Richard Jin

There were many problems that came with the growth of industry in
England. Cities were expanded, but they became even more overcrowded and
dirty. The factories employed workers, who were doomed to work in
terrifying conditions for little pay until their death. The reactions to
these conditions once they were exposed varied from horror to blind
optimism.


Cities had always been crowded and filthy. The Industrial Revolution
only made conditions worse. The map of Manchester in 1750 is shown in W.H.

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Thomson’s History of Manchester to 1852. Manchester during this period is
relatively small for a city, with one main road and several smaller
branches leading to a few development areas and housing districts. Ashley
Baynton-Williams’s Town and City Maps of the British Isles shows the
dramatic contrast between Manchester in 1750 and 1850. In 1850, the city
size as quadrupled. There are several main roads, with hundreds of smaller
roads. In addition, there are three canals and two railroads running
through it, something the city has never had before. Toward the outer edges
of the city, many developing areas for factories and housing can be seen.

However, the city is so compacted and the buildings so densely placed that
there is no doubt that there is overcrowding. The English Romantic poet
Robert Southey describes the conditions in his work Colloquies on the
Progress and Prospects of Society. Southey describes the city as having
narrow streets crowded with the multitudes, while smoke fills the air and
blackens the houses and buildings. Southey found it inconceivable to think
of a place more destitute than Manchester, even though it has the second
highest size and population in the kingdom. Singly, Southey’s opinion may
be considered unreliable, as he was a Romantic and was biased toward
factories. However, he has support, which comes from The Graphic, a weekly
magazine dealing with social issues. The magazine contains an engraving of
a view of the city from a bridge. The sky is darkened with smoke. The
rivers are dirtied by pollutants and wastes from factories. The buildings
that once were made with red brick are now black.


The effects industrialization had on the people living in its reach
were horrifying. Edwin Chadwick, the public health reformer describes the
conditions in his Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Laboring
Population of Great Britain. He reported that diseases caused or aggravated
by atmospheric impurities produced by decomposing animal and vegetable
substances, by damp and filth, and overcrowded dwellings prevailed among
the laboring classes. Chadwick believed that these circumstances tended to
produce an adult population that was short-lived, reckless, and
intemperate. Flora Tristan, a French socialist, described her horror at the
lives of the laboring class in her journal. Her journal described how most
workers lack clothing, bed, furniture, fuel, and wholesome food. In
addition, they must work for twelve to fourteen hours each day shut up in
low-ceilinged rooms where the air is saturated with the fibers of cotton,
wool or flax, or particles of copper, lead or iron. All of the laborers
became sickly and emaciated from these conditions, their bodies thing and
frail, their limbs feeble, and their complexions pale. The smoke and filth
of cities not only affected the laboring class. The Lancet, a British
medical journal, recorded the average age at death in both rural and
industrial districts in 1843. In rural districts, the gentry lived twice as
long as the laborer and about 50% longer than the farmer. In industrial
districts, the life span of all the people is shortened by twenty years.

Once again, the laborer lives only half as long as the gentry, making the
average age at death of a laborer eighteen.


Fortunately, conditions slowly improved for the workers over time,
and with it, the opinions of the people of industrialization. The 1830s
were perhaps the worst years of all. Thomas Macaulay wrote in his essay the
poverty of the people. He has an angry, sarcastic tone throughout his
piece. Frances Anne Kemble wrote an account of his inaugural journey to
Manchester. He recorded that there was a riot, where a vast crowd of
Manchester artisans and mechanics showed their discontent with the
government and the Corn Laws by greeting his carriage with groans and
hisses. Above the crowd of rioters sat a starved-looking weaver. This
weaver was the representative man, the man who symbolized the condition and
unhappiness that the whole town was experiencing. Alexis de Tocqueville
described what he saw in his Journeys to England and Ireland. He saw people
simply bustling around the streets without stopping. Nobody was taking a
leisurely walk in the streets or going to seek simple enjoyment in the
surrounding country. He is horrified and describes the city as the place
where humanity reaches it most brutish state. By the 1850s, many reforms
had been made. Working conditions improved, and the opinions of people
toward factories vastly improved. Wheelan and Co., in a preface to a
business directory, praised the city of Manchester. Wheelan and Co.

describe Manchester as being remarkable and attractive, terming it as the
“Workshop of the World”. They continue to tell of the effects of the
reform, one of them being the elevation as a seat of commerce and
manufacture. William Alexander Abram, wrote in a journal article the
comparison of industry conditions during the 1830s as opposed to the 1860s.

He mentions the Hours of Labor in Factories Act. This reform reduced the
excessive hours of labor to just ten hours. Wages had also increased. He
also describes the lavish provision of public parks, baths, and free
libraries that promote health, happiness and culture of the industrial
orders. Much less are the murmurs of discontent.


The Industrial revolution started of with terrible work conditions
and long hours. Many reforms were made, partly on the outcries of reporters
and humanists. Many of the working conditions taken granted today were
reforms made during this period of time.