THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AND SOCIAL CHANGE


Blood, sweat and tears!  As we examine the social changes inherent in 18th and 19th century Europe, we immediately notice a number of themes surface.  Perhaps, those issues are best explained by Mildred Alpern in the following segment from her writings:

"Nationalism and liberalism were two of the social forces unleashed by events in the eighteenth century.  Other forces surfaced as well:  socialism, Romanticism, and feminism [although this term is generally not used in texts.]  Elements of these forces emerged, in part, in response to the circulating ideals of the French Revolution.  But the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain and in Western Europe also fostered these changes.

Industrialization, best defined as the rise of factories and the use of machinery in the production of goods, occurred first in England in the late 1700s.  Most workers and their employers had to adjust to the organization and technology of factory industry.  The traditional approach to the Industrial Revolution has been one of looking at inventions, factory commission reports, wages, prices and death rates.  Another perspective, from the angle of social history, examines work behavior and attitudes and tries to discover changes between pre-industrial patterns of work and early industrialization.

The chart below compares the work behavior and work attitudes of artisans and factory workers in the nineteenth century.  Artisans were skilled craftsmen and craftswomen.  They were descendants of the medieval guild master who had possessed a definite economic skill.

ARTISAN

FACTORY WORKER

Work Behavior [ways in which individuals perform work]

1.  Family or intimate setting
2.  Simple tools, personally owned
3.  Recreation and work combined
4.  Completes entire work operation
5.  Irregular rhythms of work-- intense work followed by slower work periods; dictated by seasons, sunrise and sunset
1.  Impersonal setting, large number of workers
2.  Sophisticated machinery, fast-paced, complicated, intricate
3.  Sole attention to work required
4.  Works on one part of the entire production [later known as assembly work]
5.  Regular rhythms of work, punctuated by whistles and bells; long hours

Work Attitudes [variations existed and can best be inferred]

1.  General pride and satisfaction in skill, product, and respect that artisan's status commanded in society
2.  Distress as occupational illnesses deformed artisans and health deteriorated [lead poisoning, chest diseases]
3.  Familial atmosphere contributed to sense of ease and pleasure in work
1.  SATISFACTION resulting from (a) higher pay, (b) regular employment, (c) ability to purchase meat and butter; mainly true of unskilled workers from the countryside with a rural-bred resignation to work.

2.  DISSATISFACTION and shock and resistance, especially among those from small town craft backgrounds.  The majority looked upon their work as exhausting, noisy, boring, dangerous to their health.  They expressed their dissatisfaction through strikes over hours of work and vacation times, lowered production levels, frequently changed jobs, drunkenness, high rates of absenteeism and membership in socialist parties.

How do these changing attitudes impact political action?  The impact of these changing attitudes is what we're going to examine closely in this unit!

Unit Assignments

Sample Multiple Choice Questions

Sample Essay Questions

Review Guide

Glossary of Terms

 

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