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Capitalism, the Middle Class and the Poor / The Conditions of the Poor

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Kenneth Bartlett

HIS109 th Jan. 24 , 2011 Capitalism, the Middle Class and the Poor Effects of Industrial Revolution had a polarizing effect on society – although much of Europe remained bound by its traditional ways, in the 1 half of the 19 th century the social impact of the Industrial Revolution was being felt, future avenues of growth became apparent Produced new ideas, positive step for human progress Population growth became dramatic in the 19 centuryh Realized they were better off than ever before Industrialization of Europe had enormous costs, not quite ready for the rapidity if change that took place in the first half of the century Industries were capital industries, needed in many ways than any other aspects Factories had to be built from scratch, raw materials & their transportation was required Investment in materials and their transportation, moving the goods to market Capitalists invested heavily, and constant re-investment Insecurity of many industries meant that there were huge failures, drowned large amounts of capital that had to be replaced Spiral of growth and wealth from new industries confounded the most optimistic who could hardly believe the rate of change Trade and finance increased, as well as agriculture with the production of chemical fertilizer (improved diets of Europeans, increased fertility rates – more labourers) Agricultural revolution spread from Europe to the rest of the world, large importation of surplus grain to Europe (had enough food to feed population quite cheaply, and save for times of famine, better fed Europeans were more resistant to disease) Other inventions changed the diets of Europeans, & improved their health (discovery of the pasteurization of milk – protein for Europeans) Manufacturing continued to expand, production rose in pre-fabricated clothing with the invention of the sewing machine, cheap clothing (members of lower class could dress well & fashionably) Clothing changed with the season – spiral in capital made Quality of steel improved – required for rails Reliable transportation over long distances – making it easier to travel to Africa increasing production, expanding international market & British Empire Expansion of sea & land travel Movement of goods by railway – fast, cheap, could carry heavy bulky good (cost of raw materials, food, transportation, & fuel decreased) Railways were a speculative venture, danger of losing your entire investment – resulted in individuals risking more and more of their income because they felt there would be a greater return People with capital were investors, & creators th Europe in the Middle of 19 Century Europe was an amazing place, destined to grow richer “Heroes” of this age were the capitalists People studied economics, rather than the Classics Tradesmen devoured the rags to riches stories – giving rise to a new genre; Samuel Smiles “Self Help, 1859” Rags to riches stories became staples of popular literature, read them because you could do the same too Rise of mercantile & industrial classes caused a challenging of power Term “bourgeois” came to include people involved in commerce, industry, & banking as well as professionals such as lawyers, teachers, physicians, & government officials at various levels At lower end of economic scale were master craftspeople & shopkeepers England – upper middle class, & wealthy industrial elite sold daughters with huge dowries for the re-lubrication of huge estates Industrial entrepreneurs were those who constructed the factories, purchased the machines, & figured out where the markets were Members of the industrial middle class were seeking to reduce the barriers between themselves & the landed elite, also trying to separate themselves from the labouring classes below them Forces of Conservatism Efforts at Change: The Workers, p. 627 Workers looked to the formation of labor organizations to gain decent wages & working conditions Britain: Combination Acts in 1799 & 1800 outlawed the associations of workers Legislation failed to prevent the formation of trade unions (associations were formed by skilled workers in a # of new industries, including cotton spinners, iron workers, coal miners, & shipwrights) Unions served 2 purposes: 1) preservation of their own workers’ position by limiting entry into their trade; 2) gain benefits from employers Favored a working class struggle against employers, but only to win improvements for the members of their own trades No use to give higher wages to undisciplined minstrels because they would drink the money away (lecture) HIS109 Jan. 26/2011 The Conditions of the Poor Wretched conditions in factories – no security of employment & no minimum wage Exploitation of child labour (e.g., in cotton factories served as spinners, more easily broken to factory work, & cheap source of labour) Young boys and girls who entered the factories and mines, were whipped regularly Patterns – lack of skill on the part of the workers, were people brought directly off of farms and put on factories to work machines, they were also illiterate Factories themselves were dangerous – if someone was injured there was no compensation There was spread of disease in the factory, poor especially susceptible due to disease & poor diets (lack of protein) & because they were overworked Poor still went to work even if they were terribly ill, disease spread rapidly throughout factories (e.g., factory fever) Only way to contain factory fever was to shut down factories & quarantine the workers, but employers did not want to do this – which could possibly p
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