The Industrial Revolution: Family and Social Structure
Richard Hooker argues that the Industrial Revolution was "the most far-reaching, influential transformation of human culture since the advent of agriculture" (Hooker 1). He maintains that the Revolution impacted almost every aspect of nineteenth century society, family, and economic life, including modes of consumption and family and social structure (Hooker 1). This paper explores the ways in which the change to a capitalist, urban economy during the Industrial Revolution, including the impact of the factory system, transformed social and family relations in the nineteenth century.
Before the Industrial Revolution, most people depended on agriculture for their livelihood. They most often lived in small villages where they worked in agriculture or in skilled crafts or trades ("Impact" 1). The family made up the basic economic unit of this system, with each family member playing a significant role in the success of the family farm or family skilled trade or business ("Impact" 1). However, the "enclosure laws" of the nineteenth century required that farmers, at their own expense, fence in or forfeit their rights to the land. Many families could not afford to comply with these laws and, as a result, lost their land and their livelihood ("Impact" 1). Seeking work, many of these now-unemployed farmers and skilled craftspeople moved with their families to the cities, where work was available in the new factories ("Impact" 1).
The factory system began to develop during the late eighteenth century when British textile factories invented several machines that mechanized the hand processes used by skilled spinners and weavers ("Factory System" 1). Family units could not afford to buy these machines, and they were often too large to be used in a single home ("Factory System" 1). The machines were used in factories, therefore, and families were required to move to where the factorie...