Q. Industrial Revolution, which affected every part of life in Great Britain, proved to be a mixed blessing. Analyze both the merits and demerits of the Industrial Revolution.
Industrial Revolution led to wide ranging changes not only in the political and economic spheres, but in the social, cultural, technological and psychological etc. spheres as well.
Industrial Revolution started in England and permeated its social and cultural fabric as well. While it benefited most occupational fields, such as agriculture, textiles, construction, transportation and communications etc., it also took a heavy toll on the human condition. Moreover, the vast pace of urbanization, which coincided with the industrial revolution could not cope up with the development of sanitation, city planning, health systems etc.
Merits of Industrial Revolution:-
- Centre of economic life shifted from the villages to cities and towns, where the factories were situated. As urban and rural life became dependent upon one another, the isolated life of self- sufficient villages came to an end. Moreover, the economic condition of people, in terms of wages, improved as the field of economic activity shifted from farms to factories.
- People got access to better clothing and housing as well as healthier diets. The increased production of goods not only helped in raising the standard of living but also provided people with a hope of further improving their lives.
- As people became free to develop their capabilities in areas other than farming, it fostered technological progress and invention.
- Since the Industrial Revolution created a demand for engineers as well as clerical and professional workers, it led to an expansion in educational opportunities.
- Though it took a little longer for the benefits to accrue to the working class, but their lives also improved gradually during the 1800s. Labourers eventually won higher wages, shorter hours, and better working conditions after they joined together to form labour unions.
- It also had global ramifications as it brought countries and people together. There was an international awareness among people because developments in one country influenced the others.
- The aristocracy and nobility were replaced by the newly rich middle class capitalists (bourgeoisie), who also acquired political power gradually.
- Women enpowerment in western society is also connected with the impact of Industrial Recolution which compelled women to come out of house and work in factories.
- Rise of new ideologies like socialism, communism etc are also outcome of Industrial Recolution.
Demerits of Industial Revolution:-
- England’s cities that grew rapidly in the wake of Industrial Revolution had no development plans, sanitary codes, or building codes. There was lack of adequate housing, education, and police protection for the people who poured in from the countryside to seek jobs.
- Most of the unpaved streets had no drains, and garbage collected in heaps on them. Workers lived in dark, dirty shelters, with whole families crowding into one bedroom. Sickness was widespread.
- Epidemics of the deadly disease cholera regularly swept through the slums of Great Britain’s industrial cities. In 1842, a British government study showed an average life span to be 17 years for working-class people in one large city, compared with 38 years in a nearby rural area.
- To increase production, factory owners wanted to keep their machines running as many hours as possible. As a result, the average worker spent 14 hours a day at the job, 6 days a week. Thus the workers had to lead a hard life on merely subsistence wages.
- Work did not change with the seasons, as it did on the farm. Instead, work remained the same week after week, year after year. This change in the nature of work was disorienting and led to social problems as well.
- Factories were seldom well lit or clean. Machines injured workers. And there was no government program to provide aid in case of injury.
- The most dangerous conditions of all were found in coal mines. Frequent accidents, damp conditions, and the constant breathing of coal dust made the average miner’s life span ten years shorter than that of other workers.
- Women and child labour was badly exploited. Many women and children were employed in the mining industry because they were the cheapest source of labour.
- Society became divided into rich and poor, the ‘Haves’ and the ‘Have- Nots’. Outside the factories, mobs of workers rioted, mainly because of poor living and working conditions.
- The increased quest for raw material and cheap labour led to wars of imperialism and colonization.