An Argument against the Claim the Industrial Revolution in England Had Positive Effects

The Industrial Revolution was a degradation of humanity and by any means “no amount of industrial or economic progress could justify the price of human misery.” After reviewing the literary sources, laws, testimony and reflections by persons in the I.B. Case Study: The Industrial Revolution the contention that the Industrial Revolution has had a positive effect on society is highly refuted in my conclusion. The society of England during this time was based upon the new inventions, which revolutionized textiles and were back-boned by the steam engine, patented in 1769 by James Watts.

Albeit these machines made it easier for previously hand-done tasks many children were abused through labor in factories, women exploited, the human mentality, body, and soul abused and slowly weakened, education not set upon as a quintessential importance in life, sanitation levels were decreased as diseases performed the opposite, and the social and national ranks in different nations became more segregated than before leaving those previously poor, now fruitless.

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To question if the Industrial Revolution had a positive effect upon society is not a question at all.

During the Industrial Revolution child labor in these factories was a potent issue. Children the age of only seven, eight, and nine being forced to work long strenuous hours without time for food was clearly a problem in need of an answer. Children so little and persuaded so easily were often taken advantage of in these factories. “Drowsy and exhausted the poor creatures fall too often among the machinery, which is not in many instances sufficiently sheathed; when their muscles are lacerated, their bones broken or their limbs torn off, in which case they are constantly sent to the infirmaries to be cured, and if crippled for life, they are turned out and maintained at the public cost; or they are sometimes killed upon the spot,” was a reflection made by Michael Thomas Sadler, an attorney chosen by the leaders of the young reform movement.

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No laws protected children from these mistreatments until reforms were created and acts carried out such as the English Factory Act of Even when these acts were ratified reformers such as Samuel Downe and Michael Thomas Sadler still had to fight to make sure these were carried out faithfully, which in many instances were not.

In addition to these children being abused their mothers were exploited as well. Now that the mothers jobs such as spinning, weaving, and baking were factory industries they were no longer demanded at home but now instead in factories. In these factories women faced long hours, unsanitary conditions, and low wages which left them with little or no family life at all. In a poem written by Thomas Hood a woman revealed her life as a poverty-stricken needlewomen in desperate hope to support her two fatherless children. Throughout the poem she constantly complained of the “work-work-work,” she faced day after day. In the poem she also complained of the battle her body was sent through and even mentioned death. The misery humans faced through the Industrial Revolution could never be balanced by the economical and industrial progressions made. She complained, “My labor never flags, and what are its wages? A bed of straw, a crust of bread – and rags. That shatter’d roof – this naked floor – a table – a broken chair – and a wall so blank, my shadow I thank for sometimes falling there,” by no means did any human body deserve this treatment.

The mindset of those heavily evolved in this “Revolution” was certainly being destroyed as well. A prime example can be justified by Andrew Ure through his literary sources, The Philosophy of Manufacturers; or, an Exposition of the Scientific, Moral, and Commercial Economy of the Factory System in Great Britain. “Since the said spinners are the sole employers of the younger children in cotton-mills, who are often their own offspring, and entirely at their disposal to hire or to turn away, they were the only persons capable of abusing them, the sole arbiters of their fate, and therefore amenable to the parents and the public for their good treatment.” To make a statement of this class distinctly shows the degradation of human mentality in effect of the Industrial Revolution. Ure also noted, “It is moreover my firm conviction that if children are not ill-used by bad parents or guardians, but receive in food and raiment the full benefit of what they earn, they would thrive better when employed in our modern factories than if left at home in apartments too often ill aired, damp, and cold.” Again, another example, but also a positively inaccurate statement. Instead of facing the abuse of the factory work children could learn and become “educated,” an element overlooked in this industrial society. During this time “a person who was a good reader of the newspaper, and could talk about various wars, battles, and sieges, was looked upon by the people and said to be a ‘great scholar’ and ‘a far learned man.” If children would take out the early portion of their lives to become educated their would be many more options they could chose from. Since achieving an education was not properly valued books and materials needed were very limited and of poor condition. 

In addition to learn how to write you must have some wealth because the tax on paper and the low demand caused the price to be high. Not until after the Factory Act of 1833 was passed could one make the comment, “When I visited this school a few months ago, there were from 4,000 to 5,000 young people profiting by the instructions administered by 400 teachers, distributed into proper classes, and arranged upwards of forty schoolrooms, besides the grand hall in the top of the building,” such as Andrew Ure. Just because there were schools now and laws requiring children to attend school the quality of instruction was still questioned by those such as Friedrich Engels. “It is true the manufacturers boast of having enabled the majority to read,” but “according to this report, he who knows his letters can read enough to satisfy the conscience of the manufacturers.” Then one must question their self, am I really educated? If more time was spent educating, maybe more could have been learned of the diseases contracted and more thought could have gone into the construction of these smokefilled cities that lead to sanitary reductions and disease expansions. A testimony of John Roberston, a surgeon reporting on sanitation arrangement in Manchester, depicts the thoughtless construction of these cities. “Manchester has no public park or other grounds where population can walk and breathe the fresh air. New streets are rapidly extending in every direction, and so great already is the expanse of the town, that those who live in the more populous quarters can seldom hope to see the green face of nature” These growing cities were leading labour scarcity, food shortage, and law wages. As many may have expected diseases and death became a head problem.

In Robertson’s testimony he described Manchester as a city with possibilities that, “a cottage row may be badly drained, the streets may be full of pits, brimful of stagnant water, the receptacle of dead cats and dogs, yet no one may find fault.” People had to live in these places in exchange for the new inventions that produced a higher abundance of textiles. As one of the fastest growing manufacturing towns of the time, Dr. John Aiken described Manchester’s lodging houses, “near the extremities of the town, produce [ing] many fevers The horror of these houses cannot easily be described; a lodger fresh from the country often lies down in the bed, filled with infection by its last tenant, or from which the corpse of a victim to fever has only been removed a few hours before.” Friedrich Engels commented on the diseases in his literary work, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844.” “Scrofula is almost universal among the working class, and scrofulous parents have scrofulous children, especially when the original influences continue in full force to operate upon the inherited tendency on the children. How greatly all these evils are increased by the chances to which the workers are subject in consequence of fluctuations in trade, want of work, and the scanty wages of times in crisis, it is not necessary to dwell upon.”

 Through these growing towns many roads were laid in every direction to promote international trade. While promoting international trade foreigners, such as westerners brought the business of trade but at the same time brought diseases unfamiliar to Europeans. These physical ills and epidemics were another challenge faced because of the Industrial Revolution. In addition to these diseases westerners brought their own standard of politics, religion, and education, which became a problem when trying to adapt to other societies, such as England’s. Many other nations were held back during the Industrial Revolution for other reasons as well such as France’s lack of coal and Germany’s political conflict and widespread illiteracy. Problems as such held back many nations from excelling as England did. The only nation close to facing anything with “glory” during the Industrial Revolution was England. All other nations were faced with obstacles that would take a while to overcome. This is when the debate of the Industrial Revolution having a positive effect on society should be turned down the path of if the Industrial Revolution was worth the human misery and degradation set before one of this time?

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An Argument against the Claim the Industrial Revolution in England Had Positive Effects. (2022, Apr 11). Retrieved from

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