Working Conditions In The Industrial Revolution

892 words - 4 pages

How people worked, the nature of their interaction with society, was one of the fundamental changes brought on by the demands of the industrial revolution. Taking advantage of the benefits obtained by the division of labor and scale of production required that people work together in large groups. This new paradigm of working collectively under the factory system had no contemporary parallel – except for the working conditions of slaves who also labored in large groups. An examination of the lives of factory workers and slaves shows that there are many similarities between the way slaves were managed, and the management of industrial workers. The very nature of the administration of large groups required a similar organizational structure to effectively run a larger scale operation.
While industrial workers were not subjected to the true hardships of slavery, working conditions were often grueling and fraught with real danger in the early decades of industrialization. (Misa, 2011, p. 90). Indeed, working conditions of industrial workers in Europe was such that some slaves in the American South seem to have been better off.
Comparing the daily lives of Industrial workers and Slaves is quite fascinating. Looking at two documents from that era Plantation Management, a set of rules for the direction of overseers written by a wealthy plantation owner, and Factory Rules, an early employee’s handbook, we can see many similarities in the schedule and management of industrial workers and slaves. Both had to adhere to a strict schedule. Rising early in the morning and working until late in the night (Factory Rules in Berlin 1844). Both worked in groups under the direct supervision of an overseer or foreman (Factory Rules in Berlin 1844). Both slaves and factory workers are renowned for the mundane and menial nature of their tasks. More importantly, while Industrial workers at the time had little to no societal safety net and no insurance, slaves might well be taken care of if ill or injured (Plantation Management).
In American, work under the Slater’s system of manufacturing in particular had many aspects that resembled slavery. Whole families would work for a company, often a mill, living in a house rented from the company. Often they were required to attend church services and only buy food only from the company store (Cowan, 1997, pp. 85-86).
In truth, however, these similarities speak more to the obvious methods of organizing any group to work together than to the hardship of slavery or the peril of a worker’s life in Berlin in 1884. A pamphlet printed by a slave owner on how best to manage slaves is hardly a source to grasp the bondage...

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