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Primary Sources and Social Change in the industrial revolution

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ASSIGNMENT 2 Primary Sources and Social Change The impact of the Industrial Revolution on the standard of living of working class people is, and has been frequently debated. There is a mass of primary and secondary sources of evidence from the time of the Industrial Revolution available to support differing views of the debate, and there are also many novels available that were written at the time which criticise industrial society, but the difficulty of assessing the total impact of industrialisation upon a population, is how to measure the changes in standard of living. We can look at changes in wages, the changing cost of food, rent and clothing, the impact of the factory systems, or the demographic changes to the society, but it is extremely difficult to weigh up one change against another. If we look at wage data to assess the standard of living, the problem is that payment in kind is not recorded. Agricultural workers for example, would be compensated for their low wages with farm produce, free fuel or subsidised rents, and wages only reflect the living standards of the employed. A wider variety of sources need to be employed in looking at the standard of living debate, for example whilst working class in urban districts seem to have enjoyed higher wages, they also suffered higher rates of disease and mortality. ...read more.


Along with the emergence of factories came the emergence of a new middle class as Peter Mathias a secondary source writes, "Living in industrial towns, the context of life rather than work, did create new and terrifying problems. But having stated that, it remains true that industrialisation vastly increased the power of a few men over the lives of a multitude of families, but no more than that of a great landowner." (Peter Mathias (1969,p205). Peter Mathias is noting that it was not the work but the changes in how the working class lived, and the new industrial towns that created the problems of industrialisation. According to Karl Marx (1818 - 1883) when writing about Wage Labour and Capital held the belief that industrialisation produces two classes, the bourgeoisie, those who own the means of production, i.e. the factory owners and the proletariat, the working class who actually perform the necessary labour required to extract something valuable from the means of production. Marx states that the relationship between the two classes is fundamentally parasitic, the proletariat are always undercompensated for the true value of their labour by the bourgeoisie (according to the labour theory of value), which allows the bourgeoisie to grow absurdly wealthy through nothing more than the exploitation of the proletarians' labour. ...read more.


He also had his speech printed and distributed amongst them, which gives a dated primary source to look at from a factory owner's bias. Dated 27th March 1783 Wedgwood addresses "My Young Friends"; "I would request you to ask your parents for a description of the country we inhabit when they first knew it... Their houses were miserable huts; the lands poorly cultivated... roads almost impassable... Compare this picture...with the present state of the country. The workmen earning near double their former wages -their houses mostly new and comfortable, and the lands, roads and every other circumstance bearing evident marks of the most pleasing and rapid improvements. From whence, and from what cause has this happy change taken place? Industry is the parent of this happy change." Wedgwood advises the factory workers to consider their lives considerably better off than their parents and to look at the benefits to the country of in terms of housing and roads that industrialisation has brought. He perceives the workers to have a much higher standard of living than their parents, and compares their wages and houses to those of preindustrialisation. This source helps to illustrate the huge divide in opinion on the standard of living debate and the extensive resources that are available when looking at such a complex debate. ...read more.

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