NEGATIVES OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
The Industrial Revolution is one of the most significant events in human history and had a profound effect on many nations throughout the world. While the Industrial Revolution first began in Britain in the 18th century, and took place throughout the centuries that followed, its impacts can still be seen in our lives today. As an event, the Industrial Revolution had both positive and negative impacts for society.
Although there are several positives to the Industrial Revolution there were also many negative elements, including: poor working conditions, poor living conditions, low wages, child labor, and pollution. One of the primary causes of the Industrial Revolution was the emergence of laissez-faire capitalism as an economic system. Laissez-faire capitalism is a highly individualistic ideology in which the government plays as little a role as possible in the economic decisions of a country. Historians often refer to the ideology of the Industrial Revolution as classical liberalism since it included the principles of laissez-faire capitalism while also still allowing basic individual rights. This political and economic climate created a situation in which wealthy factory and mine owners were able to exploit working-class people. As a result, this led to horrible working conditions for the people of the Industrial Revolution. For example, child labor was a common feature of the Industrial Revolution with children as young as four working in dirty and dangerous conditions without protection from the government.
A common feature of industrial cities and towns was the construction of inexpensive and poorly built row housing, intended for working-class people. Wealthy factory owners and entrepreneurs constructed the homes for their workers but also used the homes as a means of making more profit. The homes were often referred to as back-to-back terraces because they were literally built side-by-side and connected to one another. The only part of the home that was not connected to another was the front. The homes were made with the cheapest materials available and lacked basic features such as windows and proper ventilation. As well, most of the homes were built without running water or sanitation. As a result, many people were unable to properly bathe and thus suffered from very poor hygiene.
Pollution was one of the most recognizable aspects of industrial cities and towns. Not only were the streets and waterways heavily polluted with human waste and garbage, but the air was also heavily polluted. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, wealthy businessmen established countless factories and mines throughout Britain. These factories produced large amounts of air pollution from the burning of coal. Coal was easily the most used fuel during the Industrial Revolution, since it was needed to power the newly developed steam engines. However, coal is also known as a heavy air pollutant since when it is burned it sends small particles into the air. As a result, the numerous factories in the city centers caused the air quality to be horrible and gave industrial cities and towns a characteristic ‘smog’ that seemed to hover over them.