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Historical Interpretation Of Economic Social Change Essay

2551 words - 10 pages

Historical Interpretation of Economic-Social Change

The problem when looking at historical interpretations of
economic-social change is that it is very difficult for the historian
to comment without any of his or her personal political bias, it is
for this reason that both sides of the standard of living debate must
be looked at side by side. Historians commenting on the standard of
living debate can be classified into two categories, the 'pessimists'
who believe that the conditions for the working classes deteriorated,
and the 'optimists' who hold the view that conditions improved with
industrialisation. Historians when writing about the standard of
living debate, attempt to explain the winners and losers of
industrialisation by their own interpretation of evidence, as the
study of the English working class has always been a politically
biased subject.

A pessimistic observer of Industrial Manchester was Friedrich Engels
who wrote The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. This
primary source is valuable, as Engels' father owned the factory in
Manchester, which Engels had been sent to manage. Engels therefore had
real experience of life in the city and his father's factory, and
wrote with a social conscience. In describing Manchester following
industrialisation Engels comments on the segregation in housing of the
working class and middle class and identifies the distinct areas. The
south bank of the Irk housing working class families "contain
unqualifiedly the most horrible dwellings which I have yet
beheld…..there stands ,a privy without a door, so dirty that the
inhabitants can pass into and out of the court only by passing through
foul pools of stagnant urine and excrement." (F.Engels (1844) The
Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844) Engels also notes
"the Workhouse, looks threateningly down from behind its high walls
and parapets on the hilltop, upon the working people's quarter below".
Engels' writing is a very descriptive account of Industrial Manchester
and does not compare the housing of the working classes with housing
of pre-industrialisation but it describes the horror he felt when
seeing the conditions of the people. The description of the workhouse
poignantly emphasises the hopelessness of the working classes and the
only alternative open to them.

Friedrich Engels directed Karl Marx's attention to the working class,
and together they produced one of the most well known primary sources
we can look at commenting on capitalism and industrialisation. The
Communist Manifesto first published on 21st February 1848 by Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels was written from a pessimistic viewpoint. The
work was commissioned by the Communist League and laid out the
purposes of the League and also suggested a course of action to
overthrow...

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