Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations is one of history’s most revolutionary works on economics, with basic principals that remain applicable to today’s business world.
Smith wrote it in an effort to transform the way Europeans created and sold products and to promote the concept of a free market. The book was a catalyst for change, quickly spreading throughout the world new and revolutionary ways to improve the financial systems of Europe by making them more productive. It promoted the concept of specializing in products that are conducive to the resources and skills of a country. This period, known as the Industrial and Agricultural Revolution, was marked by an economy that had both positive and negative aspects.
The Industrial Revolution did lead to some good, such as a longer life expectancy and new technology. It also led to some changes that Smith did not anticipate, such as the rise of the Bourgeoisie as a main power, extremely poor living conditions for the working class, and horrific labor conditions for women and children.
As The Wealth of Nations grew in popularity, the Industrial Revolution began to take shape. Smith’s idea of an assembly line led to the creation of factories, or actual buildings used only for the task of production. This replaced the use of homes as a setting for work, freeing up homes to serve solely as the living quarters of the family. At the time of the Industrial Revolution, the only way to power these factories was by water power or the burning of coal. Because the sources of power were so limited, mills were built only in the rural areas in order to be close to power sources, such as rivers or coal mines (Engels: Industrial Manchester, 1).
What did this lead to? Factories and major manufacturing towns had incredibly unsanitary conditions. This was mainly due to a huge swell in population, as well as the result of factories’ waste. The city of Manchester is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Before the Industrial Revolution, Manchester was a small and average European town, but once the revolution began, it quickly rose to become an industrial mecca, due to its perfect conditions for cloth manufacturing. Manchester grew quickly to a population of 400,000, with residents cramped into a small space fast being taken over by manufacturing. Due to overpopulation, the working class had essentially no space in which to live, and the little housing they did have was full of grime and disease. They were destined to either live in the slime-filled streets or luckily own what we now would call a “one-room hut.”
These buildings cannot even be referred to as homes, but instead were what we today would envision in third-world countries. They had dirt floors and were described as looking uninhabited. Their buildings were even used as pigpens on occasion. Because the streets were unpaved, they were filled with “stagnant urine and excrement,” and it could not be washed away by the rain. This led to...