Essay on The Conditions of Britain's Working Classes c.1840

Essay on The Conditions of Britain's Working Classes c.1840

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The Conditions of Britain's Working Classes c.1840

For many centuries, Britain's economy was centred on agriculture,
which became mechanised in the early 18th century. In the 1840s,
however, the working state of Britain was very different - Britain was
industrialising; capitalism resulted in massive dislocation. The
number of jobs becoming available in the cities due to the building of
factories and workshops meant that people were both internally
migrating and immigrating. The majority of immigration was from
Ireland; Irish workers named 'navvis' were entering Britain to work on
the canals. However, even though so many jobs were being created, the
massive influx of people into the cities put great pressure on
precious resources and resulted in population explosion due to the
ever-increasing urbanisation and industrialisation, which exacerbated
public health issues which had been ever-present over centuries. The
intensity was almost unprecedented, resulting in early deaths - an
average age of around 16 or 17.

The rapidly expanding population was causing environmental problems,
mainly ill health, early death (the majority due to the effects of the
poor housing), water supply and sewerage and drainage issues. The most
extensive problem, which invariably reflected the medical state of the
working class, was housing. Thousands of people were in need of not
only cheap housing, but also housing that were close to their work,
because transport was expensive up until the horse-drawn trams and
workmen's trains came into operation in the late 1800s. This also
aided the capitalist-orientated factory owners, because it meant that
the worker...

... middle of paper ...' and were afraid that if the
government did actually do anything to help them, that they would
become idle and depend to much upon the government.

Overall, the conditions in which the working class were living were
terrible but they could not do anything to help themselves because
they were powerless. The government had its policy of laissez-faire,
which it rigidly stuck to, and it wasn't until the late 1800s, during
a period of Utilitarian reform, in which state intervention was a
response to an 'intensification of social ills', that the policy,
which had been sacrosanct to Britain for so long, was defeated. This
was largely due to a report published by Edwin Chadwick, 'A Report on
the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain'
in 1842. The working class would be once more treated as humans.

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