What was the role of the factory in the early Industrial Revolution? What made the factory system possible?
The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain is recognized as a period of great industrial capitalism, machine development, and emergence of the working class.1 The growth of factories began shortly after Richard Arkwright patented the spinning frame in 1769.2 Factories allowed for hundreds of unskilled workers to find jobs running machines and drastically changed their lifestyles as jobs moved away from rural areas. The putting-out system, where jobs were subcontracted, slowly came to an end because work became centralized in factories. 3 Few industries continued on with domestic manufacturing such as the iron industry. At the height of the Industrial Revolution, few laws had been passed to protect all workers.
A factory system has four main characteristics; mechanized equipment, workers under one roof, division of labor, and supervision of employees.3 The technological advances of cotton jennies, water frames, and steam power quickly grew too large to fit into households leading to factories replacing the once domestic system.3 Once factories were in place, people in rural areas who were unable to find work took jobs in the factories. The Industrial Revolution in Britain was successful because of the investment of machinery, use of supervision, and improvement of quality control. 4The factory system allowed for materials and goods to be made faster and at a reduced cost. Pre-Industrial Revolution, work hours were erratic and long periods of inactivity were the norm. In the agriculture business, laborers worked in conjunction with the harvest schedule. With factories, a steady production schedule was mandatory to keep up with demands.4 It was during the Industrial Revolution that the role of the supervisor was born. Workers were fined for minor infractions and closely watched over to ensure a constant hum of machinery. While the factory system improved Britain’s economics, it did come with a cost to the workers of said factories, especially the women and children workers.
What impact did it have on the lives of workers, especially on women and children?
The cotton manufacture of Lancashire improved the mannerisms and habits of workers according to Richard Guest. The close proximity between workers sparked conversations on a variety of topics that previously were seemingly unimportant. Sunday schools were established to improve the literacy of lower workers and allowed men to think for themselves. For the working class, the industrial revolution gave a small improvement in the standards of living but also a loss of control. Working harder did not equal an increase in pay, but more often than not, wage cuts because the benefits were used as profit for the employer. 7
Women in factories were subjected to long hours, low wages, and heavy fines. Inexperienced workers were paid the lowest rates due to their inexperience and were also...