Civilization Week 15 The Industrial Revolution and the Abolition of Slavery

Question 1: What, in a nutshell, was the Industrial Revolution?

The industrial revolution started in Britain in the 18th century, then later spread across the the rest of Europe and eventually worldwide. New machines were invented, such as the power loom, the spinning jenny, and the steam engine; these machines revolutionized the way labor had been done prior. Goods were being created in a fraction of the time, and thus the price of these once expensive goods rapidly dropped. The lower class (who before the industrial revolution mainly worked agriculturally) was now able to take up jobs in the new and improved factory system. Although these factories were hard work they provided a much better income than agriculture, and because of this the population began to steadily increase.

Question 2: What was the standard-of-living debate?

The standard-of-living debate was a hot topic among scholars throughout the 20th century. The argument was over whether the industrial revolution helped or hurt the lower class. The side that thought it was harmful argued that the factories were dangerous, and that people were overworked and underpaid. They argued that people started protests calling for an end to poverty, which had never happened prior to the industrial revolution. And they also argued that child labor had increased, and that children were given hazardous and unsafe jobs within the factories. But these people arguing that the industrial revolution was harmful don’t take into account what the lower classes lives were like before they had the factory jobs. They had to work much more backbreaking labor out in the fields, and the children had to work right along with them. They worked simply to sustain themselves, and everyone was so poor that no one ever thought to protest. Before the industrial revolution there was no hope that poverty would ever go down, people were starving to death and living in horribly poor situations. The industrial revolution gave people a chance to make a living, and the child labor was actually made a lot more safe and sensible. Prices went down, and the population flourished since people could actually afford to take care of new children.

Question 3: What were the different arguments that combined in Britain to pave the way for the abolition of slavery in that country’s overseas colonies?

There were several arguments thats called for an end to slavery. The most widely known of these was the statement which said every man owns his own person, and that all people should be given an equal and fair shot at creating their own lives. There was also the humanitarian argument, which said slaves should be treated with the same dignity as the average man. And finally there was the economic argument, which said that slaveholders are losing more financially than they are gaining from owning slaves. Slaves were only made to labor during certain parts of the year, when plants were in their growing season. But when plants were out of season the slaves still needed to be fed, clothed, etc. To keep the slaves alive and well the owners needed to provide funds, and after all those funds had been organized out the owners would be lucky if they kept any of the income the slaves originally earned for them.

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