Newport, Wales.

    O'Connor attempted to revive Chartism in 1840 by founding the National Charter Association, but the people had generally lost interest, appeased by better economic conditions, a revival of trade unionism, and the growth fo the the Anti-Corn Law League (Chartism). After a mass demonstration and procession planned for London during an economic crisis in 1848 failed to take place, the Chartist movement faded away altogether. Decades later, in 1884, the majority of males were finally granted the right to vote unit (Haberman).

Dissent in France

  • The July Monarchy

    Although English dissent and discontent with the government mounted during the Chartism movement, the country never quite came to open rebellion. The French, on the other hand, could not seem to do without. Louis XVIII, who came into power at the end of the Napoleonic period, ruled as a constitutional monarch; his successor Charles X, however, was ignorant to the political and social situation in the country. He returned to the ideas of the old régime and attempted to rule absolutely and with divine right. In 1830, he dissolved the parliament twice and tried to call new elections under stricter conditions. After the second attempt, nearly every class unanimously rebelled against the monarchy. The government was overthrown and the king was sent into exile. The people soon decided on a new king, formerly the Duke of Orleans, who had fought on the side of the Revolution. He called himself Louis-Philippe, King of the French, and his reign was called the July Monarchy. His reign proved that the citizens would no longer settle for the treatment that they had once accepted (Haberman).

The Political Spectrum

  • The introduction of liberalism in the 18th century by les philosophes meant a new age in British politics, which continued through the Industrial Revolution. The old Tory and Whig parties became the Conservative and Liberal parties respectively, reflecting the new era in Britain (Haberman).
  • Emphasized rationalism, importance of individual happiness (individualism)
  • Role of state is to protect the freedom and rights of the individual
  • Believed that human rights would be lost if government intervened
  • Generally, reflected views of middle class
  • Believed in value of traditional life
  • More government necessary to control society and preserve general order
  • Generally had a less optimistic view of human nature than liberals
  • Reflected views of landed upper class
  • Gladstone (Liberal) and Disraeli (Conservative) were two of the most influential political leaders of the late Industrial Revolution (Columbia Encyclopedia).
  • Ironically, both were strongly associated with Sir Robert Peel before the split in the Tory party in the 1830s - afterwards, the two went their separate ways, eventually to dominate the post of Prime Minister during the late 19th century (Columbia Encyclopedia).
  • Both advocated reform of social structure; as a result, some of the more productive governments came to power (Haberman).
  • The political spectrum is also linked heavily to the ideological phenomena that grew during the Industrial Revolution.

Ideological Phenomena

During the 1800s, worker disenchantment grew as living conditions deteriorated. As the Industrial Revolution progressed, the factory owners accumulated great wealth while the working classes retained none (Stearns).

Enter socialism.

Socialism grew during the 1800s as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution. Its egalitarian nature, preaching more state influence, equal rights, and an end to inhumanity, stood strongly opposite individualism and laissez-faire politics (Haberman)

While industrialists did not want any change in the status quo, workers and intellectuals alike both wanted a complete restructuring of society (Haberman).

The first self-proclaimed socialists, St-Simon, Owen, Fourier, comprised, believed in a gentle socialism created by persuading factory owners to give up profits in exchange for more human conditions for workers.

  • St-Simon

    1760-1825, French-born aristocrat, renounced his title and supported the French Revolution. As one of the first socialists, he supported public control of means of production and recognized that the economic organization of society was an important factor in defining the different types of society. He also believed in historical precedent (like Marx to follow) and stated that history progressed through construction and deconstruction, a cycle which repeated itself (Columbia Encyclopedia).

  • Charles Fourier

    1772-1837, French-born member of the bourgeoisie. He believed that the passions of man would eventually lead to the attainment of a natural state of harmony. Fourier wished to establish "Phalanxes," self-sufficient communities where people would live according to their natural inclinations. He rejected, however, industrialization and instead envisaged a community based on agriculture and a return to the "cottage-industry" of pre-industrial times (Columbia Encyclopedia).

  • Robert Owen

    1771-1858, English-born entrepreneur turned socialist. He became immensely successful in the textile industry, amassing a large fortune before turning his interests to the plight of the worker. Called the "Father of British Socialism," Owen first established a community in New Lanark, Scotland, where he revamped the system of production and provided excellent working conditions. He established funded-schools, non-profit stores, and other social services, while the factories in the town managed to increase their profits. Spurred on by this success, Owen's next project was to create a self-sustaining town; thus was born New Harmony. The venture virtually bankrupted Owen, and the town collapsed; its inhabitants were not necessarily as embracing of Owen's communism as he was. Regardless, he was a staunch supporter of socialism and an icon in British history (Columbia Encyclopedia).

These three, although important figures, were dismissed casually by Karl Marx as Utopian Socialists.

  • Karl Marx (a scientific socialist)

    • 1818-1883, German-born academic and political philosopher. In 1843 Marx went to Paris (after a newspaper he published was banned) where he befriended Friedrich Engels. Marx embraced socialism, and the two published the Communist Manifesto in 1848, which became the definitive text for socialism and communism. In 1867, Marx produced Das Kapital, which linked economics to history (Columbia Encyclopedia).
    • Marx outlined his belief that all aspects of an individual's life are determined by that individual's relationship to the means of production (Haberman) Classes were established by the various degrees of connection to the means of production, whether direct ownership, or factory work. Governing classes always owned the means of production while the least powerful working class (or proletariat, in Marx's case) did not.
    • Marx believed that the only changes in this power structure would occur through revolution. This theory is known as the Marxist Dialectic.

  • The Marxist Dialectic

    • At the onset exists the group in control, or the thesis - the existing society, with its power vested in a certain class (in Marx terms the owners of the means of production).
    • Against the thesis is the antithesis - the group that wants social change and does not have power.
    • When the tension has grown sufficient, a revolution occurs (in Marx's theory, revolution was the only method to instigate real social change).
    • The result of the revolution is the synthesis - a combination between the thesis and the antithesis. This, in turn, becomes the new thesis, and remains so until a new antithesis sparks another revolution.
    • Eventually, the result of this was to be communism - a utopian society based on equality between individuals with all having equal access to the means of production.

The Industrial "Revolution"

The industrialization of Europe, like the French Revolution, left a permanent mark on society. Life as it was described in the 18th century changed drastically; classes shifted, wealth increased, and nations began assuming national identities. Describing this industrialization as a revolution is apt - despite the longer timeframe involved, the social consequences and economic changes that the world has faced because of industrialization easily equate the political effects that any of the European revolutions had. The changes can not be underestimated in importance to society today.

Effects on the Rest of the World

  • The quick industrialization across Europe during the 19th century led to a great increase in goods produced as well as a demand for raw materials (Haberman).
  • This demand, coupled with increased nationalist pride, led nations to seek colonies abroad in which to produce and trade goods (Haberman).
  • The main expansion for the European colonial powers occurred in Africa. By 1914, the entire continent with the exception of Liberia and Abyssinia were controlled by European nations (Haberman).
  • England also took control of India and Hong Kong during this period of expansion. By the beginning of WWI, England had an empire which stretched across every continent in the world. Vast amounts of natural resources were extracted from these colonies, which aided the British industrial effort but left many of the nations bankrupt (Haberman).
  • In short, industrialization in Europe had far reaching consequences for the rest of the world. While it made Britain the ultimate power for over a century, it can be argued that its rule over the world caused conflict and internal strife which continues to this day.