The Industrial Revolution was a time where there was a rapid change of how goods were manufactured and how people lived their lives. It is questionable whether the Industrial Revolution was a positive or negative change in early nineteenth century Europe. On one side of the argument critics believe that many factors of the revolution caused hardships for the populations because of thinks such as: child labor, overcrowding in cities, and the stress of working in factories. On the other hand supporters of the Industrial Revolution believe that it benefited society by expanding the economy, making manufacturing more efficient, and overall benefiting the citizens. In my opinion I have a balanced view of how the Industrial Revolution affected Europe and I am torn between many aspects of the two sides of the argument. The critical view touches on many important issues that influenced the way people lived during this period. Since there was a slow process of immigration from rural into suburban areas the population of cities during nineteenth century Europe was beginning to overpopulate. This overpopulation led to crowded living conditions where some families were forced to live in a single room. In addition to crowded living it was difficult for the municipal government to produce an adequate water supply because many canals and rivers were contaminated by waste. (Kishlansky, Pg. 640) These living conditions made life more difficult for the working class and allowed epidemics to thrive throughout the cities. Moreover several critics of the Industrial Revolution believed that the working conditions provided negativity to the workers and their families. The average work day for many laborers was around fourteen hours with few breaks; this long day was straining and caused the workers to be very tired by the end of the day. The employment that the workers conducted was often repetitive and according to James Phillips Kay affected them psychologically. ?Himself impotent of all the disguising aims of his species, he sinks into sensual sloth, or revels in more degrading licentiousness.? (Perry, Pg. 136) This quotation from James Phillips Kay?s Moral and Physical Dissipation implies that from the living and working conditions, many laborers faced some sort of depression. Children were faced with the same working conditions as well. As mentioned in the Report on Child Labor, children worked long tiring hours, were given few breaks, and were beaten if they came to work late or worked inefficiently. These issues clearly impacted the people who were living during the Industrial Revolution negatively. It is apparent why the critical side of the Industrial Revolution views it as negative. In my opinion there is very strong evidence as to how this time period could have been harmful to people living Europe at the time. The hardships that many people had to face must have put a large damper on society. These circumstances lead to much other negativity such as increased crime, suicides, divorce, and riots. Many contemporaries such as Charles Dickens in Hard Times wrote gloomily about the environment of industrial cities. The actions of people and writings of contemporaries of the time prove that there was much unhappiness during the period, causing the Industrial Revolution to have a harmful effect on European people. It seems to me that many people living during the time felt as though they were stuck in a dreadful time and there needed to be an alteration in many of the things going on around them. In spite of this there are supporters of the Industrial Revolution who believe that there are several positive aspects of the time period as well. During the Industrial Revolution new technologies replaced old ways of manufacturing and shipping. Machinery such as the jenny (used to make cloth) made the production of goods faster and in larger amounts. The railroad system replaced the canal system for shipping commodities because it allowed for faster shipping and trade. In addition a new way of manufacturing goods was created called the division of labor. Instead of traditionally when workers would make an entire product, different workers were allocated to a single part of the product to be made. As Adam Smith described with the pin example in The Division of Labor in a factory that produces pins, using the division of labor the workmen could make four thousand eight hundred pins in a day compared to if they worked the traditional way, they would only be able to make about twenty pins each. This new industrialization was beneficial for the economy because it allowed for high production that cost less and took less time. Supporters of the Industrial Revolution argue that increase in productivity, increased the overall quality of life of people in the cities. The amount of wealth during the nineteenth century was substantially higher, ?between 1801 and 1851, per capita income rose by 75 percent.? (Kishlansky, Pg. 639) This allowed for a much larger amount of people to be wealthy in Europe compared to centuries earlier. In defense of the Industrial Revolution Samuel Smiles believed that working in an industry was beneficial for workers self-esteem. ?Industry enables men to earn their living; it should also enable them to learn to live.? (Perry, Pg. 141) Smiles thought that labor built up a person and gave them opportunities to become more intellectual and enjoy their lives. Samuel Smiles? way of thinking may have been very correct during the Industrial Revolution; many people in the cities were beginning to spend leisure time by going to movies, learning to dance, and buying nice clothes. During the time people were beginning to think of themselves more as individuals, they felt that they were able to take independent actions for their wellbeing and thought of themselves as more than just labor. I believe that these factors of the Industrial Revolution left a positive effect on Europe that changed it for the better. The increase in production and technology started an economic boost that made the overall process of manufacturing easier and more efficient. I think this economic trend has still stuck in Europe and around the world today because virtually all manufacturing uses the division of labor. This was also a new adjustment for people living at the time as well. It caused the way they thought of themselves to change, which altered society. I think that this boost in self-esteem of the working class made them realize that there is more to life than just working and overall made them think better of themselves. Many of the bad aspects of the Industrial Revolution were soon changed as well due to the working class thinking more positive. During the mid-nineteenth century many acts were put in place to make working conditions better such as: the Factory Act of 1833 ? to put laws on child labor and the Contagious Diseases Act of 1864 ? to control epidemics. These factors of the revolution had significant beneficial effects on the working class and the nations of Europe. The Industrial Revolution?s change on Europe had many elements that contributed to the two different viewpoints of the debate about whether it was positive or negative. The positive aspects of the revolution offered many opportunities for the working class and caused the European economy to grow. On the other hand the negative aspects caused many hardships for the people who were living and working during the period. Both sides of the dispute have convincing evidence as to why the time period was either beneficial or detrimental. Being in the middle of both sides of the argument I believe that the Industrial Revolution had a negative effect on Europe in the short run, however in the long run I believe the Industrial Revolution caused many positive effects that are still impacting Europe today and overall changed the nations for the better.
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