Industrial Revolution Documents

* Courtesy of the 8th Period Shotput team

Document 1
How long have you been employed in a silk-mill?

More than thirty years.

Did you enter as a child?

Yes, betwixt five and six.

How many hours a day did you work then?

The same thirty years ago as now.

What are those hours?

Eleven hours per day and two over-hours: Over-hours are working after 6 in the evening till 8. The regular hours are from 6 in the morning to 6 in the evening, and two other are two over-hours: About 50 year ago they began working over hours.

What are the intervals for meals?

In our factory 20 minutes for breakfast at 8, 1 hour for dinner at 2, 20 minutes for tea at 5.

What are the effects for the present system of labor?

From my earliest recollections, I have found the effects to be awfully detrimental to the well-being of the operative; I have observed frequently children carried to factories unable to walk, and that entirely owing to excessive labor and confinement. The degradation of the workplace baffles all description: Frequently have two of my sisters been obliged to be assisted to the factory and home again, until bay-and-by they could no longer, being totally crippled in their legs. And in the next place, I remember some ten or 12 years ago working in one of the largest firms in Macclesfield, (Messrs. Baker and Pearson) with about 25 men, where there were scarce one half fit for His Majesty’s service. Those that are straight in the limbs are stunted in their growth; much inferior to their fathers in point of strength. Thirdly, through excessive labour and confinement there is often a total loss of appetite; a kind of langour steal over the whole frame – enters to the very core – saps the foundation of the best constitution – and lays our strength prostrate in the dust. In the 4th place, by prostrated labour there is an alarming increase of cripples in various parts of this town, which has come under my own observation and knowledge.

- Testimony by John Wright, a worker in an English Silk Factory, made to the Parliamentary Commission for Inquiry into the Employment of Children in Factories, 1833.


Document 2
In conclusion, I think it has been clearly proved that children have been worked a most unreasonable and cruel length of time daily, and that even adults have been excepted to do a certain quantity of labour which scarcely any human being is able to endure. I am of opinion no child under fourteen years of age should work in a factory of any description for more than eight hours a day. From fourteen upwards I would recommend that no individual should, under circumstances, work more than twelve hours a day; although if practicable, as a physician, I would prefer the limitation of ten hours, for all persons who earn their bread by their industry.

-Testimony by a Commission of Medical Examiners from northeastern England made to the Parliamentary Commission for inquiry in the Employment of Children in factories, 1833


Document 3

Per Capita Levels of industrialization, 1750-1913



1800 1830  1860 1880 1900 1913

 Great Britain

10 16 25  64 87 100 115


 9   10 14 28 43 56 88

United States

4 9 14  21 38 69 126


 9  9 12 20 28  39 59


8 8  9  15  25 52 85


 7 8 11 15 23 32


8  8 8 10  12 17 26


 6  6 7 8 10 15  20


8 6 6 4  4 3 3


7  6  6 3 2  1 2
Note: all entries are based on an index value of 100, equal to the per capita level of industrialization in great Britain.

Source: P. Bairoch, " International Industrialization levels from 1750 to 1980," Journal of European Economic History 11 (fall 1982): 294. Data for Great Britain are actually for the United Kingdom, thereby including Ireland with England, Wales, and Scotland.

** HINT:  This chart is designed to simply show you what nations industrialized, to what degree (based on a control or constant value of 100) and at what date.  In the time frame of the other documents, what nation is more industrialized than all of the others?  How much more industry did that nation have?  Express it as a percentage or multiplying factor compared to the rest of Europe.


Document 4
It would have been strange, indeed, if the industrial revolution had simply made the rich richer and the poor poorer…. {but} the cotton and woolens, and food and drink, which now became available, were consumed not by the few, but the masses….

The diet of the worker almost certainly improved: there was a substitution of "flower of wheat" for rye and oatmeal; and meat, which had been a rarity, became, with potatoes, the staple dish on the artisan’s table. Not all the coal raised from the pits went to feed the furnaces and steam-engines: a warm heart and a hot meal were of no small consequence to the man who came home wet from the fields.

-Thomas Ashton, British historian, from his work, The Industrial Revolution: 1760-1948


Document 5
Population Density, England, 1801 Population Density, England, 1851
NOTE: Map shows DENSITY, not total population.  Ask yourself why.
Document 6
The Crystal Palace, 1851, London, England - More than 6 million people journeyed to the Great Exhibition of 1851 on newly built railroads.
Document 8
‘Heaven helps those themselves’ is a well tried maxim, embodying in a small compass the results of a vast human experience. The spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth in the individual; and, exhibited in the lives of many, it constitutes the true source of national vigor and strength. Help from without is often enfeebling in its effects, but help from within invariably invigorates. Whatever is done for men or classes, to a extent takes away the stimulus and necessity of doing for themselves; and where men are subjected to over-guidance and over-government ,the inevitable tendency is to render them comparatively helpless.

-Samuel Smiles, British physician and author, From his book, Self-Help 1859


Document 9
Like all other contracts, wages should be left to the fair and free competition of the market, and should never be controlled by the interference of the legislature.

The clear and direct tendency of the poor laws is in direct opposition to these obvious principles: it is not, as the legislature benevolently intended, to amend the condition of the poor, but to deteriorate the condition of both poor and rich; instead of making the poor rich, they are calculated to make the rich poor; and whilst the present laws are in force, it is quite in the natural order of things that the fund for the maintenance of the poor should progressively increase till it has absorbed all the net revenue of the country, or at least so much of it as the state shall leave to us, after satisfying its own never failing demands for the public expenditure….

It is truth which admits not a doubt that the comforts and well-being of the poor cannot be permanently secured without some regard on their part, or some effort on the part of the legislature, to regulate the increase of their numbers, and to render less frequent among them early and improvident marriages.

- David Ricardo, British economist (1772-1823); From his work, Principles of Political Economy And Taxation (1817)


Document 10
Now, if foreign powers consider it a matter both of duty and policy thus to interpose on behalf of their people, we, surely should much more be animated by feelings such as theirs, when we take into our account the vast and progressively increasing numbers who are employed in these departments of industry. See how it stands: in 1818, the total number of all ages, and both sexes, employed in all the cotton factories, was 57, 323. In 1835, the number employed in the five departments—cotton, woollen, worsted, flax, and silk, was 419, 590: the total number of both sexes under eighteen years of age, in the same year, was 192, 887. Simultaneously, however, with the increase of numbers has been the increase of toil. The labour performed by those engaged in the processes of manufacture is three times as great as in the beginning of such operations. Machinery has executed, no doubt, the work that would demand the sinews of millions of men; but it has also prodigiously multiplied the labour of those who are governed by its fearful movements….

-The Earl of Shaftsbury, British politician and member of the House of Commons (1801-1885), from a speech given in the House of Commons (1844)

** Hard Document >> Machines, you would think, would conserve labor.  But they seem to have had an opposite effect.  How does Shaftsbury argue that point?


Document 11
The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class and antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few….

The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims.  They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

Workingmen of all countries, unite!

- Karl Marx, German political scientist (1818-1883), and Friedrich Engels, British political scientist (1820-1895), from their work "The Communist Manifesto" (1848)


Document 12

The International

Arise, ye pris`ners of starvation!

Arise, ye wretched of the earth,

For Justice thunders condemnation,

A better world’s in birth.

No more tradition’s chain shall bind us.

Arise, ye slaves; No more in thrall!

The earth shall rise on new foundations,

We have been naught, we shall be all.


- Eugene Pottier, French poet (1816-1887),

From his poem "The International"