The Industrial Revolution and the Working Class

The Industrial Revolution and the Working Class

by: Hannah Goldman


The world as we know it would not be the same if it were not for the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution has changed the world immeasurably. The Industrial Revolution was born in England because of its medley of resources available, the free market, and its new methods of trade, and the governments allowance for entrepreneurially advancements such as corporations. This potent concoction catapulted England into what is now called, with some debate, the Industrial Revolution. The lasting effects of the Industrial Revolution can be seen in all aspects of life from the obvious effects on production, trade, and commerce as well as effects in the employer, employee relationship.  Yet these changes did not come without a price. Those who were powering the Industrial Revolution, the working class, suffered many changes to their lives. Though some of the changes were eventually arguably beneficial; they came about through much sacrifice.

This guide focuses on the impact the Industrial Revolution had on the working class of England. As the Industrial Revolution progressed clearer divisions of labor could be seem within the working class. These groups solidified into adult males, adult females, and children. While different industries predominantly employed one subgroup of the working class it is important to mention that it was not always exclusively that group.  As the Industrial Revolution developed law makers attentions were brought to the conditions of work each group and subgroup were subject to. As the advancing attention was brought to these such conditions laws were put in place to aid in the regulation of work place safety and ethics.  To understand these effects, the guide is organized by first non-social aspects of the Industrial Revolution, to give a background understanding of the time, and then the conditions of the working class.


The Industrial Revolution effected incalculably many aspects of life. The relatively fast change from extended family units working together in agriculture to the individualistic aspects of factory work was an extreme transition. Many inventions, such as the steam engine and spinning jenny, brought the Industrial Revolution to become the juggernaut that it was. The influx of population added to the overall unsanitary conditions plaguing the new booming cities.

  • Ashton, T. S.. The industrial revolution, 1760-1830. London: Oxford University Press, 1948.

This source is offers a comprehensive overview of the Industrial Revolution concentrating on the economic factors surrounding England. It also discusses factors such as birth and death rates and presents explanations.

  • “Modern World History: Interactive Textbook.” HTTP Redirect. (accessed April 28, 2013).

This online resource gives a nice overview of the Industrial Revolution. While it is not extremely detailed it is an effective starting point in researching this topic. This source offers nice visuals and easy to read text.

  • Coleman, D. C.. Myth, history, and the Industrial Revolution. London: Hambledon Press, 1992.

Coleman’s book offers an opposing view of the much discussed Industrial Revolution. Coleman attacks the very name ‘Industrial Revolution’ and other romanticized aspects of it. Coleman gives interesting observations especially in his chapter on ‘Industrial Growth and Industrial Revolutions’. It is important to note that this book ventures further back and forward in time then most books on the Industrial Revolution in Britain.

  • Jones, E. L.. Agriculture and the industrial revolution. New York: Wiley, 1974.

Jones develops his thoughts smoothly throughout this book. It begins with an explanation of the agricultural society in existence prior to the Industrial Revolution and goes on to state what kind of changes took place during and after. This is a comprehensive guide to the agricultural side of the Industrial Revolution and it is very focused on just that.


Living Conditions

The living conditions of the working class change tremendously as the Industrial Revolution progressed. In the beginning excrement filled the city giving adding to the noxious fumes of the factories and the improperly disposed of bodies. The factories and mines were incredibly unsafe and inhumane places to work. People worked to the extremes for hours on end with insufficient breaks. Approximately 1,000 miners died annually due to working hazards. As the Industrial Revolution progressed, however, living conditions slowly improved. New laws were put into place ensuring a minimum break period for workers and regulating when children could work. While living conditions were not ideal, by the end of the Industrial Revolution many lives had improved.


  • Checkland, S. G.. The rise of industrial society in England, 1815-1885. London: Longmans, 1964.

This book is extremely detailed yet extensive. Checkland offers a chapter (chapter 2) on the inventions that shaped the Industrial Revolution giving further insight into the great upheaval of what was previously every-day life. This book also has a incredible chapter (chapter 7) on the working class. This gives a extremely useful look at each sub grouping of the working class, adult males, adult females, and children, as well as the evolution of each group.

  • Taylor, Philip A. M.. The industrial revolution in Britain: triumph or disaster? Readings. Boston: Heath, 1958.

This anthology delivers incredible insight into the nuance of the working class during the Industrial Revolution in Britain. Thomas S. Ashton’s section is especially useful in understanding the living conditions of the people.

  • Sturt, George. Change in the village. Reset ed. London: Duckworth & Co., 1955.

This book gives a very detailed account of the working class’ lives during the Industrial Revolution. It gives insights detailing women and children’s needs during this era. A particularly interesting chapter (XIX) on ‘Emotional Starvation’ gives the reader a more personable detail of the lives of the workers.

  • More, Charles. Understanding the industrial revolution. London: Routledge, 2000.

The majority of this book is on the economical aspects of the Industrial Revolution but there is a extremely useful chapter ‘Industrialization and Living Standards’ (chapter 7). This chapter details the conditions in which the working class lived in and compares these such conditions to those of pre-industrial society.



latinno posted on November 2, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Thanks for this website. I had to do a presentation on The Industrial Revolution in English but I am French and it is help me a lot.

Tom posted on January 22, 2014 at 11:31 am

Thanks It really helped with my history homework

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