19Th Century Working Conditions In England Essay — страница 4

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and helped to give workers their share of the world.. Two alternative views have been put forward to describe the conditions of workers in the 1800’s. The first view contends that the during all of the 19th century the living standards of workers were improving. This view espoused by the economist magazine in an 1851 article ignores key evidence that shows that the workers prior to the 1850’s enjoyed few benefits of the industrial boom in England. 33 First, the article ignores the fact that a lack of legislation and unions left workers at the mercy of employers. Accounts from the time tell of workers toiling in overheated rooms for upwards of 14 hours straight. 34 Those workers that did dare unionize faced ruinous consequences. The story of George Loveless from the 1830’s

is indicative of the dangers that workers faced who demanded higher wages. George Loveless one of the leaders of a group of workers in the town of Tolpuddle organized a group of workers and asked for higher wages from the town magistrate. After presenting his demands he and the other leaders of the movement were sentenced to seven years of banishment from England to, “make an example.” 35 The story of George Loveless shows the ways in which workers enjoyed few if any rights. Second, the economist article ignores key evidence which shows that per capita consumption of sugar, tea and tobacco declined from 1800 to 1840’s; even as England was undergoing an economic boom. 36 This points to the conclusion that the working class was not benefiting from economic prosperity of the

early 1800’s as they could not buy non vital goods. Studies of wages during the period also show that wages between 1800 and 1840 when compared to the price of a loaf of bread in London remained the same. 37 And the wages of many weavers and artisans during this time sharply declined. The wages of wavers fell by almost three-quarters between 1800 and 1830 as mechanized looms made the work of hand weavers less valuable. 38 Third, the economist ignores the first hand accounts of workers and sanitation studies which describe the dire situation of the working class. A sanitation study from 1842 describes how the, “townships of knutton and Chesterton have been visited with fever for several months.” 39 Besides epidemics, reports from this period tell of horrific child labor and

poverty. The economist by looking at the growing wealth of England as a whole ignores the plight of the working class who in the first part of the 19th century benefited little from the economic boom. The alternative view that many social reformers took during the 1800’s was that the entire period was disastrous for the working class. This view is taken by such people as Frederick Engels who in the industrial revolution see only ruin for the working class, “only industry has made it possible for workers who have barely emerged from a state of serfdom to be again treated as chattels and not as human beings.” 40 The notion that the industrial revolution lead to no improvements for the working class overlooks the benefits that the growing power of unions brought. First, the

urban workers by the end of the 19th century enjoyed more political protections that ever before: he/she could be in a union, vote in certain elections, hold office, and strike. Legislation that prior to the 1840’s did little to protect workers in the latter half of the century protected workers and was enforced. Second, the economic level of the working class was greatly improved by collective bargaining which brought a tripling in consumption of tea, sugar, and tobacco per capita in England 41 and a doubling in the real income of workers. 42 This reflected the fact that workers increasingly had disposable income to spend on non vital goods. Although workers even at the end of the century were not equal partners with titans of industry, the 19th century gave them organization,

power, and money which never before did they posses. In slums of Lancashire where laborers rioted, unionized, and fought for better working conditions throughout the 19th century workers were able to secure for themselves improved conditions. All across England similar efforts had through strange turns of events turned the most appalling conditions of the 19th century into a rallying cry that gave birth to a powerful and multimillion member union movement. This movement was able in the later part of the 19th century improved conditions for workers. The song of the Workers Maypole composed in 1894 at the close of the 19th century expresses the hope that workers had for their future. This hope had already been borne out in the improving conditions of workers throughout the late