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Life in Industrial England

Explore England







Social Classes

Work life of the industrial age was brutal and affected everyone-even kids!

The development of Industry created 3 social classes in England: Upper class, Middle class, and the Lower Class.

Life in Industrial England

Work life


population growth

Immigrants and industry led to an enormous population boom.


England's population nearly tripled from 13.9 million in 1831 to 32.5 million in 1901 This rapid growth was primarily driven by migration from rural areas to industrial cities and higher birth rates in urban centers.


During the early to mid-19th century, significant numbers of immigrants arrived in England from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and continental Europe. For example, during the Irish Potato Famine of the late 1840s, approximately 1 million Irish immigrants migrated to England, seeking refuge and employment.


By the mid-19th century, England experienced a dramatic shift from a predominantly rural society to an urbanized one. In 1801, only about 20% of England's population lived in cities, but by 1851, this figure had risen to over 50%. Cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool experienced particularly rapid population growth due to industrialization.



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As more people moved to cities for work, the cities got bigger and more crowded. This brought together people from different places and backgrounds.


French Protestant refugees known as Huguenots fled religious persecution in France during the 17th and 18th centuries and settled in England. Many were skilled craftsmen, including silk weavers, watchmakers, and furniture makers, who brought advanced techniques and innovations to English industries.

Skilled craftsmen and artisans from various parts of Europe migrated to England, bringing expertise in trades such as weaving, metalworking, and carpentry. Their knowledge and skills contributed to the development and refinement of early industrial processes and technologies.






Engineers and inventors from various backgrounds contributed to technological advancements that fueled the Industrial Age. Figures such as James Watt, Thomas Newcomen, and Richard Arkwright developed innovations in steam engines, textile machinery, and other key industrial technologies that revolutionized production processes.


Immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and continental Europe also migrated to England seeking employment in industrializing regions. Their diverse backgrounds and skills contributed to the multicultural workforce that powered the Industrial Age.


Scholars, scientists, and intellectuals made significant contributions to the theoretical understanding and practical application of scientific principles in industry. Figures such as Michael Faraday, Charles Babbage, and Joseph Priestley conducted groundbreaking research in areas such as electricity, computing, and chemistry, which had profound implications for industrial development.


While precise birth rate data for the Industrial Age may be challenging to obtain, improvements in living conditions and healthcare contributed to higher birth rates in urban areas compared to rural areas. These factors reduced infant mortality rates and increased overall population growth.


The industrial workforce grew substantially during the Industrial Age. For example, by the mid-19th century, the textile industry alone employed over 1 million workers in England. Factories, mines, and mills attracted workers from across the country and from overseas, contributing to urbanization and population growth.



Overall, safety standards during the Industrial Revolution were inadequate, and workers faced numerous risks and dangers in the workplace, like: unsafe machinery, poor ventilation, lack of protective gear, long hours, chemical exposure, and workplace accidents. It wasn't until later in the period, with the emergence of labor movements and government intervention, that efforts were made to improve workplace safety and protect workers' rights.




Men and women were not equal during the Industrial Age in England. Gender disparities existed in employment opportunities, education, legal rights, and social status, reflecting deeply ingrained societal norms and expectations. However, the Industrial Revolution also sparked debates and movements for women's rights, leading to gradual progress towards greater gender equality in the centuries that followed.






Child labor was widespread during the Industrial Revolution, with children as young as five or six working in factories, mines, and mills.Their small size made them useful for tasks in cramped spaces, but they were more vulnerable to accidents and injuries. Child laborers faced the same hazards as adult workers, such as machinery accidents and exposure to harmful substances. They performed tasks such as operating machinery, cleaning, and assisting skilled workers. Child laborers endured the same harsh conditions and dangers as adult workers, often without access to education or proper care.






Self Portrait



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RUBENS - Thyseen - Bornemisza Museum

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The Victorian Era in Britain was dominated by the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). The social classes of this era included the Upper class, Middle class, and lower class. Those who were fortunate enough to be in the Upper class did not usually perform manual labor..


Lower Class

social classes

Social Classes

Upper Class

Middle Class


During the Industrial Age, work underwent dramatic changes as factories and machines replaced traditional methods of production. This period saw the rise of child labor, where children as young as five or six were employed in factories, mines, and mills. These children worked long hours under harsh conditions, often enduring dangerous tasks and exposure to hazardous materials. Many families relied on their children's earnings to supplement household income, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. However, as awareness grew about the exploitation and harm caused by child labor, movements arose to advocate for reforms. Eventually, laws were passed to restrict child labor and improve working conditions, paving the way for better protections for workers, including children, in modern society.




work life



  1. Long Hours: Many workers, including adults and children, labored for long hours, often from dawn to dusk, six days a week. Factories and mills operated continuously to maximize production, and workers had little time for rest or leisure activities.
  2. Dangerous Conditions: Workplaces were often unsafe, with machinery lacking proper safety features. Accidents were common, leading to injuries and even fatalities. Workers faced risks such as machinery malfunctions, falls, and exposure to hazardous substances like coal dust and chemicals.
  3. Low Wages: Despite their long hours and hard work, wages were typically low for most industrial workers. Families often struggled to make ends meet, and children were frequently employed to supplement household income, contributing to the cycle of poverty.
  4. Urbanization: Industrialization led to mass migration from rural areas to cities in search of employment opportunities. Urban centers became crowded and polluted, with inadequate housing and sanitation facilities. Workers lived in cramped tenements or slums, facing poor living conditions and health risks.
  5. Limited Rights and Protections: Workers had few rights or protections during the early years of the Industrial Revolution. Employers held significant power over their employees, dictating wages, working hours, and conditions. Attempts to organize or protest for better treatment were often met with harsh reprisals from employers and authorities.


The Industrial Revolution didn't directly cause diseases, but it created conditions that facilitated the spread and exacerbation of various illnesses. Here are some diseases that were prevalent or exacerbated during the Industrial Revolution due to factors such as overcrowding, poor sanitation, and workplace hazards:




respiratory diseases

childhood diseases

lead poisoning

mental health disorders

Overall, the Industrial Revolution created environments conducive to the spread of infectious diseases and occupational health hazards, leading to significant public health challenges for populations living and working in industrialized urban areas.

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The working class formed the backbone of industrial society. They toiled in factories, mines, and mills, enduring grueling hours and dangerous working conditions. Factory workers faced repetitive tasks in noisy and poorly ventilated environments, while miners risked their lives extracting coal or other minerals from the earth. Working-class families typically lived in cramped and squalid housing, often lacking basic amenities such as clean water and sanitation. Many resided in company-owned tenements or overcrowded slums, where disease and malnutrition were rampant. Despite their hardships, working-class communities often fostered strong bonds and solidarity, organizing mutual aid societies and labor unions to advocate for better wages and working conditions.

Working class


Click here to learn about the poor working class...

Middle Class

The middle class experienced growth and prosperity during the Industrial Revolution. This class included professionals such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, and teachers, as well as successful merchants and small business owners. They lived in comfortable homes with servants, often in suburban areas away from the pollution and overcrowding of industrial centers. Middle-class families placed a strong emphasis on education, valuing literacy and numeracy as pathways to social mobility. Many middle-class women focused on managing household affairs and raising children, although some also pursued careers or engaged in philanthropic activities.


Philanthropic: generous, humanitarian, charity, caring, compassionate

Upper Class

This class was divided into three subcategories:

  • Royal: those who came from a royal family
  • Middle Upper: important officers and lords
  • Lower Upper: wealthy men and business owners

The upper class enjoyed immense wealth and privilege. They lived in grand mansions or country estates, surrounded by vast lands that they inherited or acquired through business ventures. These estates often had sprawling gardens, parks, and even private lakes. The upper class had access to the finest education, with many attending prestigious schools and universities such as Oxford or Cambridge. They also participated in exclusive social events, including lavish parties and balls. Their wealth and status afforded them significant influence in political and economic affairs.



Working conditions

Overall, the combination of unsafe machinery, poor working conditions, chemical exposure, child labor, and lack of safety regulations made work during the Industrial Age inherently dangerous for many workers. It wasn't until later in the period, and in response to advocacy and labor movements, that governments began to enact laws to improve workplace safety and protect workers' rights.


un safe machinery

Poor working conditions

Chemical exposure

child labor

lack of safety



Jails in Britain were overcrowded in the late 18th century because of the increase in petty and serious crime. Convicts were transported to Britain's colonies in North America and the Caribbean to solve the problem. They were expected to work hard, building roads and houses for the governors of the colonies. Convicts were not allowed to return home even when they'd earned their freedom. In 1776, the American colonies became independent from Britain so transportation of convicts stopped. Britain started to look for other faraway places to send its criminals.

During the Industrial Revolution, art underwent significant changes in style, subject matter, and technique as artists responded to the social, cultural, and technological transformations of the time. Overall, the Industrial Revolution had a profound impact on the world of art, inspiring artists to explore new subjects, techniques, and modes of expression. From industrial landscapes to social commentary, art during this period reflected the tumultuous changes and challenges of the industrialized world.

Changes in the arts





  • Claude Monet-Water Lilies
  • Edgar Degas
  • Auguste Renoir

A new style of painting that began in France in the 1860s in which artists used light, vivid color, and motion to capture an impression of a scene. Impressionism offered a distinct response to the rapid changes and challenges of the era. While not directly tied to industrialization, Impressionism was important during this period for several reasons.Overall, Impressionism was important during the Industrial Age for its innovative techniques, contemporary subject matter, and cultural significance. It offered a fresh perspective on the world, capturing the spirit of modernity and reflecting the complexity between industrialization, urbanization, and artistic expression.


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Overall, Romanticism provided a powerful cultural and artistic response to the challenges and complexities of the Industrial Age, offering a refuge for those seeking solace, inspiration, and meaning in a rapidly changing world.

An artistic and literary movement at the beginning of the 1800s which rejected the rationalism of the Enlightenment in favor of emotion, intuition, and imagination.

  • Love of nature
  • Value of the individual
  • Affection for the past
  • Spirit of liberty and equality
  • Poet- William Wordsworth
  • Composer- Ludwig van Beethoven


Rejected romanticism and sought to depict the details of everyday life, no matter how unpleasant.With the rise of industrialization and urbanization, artists began to depict scenes of everyday life with greater realism and accuracy. Paintings and sculptures portrayed industrial landscapes, urban scenes, and the lives of ordinary people, reflecting the changing realities of the industrialized world.


  • Charles Dickens- Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield
  • Leo Tolstoy- War and Peace



  • Honore Daumier - His satirical prints and cartoons often targeted the bourgeoisie

  • Gustave Courbet- challenged traditional artistic conventions and celebrated the dignity of common people.

The poorest members of society faced extreme deprivation and hardship. Some lived in abject poverty, relying on handouts from charitable organizations or resorting to begging and scavenging to survive. Workhouses provided meager relief for the destitute, but conditions were harsh, and families were often separated. Orphans and abandoned children faced particularly grim prospects, with many forced into exploitative labor or living on the streets as "street urchins." Poor relief efforts, including the implementation of the Poor Laws, aimed to provide some assistance to the most vulnerable, but these systems were often inadequate and punitive, perpetuating cycles of poverty and dependence.

The Poor

Tried to capture a mood or express in emotion. Post-Impressionism built upon the innovations of Impressionism while pushing artistic boundaries in new directions. Overall, Post-Impressionism was important during the Industrial Age for its bold experimentation, expressive freedom, and enduring influence on the trajectory of modern art. It reflected the shifting cultural and artistic landscape of the time and provided a bridge between the naturalism of the past and the avant-garde movements of the future.


  • Paul Cezanne
  • Paul Gauguin
  • Vincent van Gogh

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avant-garde: new and unusual or experimental ideas