The industrial revolution is viewed by many a historian as the cradle from which modern day civilization was born. It is from this revolution that concepts such as large scale production, specialization and the working class were born.
The industrial revolution also resulted in a change in both the social structure and the live of the workers. However, not all the changes were rosy as there were multiple challenges involved mostly as a result of the changing gender roles and the plight of the workers. This paper argues that the industrial revolution positively impacted on the gender roles and was a major landmark in the advancement of civilization.
A discussion as to the role that the different genders played during the revolution shall be looked at. The working conditions of the industrial employees shall also be assessed and a conclusion as to what impacts that the revolution had on today’s society made. The industrial revolution traces its roots to the early 1700s when large landowners in Britain bought land from the poorer farmers and introduced new ways of farming on a large-scale (Mokyr 15). This had the effect of higher food production which resulted in a larger population. This agricultural revolution fueled the industrial revolution as the high population called for new and improved methods of doing things to ensure sustainability. The population growth combined with the increased productivity of small parts of the country and the migration of the now landless people in search of work opportunities led to the phenomena of urbanization (Clark 5). One of the new classes born as a result of the industrial revolution was the working class. This was a class made up mostly of the landless population who had migrated to the urban centers and provided the labor needed in the new industries.
A significant characterization of the early industries was the long hours of labor for the workers. The conditions of the industries where also not conducive for workers as most of the workplaces where hot (as a result of the steam engines used for power) and other machinery running. The workers where also exposed to the dangers of being exposed to running machinery parts.
Compounding these problems was the poor wages paid out by the factory owners who were primarily concerned with increased production and profit maximization. The worker class was therefore constantly in a quest of an improvement of wages and some form of security against unemployment due to the introduction of machinery or a decrease in his wage due to excessive employment by the employer (Mantoux 440). A major front for dealing with the unfair treatment of workers in the industries was the trade unions which sprang to defend the cause of the workers. Mantoux affirms that despite efforts by the industry owners to stamp out these unions, the employers could not entirely suppress them trade unions as they had the support of the majority of the population (450). These labor unions were a potent force and they foresaw many reforms to the labor conditions of the workers. Additionally, some labor unions wielded some political force and were thus able to play an influential part in the running of the society. As such, the democratization process was accelerated and income inequality which had been prevalent greatly reduced.
Prior to the industrial revolution, the roles of women were greatly limited by the traditional attitudes of women as the “weaker sex”. As such, women were confined to the house keeping tasks and looking after the family while the men were the bread winners. However, the agricultural revolution which resulted in the industrial revolution so to the migration of the mostly rural population in Britain to the urban centers in such of work. The previously clearly defined roles of women therefore began to be blurred since the contribution by the women was most vital for the survival of the family.
According to Morkyr, women began to compete in the market as substitute workers and their earning power increased to march that of the unskilled laboring men (191). This increased purchasing power of women led to their empowerment as they were no longer entirely dependent on the male for survival. The industrial revolution may have happened many years ago but its impacts are still felt to the present day.
From the above discussion, it is evident that the industrial revolution did play a pivotal role in the society. The effects of the revolution led to the technological advances that culminated to the present day society. As a result of the social changes that began due to the revolution, the role that women play in the society was utterly redefined as can be exhibited in the roles that women play today in the corporate world setting. The favorable working conditions in most of the world’s industries are as a result of the battles waged by the workers in that era. / This paper set out to show that the industrial revolution positively impacted society. To this end, a discussion into the working conditions present at the time has been given and the reforms undertaken articulated. The role of the woman during this era has also been discussed so as to reinforce the notion that the revolution lead to women empowerment.
It can therefore be authoritatively stated that today’s society would not have been realized without the industrial revolution, regardless of the ills that are associated with this pivotal era.
Clark Gregory. “The Secret History of the Industrial Revolution.” Department of Economics, UCD, CA 95616.
Oct 2001 Web. 15 Feb 2009. http://www.econ.ucdavis.
edu/faculty/gclark/papers/secret2001.pdf Mantoux Paul. “The Industrial Revolution in the Eighteenth Century: An Outline of the Beginnings of the Modern Factory System in England.” Taylor & Francis, 2006. Mokyr Joel. “The Economics of the Industrial Revolution.” Rowman & Littlefield, 1985.