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European History: Industrial Revolution, Roles Of Men And Women

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Autor:   •  March 12, 2011  •  2,755 Words (12 Pages)  •  843 Views

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The Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries symbolized a change not only in the economic sectors of European life, but also a change in class construction, the rise of cities, and the shift from manual labor to industry. Through these changes, new opportunities appeared and new problems arose for this quickly evolving society which effects can still be seen today.

This revolution stemmed out of a chain of events which started with the agricultural revolutions of the 18th century. The majority of the populations of this time still lived in rural communities where their main source of income came from farming because land was the most valued resource. Those who were the social elite owned the large areas of land on which peasants and farmers would work where the lower classes lived off of subsistence cropping. The landowners began to see profit from the production of surplus, allowing the sale of this food in the market which in turn began the search for ways to increase this surplus. The development of farming tools such as the use of animals, allowed for more work to be done in a shorter time with less amount of labor. Through this growth in the output of surplus, European countries saw a rise in population which in turn heightened the demand for manufactured goods such as cloth which would become clothing. The use of "cottage industries", individuals working in their homes to produce more goods, increased, which was a stepping stone to the revolution itself. The need for cash and clothing only increased during this time which led workers to migrate to larger industrialized areas in search of jobs. For the landowning elite, the surplus generated more cash for them to be able to invest in new economic endeavors, and the combination of excess funds and the population growth gave roots to the industrial revolution.

After this agricultural revolution, there was less need for extra hands on the farm, so people were forced to go in search of other places of work. The rise of the industrial revolution saw an influx of people moving from rural communities to urban city centers where the factories were being built. This shift in manual labor to industry and manufacturing had effects on living and working conditions, family life, and the role of governmental institutions. For the peasantry and working classes moving from these rural areas, the city stood for a hope for a better future, an escape from the domination of the landowners, and a chance at moving up the economic ladder. Upon arriving in the industrialized factory areas though, these people were treated no better than slaves by the factory owners, where they suffered from harsh working conditions, no regulations, and there was a sense of dehumanization to factory life. Factory and mine workers were most times forced to work 16 hour days, with little or no safety features, low pay and high possibility of bodily harm. There were no child labor laws, so families in low class positions saw their children as able bodied people who should be contributing as much to the family as everyone else. The inhaling of dust and fluff, malnutrition, and standing water in some factories led to disease in death among its workers and in turn made a very disposable class of citizens. Conditions in the homes of these workers were no better. Cities could not keep up with the population growth so this led to overcrowded living areas, slums, poor sanitation, and lack of medical care. The slums in which people lived in were often called death pits because up to 70% of sunlight was being blocked out by factory pollution, human excrement would stand stagnant in the streets along with garbage and other matter, and water sources would spread disease (107). Another long term effect felt by the working class in this time period was the dividing of families. The men in rural communities would move to urban centers to earn wages for their family at home, while leaving the woman to take care of the children and take over the domestic work. Men were often times forced to move from location to location in search of work due to the cyclical boom to bust economic conditions, or the men were forced to migrate to the city for a span of a few months until they could return home. This left some families in ruins with divorce and abandonment causing major problems in the working classes. Eventually, the government began to step in to help people in these conditions. A slew of factory acts went into effect to counteract the poor working conditions such as putting limits on the hours children could work in the factories, restrictions on the kinds of work children and women could partake in, and implementing heath codes for factories. Other governmental acts included the cleaning up of the cities by reorganizing infrastructure, bringing in running water, the creation of sanitation facilities and the use of electricity (107). This shift from rural to urban living, while not always seen in a positive light, is a change caused by the Industrial Revolution which allows for a larger working class with the ability to produce greater goods, and eventually revolutionize conditions of living for all.

Another major change that occurred due to the onset of the Industrial Revolution was the transformation of the social class structure due to the emergence of a new group, the Bourgeoisie, or upper middle class. This class was given rise through many different routes including the stimulation of economic growth, the need for new and transformed professions and the abolishment of aristocratic monopolies (116). In the decades previous, the elite were compiled only of those who were land owners or who had titles of nobility, but with the rise of industry, those who owned factories became an entirely new class of people wedged between those who worked with their hands the nobility. This is a social class which obtains income from ownership or trade in capital assets, or from buying and selling commodities. No longer was social status tied to the land that you owned, but rather to your means of production (94). This class was very wide-ranging in the positions that were acceptable for one to hold with the transformation of professions. This included business ownership, banking, commerce, trade, military, the arts and entertainment, medicine and in the petite bourgeoisie, one could be a shop owner or skilled artisan. Along with the formation of this new social class, a set of moral standards was adopted that reflected Victorian ideals. The new bourgeoisie class embraced the family as an institution and men's and women's roles in the household. Families began spending more time raising their children, for the bourgeoisie could afford to have fewer children because of decreasing death rates among young due to medical and living advances. This gave rise to the idea of the cult of domesticity, where it was the woman's job

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