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The Industrial Revolution was the period of time from 1750 to 1900 where
major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and transport had a
profound effect on the socioeconomic and cultural conditions in the United
Kingdom. The onset of the Industrial Revolution marked a major turning point
in human history; almost every aspect of daily life was eventually influenced in
some way or the other.
In 1750 the population of Britain was about 11 million at a time when it was not
known that germs caused disease, and diseases like smallpox and diphtheria
killed masses of people. The conditions were horrible and health and sanity was
not up to the mark. The annual death rate was 28 deaths per thousand people
according to, “Rediscovering Britain 1750 -1900”, and many babies died before
their first birthday. Even some simple operations could not be done as
anaesthesia was not yet developed.
As more people died, doctors and scientists needed to come up with solutions,
to end this problem.
Dan Cruickshank of BBC said, “The Industrial
Revolutionmade Britain rich but it also made them sick!” Forty years after the
beginning of the Industrial Revolution British scientist Edward Jenner was the
first man ever to develop a smallpox vaccine. This was Britain’s first success in
the field of medicine. Many lives were saved thanks to Jenner’s vaccine. The
death rate came down to 22 deaths per thousand people.
But 30 years later more people moved into the towns as they became cramped
up. The population became double now to 20 million. Killer diseases like
cholera, typhoid and tuberculosis spread rapidly due to infected water, dirty and
congested living conditions, and poor diet. People still died of shock and
infection as anaesthetics were not developed. Apart of the eradication of
smallpox nothing much had been done. The average life expectancy of a man in
1800 was 36 years only compared to 78 today. The population increased day by
day, and a great amount of work was needed to be done for the betterment and
well-functioning of society in Britain. In the 1850’s Queen Victoria’s daughter
Alice died due to diphtheria.
Scientists experimented and observed for the next 20 years . Louis Pasteur
discovered that germs caused diseases. Thanks to his discovery scientists
developed vaccines: James Lind discovered the treatment for scurvy; Von
Behring prepared a vaccine for diphtheria and one discovery led to another.
Local councils began to improve water supplies and sewers and this improved
the health of people in towns.
The Industrial Revolution introduced us to the discoveries and achievements of
the likes of vaccine pioneer Edward Jenner, James Lind, Louis Pasteur and
William Withering, who is credited with introducing digitalis to medical
science. Doctors in the 18th century overturned 2000 years of hearsay,
speculation, and hope. They replaced it with science, with experiment and
observation, and gave medicine a new scientific place in society. By 1900, the
population sky rocketed to 42 million 4 times what it was 150 years ago but
since then the death rate has fallen drastically and in every way Britain has
become much better of in terms of health compared to what it was 150 years
Anaesthetics were developed by a doctor in Japan and Britain became one of
the first places where anaesthesia began to be used widely saving countless
lives. The cycle continues as first the British man became wealthy but he also
became sick. He later observed and experime nted and found the solution to his
problem. He is now healthy, rich and smart. All this was not possible without
the great thinkers in the society who believed in the word ‘change’ and said
“yes we can”, and brought about a revolution. A revolution that changed the
way the society once thought. Britain brought about this change 100 years ago
and even today there are countries who have not achieved the same. This is why
this period of time in Britain is known as The Industrial revolution a period of
socioeconomic and cultural change.
Before the Revolution most people lived in small villages, working either in
agriculture or as craftsmen. They lived and often worked as a family, doing
everything by hand. In fact, three quarters of Britain's population lived in the
countryside, and farming was the predominant occupation. With the advent of
industrialization, however, everything changed. The new enclosure laws—
which required that all grazing grounds be fenced in at the owner's expense —
had left many poor farmers bankrupt and unemployed, and machines capable of
huge outputs made small hand weavers redundant. As a result, there were many
people who were forced to work at the new factories. This required them to
move to towns and cities so that they could be close to their new jobs. As a
result, women and children were sent out to work, making up 75% of early
workers. Families were forced to do this, since they desperately needed money,
while factory owners were happy to employ women and children for a numbe r
of reasons. First of all, they could be paid very little, and children could be
controlled more easily than adults, generally through violent means. Children
also had smaller hands, which were often needed to reach in among the parts of
a machine. Furthermore, employers found that children were more malleable
and adapted to the new methods much better than adults. Children were sent to
work in mines, being small enough to get more coal and ore from the deep and
very often unsafe pits. They could also be forced to work as long as
eighteen hours each day. For these reasons, children as young as eight years old
were sent to factories—usually those which manufactured textiles—where
they became part of a growing and profitable business. So naturally very few
children could go to school. In 1750 only the privileged children could got to
school while others worked in factories. There were only 7 universities in
Britain so few people even thought about higher education. Since workers,
especially women and children, were labouring for up to eighteen hours each
day, there was very little family contact, and the only time that one was at home
was spent sleeping. People also had to share housing with other families, which
further contributed to the breakdown of the family unit. As a result, children
received very little education, had stunted growth, and were sickly. They also
grew up quite maladjusted, having never been taught how to behave properly .
Thing seemed to change as 50 years later most middle class and upper class
children who didn’t go to work went to school. But very few girls went.
Elementary schools were set-up but families preferred their kids to earn some
money instead. No universities had been built since the past 75 years when all
this was brought in attention to the parliament they were quick to take action.
The “1833 Factory Act’ stated that no child under the age of nine was to work
in factories. For the next 40 years the government was slowly increasing the age
limit to work in factories due to the possible pressure enforced by mill
But nevertheless young children were no longer allowed to work so they were
sent to school instead and there they learnt how to read and write.
The Parliament was later forced to issue an Education Bill that made it
compulsory for all children from the age of 5 to 12 years both boys and girls to
go to school. The literacy rate improved drastically and so did the conditions of
schools. More universities were built so that more children could opt for higher
education and live their lives towards their chosen career.
I believe that the Industrial Revolution was a remarkable era where life as a
whole transformed completely in the gap of those 150 years. The statistics tell
you everything. The annual death rate fell from 28 deaths per 1000 people to
just 18. The average life expectancy rose from 36 years to 72 years and the
literacy rate quadrupled to 80%. I believe leaders should take an inspiration
from this era and help recreate many other revolutions.