Wherever the Industrial Revolution and its transformations went, so too did social change. In this task, you’ll be examining the role that industrialization played in changing the existing social roles, classes, and expectations from 1750 until the early 1900s.
1. Good change? Bad change? Let’s look at the numbers.
There are a number of ways to examine the overall effect of the Industrial Revolution(s) on populations, and statistical analysis is one such way. Read the following article from The Economist (which is actually a pretty useful, if sometimes controversial, publication on economic matters): “Economic history: Did standards of living improve during the Industrial Revolution?” Once you have finished reading the article, answer the associated questions in your packet.
2. Poverty in Literature and Art.
While the numbers might give us a complicated and sometimes contradictory explanation of the effects of industrialization, many writers and artists from the First and Second Industrial Revolutions had very strong feelings about the subject, and they were mostly negative. Take, for example, the writings of Charles Dickens. While he may be best known for his novella A Christmas Carol (later adapted into that most excellent film version, The Muppet’s A Christmas Carol) and Scrooge’s ghostly change of heart, much of Dickens’ writing dealt specifically with the seedier, grimier side of life in the urban industrial environment.
Please read the following passage from Dickens’ 1838 novel, Oliver Twist. Pay close attention to the way Dickens describes the city and its residents, and then use the passage to answer the associated questions in your packet.
They walked on, for some time, through the most crowded and densely inhabited part of the town; and then, striking down a narrow street more dirty and miserable than any they had yet passed through, paused to look for the house which was the object of their search. The houses on either side were high and large, but very old, and tenanted by people of the poorest class: as their neglected appearance would have sufficiently denoted, without the concurrent testimony afforded by the squalid looks of the few men and women who, with folded arms and bodies half doubled, occasionally skulked along. A great many of the tenements had shop-fronts; but these were fast closed, and mouldering away; only the upper rooms being inhabited. Some houses which had become insecure from age and decay, were prevented from falling into the street, by huge beams of wood reared against the walls, and firmly planted in the road; but even these crazy dens seemed to have been selected as the nightly haunts of some houseless wretches, for many of the rough boards which supplied the place of door and window, were wrenched from their positions, to afford an aperture wide enough for the passage of a human body. The kennel was stagnant and filthy. The very rats, which here and there lay putrefying in its rottenness, were hideous with famine.
There was neither knocker nor bell-handle at the open door where Oliver and his master stopped; so, groping his way cautiously through the dark passage, and bidding Oliver keep close to him and not be afraid the undertaker mounted to the top of the first flight of stairs. Stumbling against a door on the landing, he rapped at it with his knuckles.
It was opened by a young girl of thirteen or fourteen. The undertaker at once saw enough of what the room contained, to know it was the apartment to which he had been directed. He stepped in; Oliver followed him.
There was no fire in the room; but a man was crouching, mechanically, over the empty stove. An old woman, too, had drawn a low stool to the cold hearth, and was sitting beside him. There were some ragged children in another corner; and in a small recess, opposite the door, there lay upon the ground, something covered with an old blanket. Oliver shuddered as he cast his eyes toward the place, and crept involuntarily closer to his master; for though it was covered up, the boy felt that it was a corpse.
The man’s face was thin and very pale; his hair and beard were grizzly; his eyes were bloodshot. The old woman’s face was wrinkled; her two remaining teeth protruded over her under lip; and her eyes were bright and piercing. Oliver was afraid to look at either her or the man. They seemed so like the rats he had seen outside.
‘Nobody shall go near her,’ said the man, starting fiercely up, as the undertaker approached the recess. ‘Keep back! Damn you, keep back, if you’ve a life to lose!’
‘Nonsense, my good man,’ said the undertaker, who was pretty well used to misery in all its shapes. ‘Nonsense!’
‘I tell you,’ said the man: clenching his hands, and stamping furiously on the floor,—’I tell you I won’t have her put into the ground. She couldn’t rest there. The worms would worry her—not eat her—she is so worn away.’
The undertaker offered no reply to this raving; but producing a tape from his pocket, knelt down for a moment by the side of the body.
‘Ah!’ said the man: bursting into tears, and sinking on his knees at the feet of the dead woman; ‘kneel down, kneel down—kneel round her, every one of you, and mark my words! I say she was starved to death. I never knew how bad she was, till the fever came upon her; and then her bones were starting through the skin. There was neither fire nor candle; she died in the dark—in the dark! She couldn’t even see her children’s faces, though we heard her gasping out their names. I begged for her in the streets: and they sent me to prison. When I came back, she was dying; and all the blood in my heart has dried up, for they starved her to death. I swear it before the God that saw it! They starved her!’ He twined his hands in his hair; and, with a loud scream, rolled grovelling upon the floor: his eyes fixed, and the foam covering his lips.
Next, please examine the works, “The Third-Class Carriage,” by Honoré Daumier, as well as the painting displayed below, “The Washer Woman.” Be sure to look at the links below the image for “The Third-Class Carriage” which provide extra information about the work. Use the images and the associated information to answer the questions in your packet.
3. Cult of Domesticity. (No, not that kind of cult.)
The cult of domesticity, sometimes called the “cult of true womanhood,” altered the role of largely middle- and upper-class women during the Industrial Revolution(s). Please read the following article and use it to answer the associated questions in your packet: “The Cult of True Womanhood.”
4. Extension of the Franchise. (That means that more people want to vote. I know. It’s a weird phrase.)
Use the following sites in order to define the terms and movements listed on the chart in your packet:
- 1867 Reform Act
- 1884 Parliamentary Reform Act
- Representation of the People Act, 1918
- Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 1919
And just because it’s fun, here. Watch an awesome video about women’s suffrage in the United States which rewrites Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance:”
I think my favorite part is the, “I want to wear pants,” line.
Now that we’ve talked a little about the changes in wealth, gender, and society, let’s finally talk about the Industrial Revolution somewhere OTHER than Great Britain. Onward to Task Six: The Industrial Revolution Outside of Britain.