Industrial Revolution in the City
The Industrial Revolution was a period of great change for the country of England. Products went from being produced in households and by small businesses to being mass-produced by large industries. Products became cheaper and living conditions improved, but not at first for the working class. Terrible working conditions and hard lives sums up the status of the working class during the Industrial Revolution. The working class put in long hours and hard work for little pay and horrific living conditions. They moved from the farmlands and rural areas into cities that were thriving with industry and business. Populations all over England began to shoot up and cities became increasingly crowded until whole families lived in one-room apartments. Each able bodied member of the family worked to make some sort of income in order to survive. Life was tough for the working class in England. The country struggled with understanding how to balance their newfound technologies with nature and therefore the working class became in conflict with nature and horrible living conditions, while undergoing improvements brought along by the Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.
Friederich Engels describes the conditions of an industrial city in England during the Revolution in The Condition of the Working-Class in England. He describes the living quarters of the working class as being very crowded. Some of the passages are so narrow that only one person can walk through it at a time.[i] Rivers of the city smell of terrible stench and are full of disease. Mills, tanneries, and gasworks drain into the river and leave slime and refuse in thick masses.[ii] Engels demonstrates the worst effects of the human conflict with nature.
Living conditions were deplorable in the industrial cities and sanitation was low. Social reformer Edwin Chadwick was the primary leader in establishing boards of health, creating standards for drinking water, and overseeing the construction of effective sewage disposal systems.[iii] Chadwick investigated disease in the cities and appointed three physicians to examine the London districts with high mortality rates.[iv] They found that urban improvements had only been for the rich and that the poor remained unsanitary. Chadwick’s key document was the Sanitary Condition of the Laboring Population of Great Britain. The document wished-for the creation of a national public-health authority to direct local boards of health to provide clean water, drainage, cleansing and paving on the rates.[v] Parliament heard Chadwick’s cries for sanitary reform and passed the British Public Health Act in 1848.[vi] The act created a central authority, the General Board of Health, and the town council became the sanitation authority, responsible for drainage, water supplies, and inspection, and permitted to raise rates.[vii]