Opium and the Industrial Revolution
April 21, 2014
The Industrial Revolution brought social change and economic growth for Great Britain. This era provided the perfect environment for a new social class to emerge from urban squalor. During the Industrial Revolution a group of citizens who breathed polluted air, drank toxic water, worked fourteen-hour days in dimly lit factories and lived in close quarters. This group is known as the working class. In Karl Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party he predicted that the development of Modern Industry cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie (the upper class) produces and appropriates products. The bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its gravediggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat (the working class) are equally inevitable (Marx, 5). However Marx’s predict revolution of the working class never comes to be in England. It is a wonder why a large social group composed of a huge majority of a countries population never triggered rebellion within the cities streets. A huge contributing factor of the era was the large amounts of mind-altering “drugs” readily available to the nations poorer peoples. If it wasn’t for the Industrial Revolution, we may not have been as technologically advanced in the modern world. However, opium provided the solution to all of these men and their troubles. Opium created an escape and made life tolerable for working class preventing them from rebelling, making the industrial revolution successful.
In order to get into the minds of the working class it is important to fully understand the present living conditions at this time. The cities were vastly overcrowded and smoky, with wholly inadequate sanitation, periodic epidemics, endless row houses, few public services or open spaces, and inadequate and often polluted water supplies (Robert W. Strayer, 579).
Artist Gustave Dore’s 1872 painting titled Dudley St. Seven Dials’ depicts the horrible living conditions on a street corner in London. Adults and children alike are seen huddled together in the streets amongst animals. The poor people in the photograph to be starving and poorly nourished. The sky is portrayed as dark smoggy black from factory pollution. Apartment style row houses appear to be sandwiched together lining and defining the border of the dower street. Dore paint’s many pairs of shoes placed at the entrance of each living quarter, this represents to the viewer the amount of people residing in such a small space. The painting also features a man driving a horse carriage and cracking a whip, symbolic of the middle and upper classes treatment towards the poor. Gustave Dores’ work is sympathetic toward the living conditions of the working class.
Opium was introduced to the public for it’s medicinal benefits. Great Britain was a region where issues such as overpopulation, air...