What was life like in the cities, and how did urban life change in the nineteenth century?
The revolution in industry had a drastic impact on the urban enviorment. Because it was economically advantageous to locate new industrial factories and offices in urban areas, urban populations grew at unprecedented rates. Living conditions sharply declined, largely because governments were slow to react and the people, ignorant of the connection between cleanliness and good health, were content to live in squalor. When governments finally took the initiative in the mid-nineteenth century to clean up the cities, general public health improved greatly. Society also benefited from scientific advancements. A new understanding of germ control, improved medical techniques, and new vaccines all led to lower mortality rates in urban areas. Finally, better urban planning and new public transportation systems relieved overcrowding.
What did the emergence of urban industrial society mean for rich and poor and those in between?
At the top levels of society, the upper middle class expanded its wealth and power as it emulated the aristocracy in material acquisitions and leisure pursuits. The middle and lower middle classes also expanded and gained more income, and their occupations became much more diverse with the Industrial Revolution. The working classes saw an overall improvement in their economic condition, but they still struggled, especially the lower working classes. Large numbers of poor women in particular continued to labor as workers in sweated industries and as domestic servants in order to satisfy the demands of their masters in the servant-keeping classes. The nineteenth century also witnessed a decline in church attendance among urban workers, who may have equated organized religion with the old conservative regimes in an era of progress.
How did working class and middle-class families change as they coped with the challenges and the opportunities of the developing urban civilization?
Major changes in family life accompanied the more complex and diversified class system. Especially among the working classes, family life became more stable, more loving and less mercenary as society generally improved its standard of living. Among the middle classes, marrying continued to serve as a means for economic gin, and emotional benefits were slower to come. At the same time gender roles for men and women of all classes became sharply defined and rigidly separate. The working class increasingly adopted a breadwinner-homemaker division of labor, while middle class women lacked important legal rights and were frozen out of professional employment. The number of children per family dropped steadily in the second half of the eighteenth century, as parental love and concern for their offspring tended to strengthen.
What major changes in science and thought reflected and influenced the new urban society?
The scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century had many practical benefits for the general population. New vaccines, synthetic fabric dyes, and the myriad applications of electricity all contributed to economic growth and a better quality of life for urban society. In turn, ordinary people gained a new awareness and appreciation of science, which began to chip away at their traditional religious understanding of the world. Darwin's widely hailed theory of natural selection, for example, challenged the general belief in divine creation. New social scientists such as Marx and Comte rejected religion and sought to analyze human behavior based on objective statistics. In the realm of literature, novelists such as Balzac and Zola abandoned romantic idealism and wrote about the harsh realities of life's struggles. More generally, literary realism reflected Western Society's growing faith in science, material progress, and evolutionary thinking.