Industrialization had a great impact on social structures in the nineteenth-century like the agricultural revolution of the Neolithic Age, the Industrial Revolution altered lives around the globe (Sivers). It led to population expansion and emigration, new members of the elite class, and the creation of the working class who suffered horrible living and working conditions until reformations beginning in the 1830s. One of the most significant impacts of industrialization was the rapid population growth and urbanization of industrialized areas. Rising production, factory expansion, and better agricultural practices led to more job opportunities as well as plenty of food to feed the growing populations. With the medicinal and sanitation advancements of the second Industrial Revolution, mortality rates were also declining, further increasing the population (Sivers).
Industrialization also brought about increased emigration in Europe from suffering, less industrialized areas to more booming areas that held the promise of a better life. About 60 million Europeans emigrated between 1800 and 1914, with the majority heading towards the United States and Canada.
The middle class that rose to wealth during the process of industrialization were known as “new money” and started to surpass the “old money”, or the elite class that was born into wealth, in terms of social rank and influence due to the strong values of capitalism, hard work, and making a life for yourself. The elite, comprised of both new money and old money made up 5 percent of the population, yet somehow controlled 40 percent of European wealth (‘Bourgeoisie’).
Beneath them were the bourgeoisie, who had a slightly less amount of wealth or had married into the elite. Below the bourgeoisie was the middle class, which made up 15 percent of Europe’s population. Class consciousness divided the middle class into upper and lower sects. The upper-middle-class enjoyed the finer things in life, while the lower middle class was also divided into two sects. The upper sect included artisans and skilled workers, with unskilled workers and tradesman comprising the lower sect of the lower middle class.
Industrialization also brought to existence a new social class, the working class. Ranked below the middle class, the working class was made of urban factory workers, farmers, and workers from rural areas. Urban factory workers sold their labor in exchange for cash and had a daily routine that was coordinated by the factory time clock. These workers were divided into skilled and unskilled factory workers. British textile mills in the early 1800s were marked by repetitive, filthy, unsafe work conditions with entire families working alongside each other, even children as young as seven years old. The children working these horrible conditions worked alongside their parents, or alone as orphans or children turned over to the government. Both women and children were exploited and paid less than their male coworkers despite making up the majority of factory workers until the early 1840s (Sivers).
When these poor people were not working, they lived in crowded and filthy shacks that lined narrow and shady streets. Respiratory illness was common due to the coal smoke and ash that filled the the air of the mine and the surrounding towns. There was no efficient waste removal system to accommodate the exponentially growing population, and the smells of human waste, manure, and garbage combined with the smell of coal, gas waste, and waste from dye works and tanneries caused a horrific odor to pierce the toxic air. Diseases like cholera, typhus, and tuberculosis flourished (Sivers). The living conditions of the working class during the rise of industrialization were horrendous and immoral, especially when compared to the luxurious lifestyle of the elite.
The struggles of the working class inspired many social activists to fight to reform and improve their quality of life. Most historians agree that the working and living conditions began to improve in Britain around the 1830s until the late 1890s in terms of better housing conditions, textile factories were relocated to urban areas, and increased wages, and more jobs available for women. The Mines Act of 1842 forbade girls and women from working underground and required all child laborers to be at least 10 years old. Inventions such as the typewriter, the telephone, and calculator helped to secure women in secretarial and clerk jobs (“Bal Maiden”). In the l860s and 1870s, large cities began building underground sewage systems that ran water into rivers, far away from the town. Public water services were created and gas lighting sparked the movement towards the use of electricity.
Although industrialization brought in many technical and scientific advancements, it also caused rapid changes in the societal structure of Europe at the time and produced a brand new category of the citizenry, the working class. These people possessed the most terrible quality of life and suffered horribly in many different ways, however, conditions eventually improved due to the reformations pushed along by social activists. It is to the story of the impact of modernity on these societies and others around the globe that we now turn.