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The Working and Living Conditions in the Industrial Revolution

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The Industrial Revolution was the big ‘manufacturing boom’ when Europe and the US transitioned to a new manufactured/ technological age and system. Due to this revolution many citizens of Europe moved into large, cramped cities which had very poor hygiene and living conditions.

Majority of people worked on farms or in small communities. They would grow, harvest and make what they would need, earning money off what they had produced. There was not much organisation in the farms until the ‘Enclosure act law’ was enforced, giving farmers certain sectioned off plots of land. A lot of poor farmers lost their houses and land. Lucky for them, at this time was the big boom in factory production and manufacturing. Many people moved to larger cities to find work, get more money and live a better life. What they received was very different. Streets were haphazardly packed with back to back housing. Sewage was merely just a gutter leading into a drain on the street. Due the high demand of housing, houses were built very quickly and were very poorly made with atrocious ventilation. Due to the poor hygienic conditions during this time disease festered everywhere and killed many people. Disease such as cholera, pneumonia, influenza, typhoid fever etc. wiped out numerous amounts of people in one go as the outbreaks were spreading across the countries.

People often lived in streets called slums. They were very cramped and packed to the rafters with small housing units which typically held up to 10-20 people. Housing was commonly one roomed, two/three story houses with a cellar down below. Cellars were often rented out to families by greedy landlords. They were built hastily, had very poor ventilation and were usually damp. This lead to mould growing and a suitable environment for bacteria to grow and fester.

Water would come from a community well that was often covered in sewage or surrounded by rubbish and rats. Because of the poor conditions of the water supplies waterborne diseases contaminated the water. This lead to huge epidemics and bad disease outbreaks. People didn’t have great knowledge as to how disease spread, so disease continued to spread from town to town wiping out large numbers of people. Privies were small public buildings which contained toilets. Houses didn’t contain bathrooms so people would either do their business in a pot or in the public privies. Sewage systems were poorly developed. People would dump their sewage out the window and it would drain off into a small gutter in the middle of the street. Rats usually lived in amongst the sewage, carried diseases and transferred it to humans through fleas. Living conditions in the industrial revolution were far from sanitary and hygienic, this lead to the quick spread of disease and sickness.

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When people moved to larger cities there was a high demand for work. Lucky for these people many factories were being built and needed a lot of employees, which wasn’t hard to find. Working conditions were dreadful and physically and mentally drained workers. The typical shift lasted between 14-16 hours only leaving at the maximum 10 hours for recreation and sleep. This quickly wore down workers. They often were tired and sometimes even fell asleep at work. The machinery was very dangerous, they weren’t guarded off and usually safety training was not learnt to operate machines. The factories usually had poor lighting, making it hard to see what was being done. The combination of tiredness, poor training and dark cramped working spaces often lead to accidents. People broke bones, skin was taken off, people were scalped and worst case scenario people died. Ontop of all of the chaos happening in factories the employees were paid very poorly. Women were paid ⅓-⅕ less than men and children even lower. Children often worked in factories and mines as they were low pay employees. Due to the vulnerability of a small child they were often paid very little and were manipulated by employers.They took on dangerous jobs such as fixing machines, even when they were still operating. Because of their small size they were good help in factories as they could get into small places. Children from the age of 5 typically began working. This is because parents were paid so little that they couldn’t provide for their families so they were left with one option. Sending their children to work to help provide. Working conditions were terrible, workers were not paid enough and they performed dangerous activities, leading to many accidents.

These poor working and living conditions had immense effects on families and society. Parents often didn’t have enough money to provide for their families, meaning that them and their children would starve. This often led to children having to steal or scavenge food. If they were caught in this act they would get punished. Punishments include anything from a whipping to getting sent to a workhouse to becoming a convict. Because of the poor living conditions and cramped housing, if someone were to get sick with a disease whole houses could be wiped out as they were all sleeping in the same bed. Children and their parents either had minimal education or no education. They were taught dangerous jobs, if there was any instructions it was hard for them to work lt finer details (reading, mathematical problems). Typically an adult would last until the age of 35 this often lead to children being orphaned and left homeless or taken advantage of in workhouses. The industrial revolution was a tough time for adults, children and families. It was very dangerous and did not cater for the needs of a family in the way of hygiene or safety.

Society was also affected by the living and working conditions of the Industrial Revolution. During this period the middle working class was forever growing and was rising in numbers and power. Society was advancing at an alarming rate. Goods and services were needed a lot more than ever, making england a rather wealthy country. Due to this boom in factory production and unfair pay. A lot of people would steal and act in violence on the streets. A massive spike hit in crime activity in England. Poor conditions lead to epidemics and disease outbreaks which wiped out large number of people at any one time.

Although, there was some good impacts to come from the industrial revolution society. Education and literacy was more accessible and there was a gradual rise for the more people that were being educated. Living conditions somewhat improved of the course of time. Vaccinations were created, and life expectancy improved. Society did suffer from the industrial revolution with the hardship and turmoil but from it we did receive some beneficial effects.

In conclusion, the industrial revolution was a hard time and many people suffered. The working and living conditions were very poor and difficult. Though it was a time that shaped our world as it is today. There was a dramatic increase in transport and production of goods. People suffered for us and we should be thankful for the hardship they experienced.

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The Working and Living Conditions in the Industrial Revolution. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from
“The Working and Living Conditions in the Industrial Revolution.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
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The Working and Living Conditions in the Industrial Revolution [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Sept 25]. Available from:
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